Georgia State University President Mark Becker atop Mt. Hood, Ore., one of the many peaks he has summited.

Book: How Bad Do You Want It?: Mastering the Psychology of Mind over Muscle

Author: Matt Fitzgerald

Review by: Mark Becker, president, Georgia State University

People who have challenged themselves physically, which for me has included cycling and running events as well as mountaineering and ice climbing, have come to realize that success often comes down to mastering the art of suffering. That is, persevering or even increasing effort when your body is screaming at you to slow down or quit. Yes, training the body for greater endurance and strength is important for achieving success in physical endeavors, yet our brains can be a key influencer of performance when the big day comes.

Fitzgerald is a widely recognized author, coach and nutritionist from the world of endurance sports, and in this book he presents an engaging introduction to the psychobiological model of how the brain regulates endurance performance.

He does a brilliant job of drawing on the experiences of numerous and varied endurance athletes, such as Natasha Badmann, Paula Newby-Fraser, Ned Overend and Willie Stewart, to illustrate basic principles from published research on how the brain can influence performance. This is not a book about mental toughness or willpower. It is about the various ways our brains can be trained to help us perform closer to our genetic limits. Fundamentally, as Fitzgerald writes in his introduction: “One cannot improve as an endurance athlete except by changing one’s relationship with perception of effort.” 

I recommend How Bad Do You Want It to everyone, not just endurance athletes. Endurance sports can be a metaphor for life and for organizational development. Life and organizational goals rarely are sprints, more often they require many years of focus and commitment. The greatest rewards are achieved by proper planning, being disciplined and adaptive in execution, and mastering the psychological side of getting the most out of our various abilities.

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