1 Croc, 2 Modes: Sport Performance for HSP's

Never procrastinate again
The labeling of HSP, the short form for "Highly Sensitive People," was introduced by Elaine Aron. Aron is a psychologist who was known for uncovering this trait or type of person back in 1996. An HSP is a person who appears to have a higher sensitivity to everything, which could be tied to biogenetic markers or epigenetic responses. In her book, "The Highly Sensitive Person, How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You," Aron mentions that there are two main kinds of HSP's: The ones who want a more peaceful life, and those that want life in sports mode. Read more to find out what she meant. 

There are two people in this world: Those that wear Crocs with the straps off (Econ mode) and those with the straps on (Sport mode). 

Researchers say there are two systems in the brain and one of them has to do with self-preservation. It is also called "behavioral inhibition" or "avoidance", and basically what this means is it makes people cautiously deliberate before trying something new. It makes people "pause to check" if a situation or object is safe before approaching uncharted territory [1].

Basically, these are people that prefer to go through life in Econ mode. It's a metaphor for people who prefer going within speed limits while driving in order to avoid a speeding ticket. Basically, they prefer to avoid anything that requires some sort of risk, until it has been proven and there is more information to take the plunge.
The other system has to do with what Aron calls "behavioral activation," which is designed to promote pioneers to discover new things or "approach" the unknown head-on with fearless courage [1].

Basically, these are the people that think with the mindset of "Time to strap on the Crocs, engaging in sport mode!" before launching their Corvette, going 0 to 60 miles per hour in less than 6 seconds. It's a metaphor for people who are not afraid to try new things and are able to take more risks than others. 

Which type of HSP am I? 

The truth is every person on the planet has both of these systems. But not everybody has equal levels of these systems. Most HSPs fall into two categories: 

Category 1: Mid to High levels of Econ mode & Low levels of Sport mode
Category 2: Mid to High levels of Econ mode & Mid to High levels of Sport mode

All HSP's should have reasonably high levels of Econ mode (avoidance) because most HSP's constantly overthink and critique themselves. They are perfectionists at not only their performances but also at what other people might think about them alongside fear of failure. They constantly have internal wars with perfectionism and replay "what-if" scenarios in their minds. 

But the difference maker is that some HSP's are content with peace and risk-averseness, while other HSP's constantly battle their inner Econ mode due to their equally high levels of Sport mode. They are waging war with the push and pull of their "avoidance" versus "activation" desires.  

TLDR: Most of us wear Sport mode AND Econ mode, but not everybody does it the same. 

How to Reach PEAK Performance as an HSP

This article was designed to provide peak performance in any field whether that be in athletics, academia, or vocation. Strap on the Crocs and go to sport mode now.  

Aron says that avoidance is the better trait among the two brain systems that control action versus avoidance, as it ensures survivability [1]. But this is flawed. A healthy balance of the two systems is when peak performance in any field, happens. The truth is each individual HSP must develop a system that works for them based on their attributes, and which will lead to a fulfilling outcome based on their goals. So how might this happen? 

In psychology, there is a phrase "fight-or-flight". Fight-or-flight refers to "instantaneous physiological changes that occur in response to the presence of a threatening or harmful stimulus. The fight-or-flight response initiates the execution of behaviors that include fleeing to escape or fighting to protect. It is an automatic reaction our nervous system produces when we perceive a threat" [2].

For the hypersensitive person, small stressors can result in significant responses in the nervous system and can cause hyperarousal [1]. When this happens, over long periods of time, it can cause harmful mental and physical effects [2]. 

Rule 1: When goal setting for ANYTHING, make small goals at a time. Practice being more present. A lot of HSPs AVOID because they are also perfectionists and forward-thinking. Traditional goal setting will not apply to most HSPs as there is a real chance of avoidance if the challenge is too big. 

Rule 2: Avoid tackling too many projects at once. Many HSPs overthink and as mentioned above, err on the side of caution, and less risk. To maximize the potential for success, focus on one or two things at a time, whether it is a career path, hobby, et. al. HSPs have a higher risk of hyperarousal and WILL fatigue faster than most of their counterparts. So, focus on a few passions first and scale up in stages. 

Rule 3: Rest & Recover. HSPs are perfectionists with hyperarousal sensitivities, which results in excellent work but also in a greater need for recovery. And if not careful, can lead to more burnout. Rule 3 is all about rest and recovery regarding effective time management. Many HSPs require the full 8 to 9 hours of sleep time to produce exceptional work and not burnout. HSPs are also sensitive to hunger, and in order to maintain peak performance, nutrition must be scheduled. The schedule they find works best for them must be adhered to, and once the habit is formed, must be maintained at all costs. 

For example, one person might sleep at 2 AM and wake up at 6 AM. After work ends, they might sleep again... Because most people adhere to the 9 to 5 schedule set by society, this would be considered odd to normal people. For the HSP however, this requires focus by not comparing their schedules with the status quo. Many HSPs have a penchant for people-pleasing, so boundaries must be enforced. If any schedule allows for maximum productivity and performance, it must be adhered to at all costs. Abrupt change will cause chaos for HSPs. 


Category 1 HSPs must seek Zen by focusing more on avoidance rather than activation. These HSPs are predisposed to higher burnout as they have extremely high levels of hyperarousal. They must focus more on maintenance rather than growth. For the purpose of this article, growth is the definition of activating higher levels of any chosen field, career path, benchmarks in weightlifting, et. al. As an analogy, Asian imported cars are known for their stability and low-cost maintenance. They are not known for their performance. Category 1's are the Toyotas that constantly provide stable results and don't go into uncharted depths of speed. Likewise, category 1's must focus on saying "no" to additional stress that interferes with their peace or on creating environments that maximize peace and avoids chaos. For category 1's, growth must be secondary to maintenance. 

Category 2 HSPs constantly war between their 2 systems desiring greatness with minimal risk. For these types, growth must be balanced with avoidance. But the bias should be more stressed on activation. As a metaphor, in order for engines to be high-performance, the 2 systems of avoidance and activation must be balanced and firing on all cylinders. The engine can't be so high performing that it will burn out and combust in flames, so there must be some inherent limitation to prevent this risk. Likewise, to maintain high levels of productivity and performance, HSPs must constantly maintain themselves while seeking continual mastery of their chosen craft. They do this by adding small stresses to their plate. Be careful not to add too much stress as it can cause complete shutdown and avoidance altogether.  

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[1] “Fight or flight: Which is a better choice?,” Psychology Today.
[2] E. N. Aron, The highly sensitive person: How to thrive when the world overwhelms you. Secaucus, NJ: Carol Publishing Group, 1996.
Alex Sung

At an early age Alex knew he was different from most kids. He had D's and F's in early education and even had undiagnosed selective mutism alongside other mental health hurdles.

Despite these challenging experiences, he persevered and was able to "Tigerhack" his way to success. He created the Tiger Dojo to help everyone uncover these secrets.


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