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The myth of mental fatigue

Performance, and ultimately success, in anything is a pretty broad topic, especially when attempting to identify the issues holding you back. But let's break it down and focus on one particularly important topic: Mental Fatigue.

The concept of mental fatigue began on the wrong foot. It initially stated that the brain functioned on a deplete-able energy source much like muscles. A mechanism like this would mean that after a certain amount of brain use, the brain would begin to lose the ability to function at its full capacity due to a lack of energy. Could that be trained? Increased? Are you doomed to an X-amount brain energy all your life?

Fortunately - though it was a good start - the idea behind it was incorrect. So, what is it then? To put it short: motivation. Let's get into the longer version, though.

We now understand mental fatigue to be more of an on-going evaluation process, which is automatically conducted inside the brain. The brain calculates the amount of energy it takes to stay on task (i.e. training, studying, working) and compares it to the anticipated reward at the end (i.e. winning, test grades, paycheque). This comparison allows the brain to monitor how important a task is and, in turn, increase or decrease motivation. Over time a task is increasingly perceived as more costly and less rewarding. Enter mental fatigue. What is now happening inside the brain is an attempt to persuade you from continuing on your task. The brain views the task as unimportant and makes you feel tired, unmotivated, and easily distracted. These negative outcomes cause your work to be impacted and your performance level begins to decline rapidly.

With that being said, there are ways around it. Adjusting your schedule, perception, and focus are all ways of sidestepping the negatives caused by the brain evaluation. But these are skills which need to be learned; they are not passive. While this blog post focused on "what is mental fatigue", the following blog post will focus more directly on overcoming mental fatigue.

If you are interested in discussing or talking directly to me about mental fatigue, e-mail me with your information and we can book a session.

Have a good one,