How to use Habits to improve our lives?

By Tony Olejnicki | Creator of HiACHIEVR Program

How many habits do you have?

It takes more than a minute to identify them all because they are automatic behaviors performed with little or no thoughts, yet they subtly drive our lives.

The smallest action repeated on a daily basis from saving a single dollar to smoking a single cigarette can have a huge accumulative effect to achieve enormous success or lead to a personal disaster. Hence understanding and embracing your habits is a great way to take control of your life and achieve more.

Small habits can have a surprisingly powerful impact on our lives. We don’t notice their impact because the changes are negligible in the short term but the effects can compound to a big success or a disaster in the long term.

A 20-minute jog will not make any difference overnight but repeated every day will make you leaner and fitter in 6-12 months. Conversely eating family size pizza every day will make you obese within 12 months.


Habits are micro changes in your life which don’t involve any upheaval, revolution or reinventing yourself but through repeating it time and again they may lead to a big result.


In order to be successful, it is important to understand how habits are formed.

The mechanics are simple. The brain figures out how to respond to a new situation through the process of trial and error. Like in the Thorndike’s “Cat in the Box” experiment brain responds to a cue, performs the action and is rewarded by the release of dopamine, comfort or feeling of personal safety. If repeated it becomes the habit.
It is like your morning coffee habit. Your waking up becomes a cue, triggering craving and a prospect of staying alert. Your action is to drag yourself out of bed and make a cup of coffee. Your reward is feeling alert and ready to face the day.


The key to success is a strong and obvious cue, difficult to ignore or avoid.


If you have a sweet tooth make your home free of sweet treats. If you decided to jog in the morning, place your running gear close to your bed.
Another way to strengthen the cue is to make it clear, specific and intentional. If you intend to “eat better”, ensure that there is healthy non-processed food in the fridge and plan it in advance to get it ready to eat with the least of fuss.

Don’t just say “I will run more often” but say “on Monday, Wednesday and Friday when the alarm goes off I will put my running gear, which I prepared last night, on and I’ll clock 3km”. This is a clear plan and an obvious cue. These will lead to building positive running habits.


We are motivated by anticipation of reward so making habits attractive will help to stick to it.


The human brain releases dopamine, a hormone that makes us feel good, when we do pleasurable things such as eating, watching a favorite movie or having sex.
So you can use your favorite habits to release dopamine while developing new habits. This is called temptation bundling. So, for example, you can schedule watching your favorite show, you are addicted to, only when you ride your hated exercise bike. Eventually, it will become your favorite exercise.

We often spend a lot of time on behaviors that are easy, like mindless scrolling through social media and avoiding difficult tasks like studying or exercising.
Reducing friction is a well-known trick to create new habits from difficult tasks. Conversely increasing friction helps to kick bad habits. Simply unplugging TV set or logging out from social media after each session, will make it a more cumbersome engaging in bad habits.

Another successful trick to make the new activity more manageable is the 2-minute rule. This means to break your activity to manageable chunks to achieve the final goal.

  • If you want to read more, commit to reading two pages per day, rather than to read one book in a week. Reading two pages a day is an easily manageable task.
  • If you wish to run a marathon, commit to putting on your running gear every day after work. Once you put your gear on, you will probably go for a run and get rewarded with the dopamine release after the run, nice shower, and well deserved healthy meal.

From the evolutionary aspect, the activity needs to be immediately satisfying to become a habit. Our ancestors focused on immediate concerns like finding food and shelter and stay safe from a predator. This was an environment allowing immediate return and was encoded over 300,000 years of evolution.

In the modern office work environment, our focus is on long-term goals like saving for retirement or sticking to a diet. So the ultimate reward doesn’t happen for months or years making the good habit difficult to sustain. We have been living in a delayed-return environment for less than 200 years, a time too short to effect evolutionary conditioning.

Immediate returns can encourage bad habits. Smoking gives instant stress relief but causes lung cancer in 20 years, so craving for nicotine overrides concerns over long-term effects.

So pursuing habits with a delayed-return needs an attached immediate gratification. Here comes a modern technology to the rescue.
Habit tracking is a simple but effective technique. Using a simple calendar or diary to cross daily activity is effective because habit tracking itself is an attractive and satisfying habit. The anticipation and action of crossing off each day will feel good and keep you motivated. Many Apps such as STRAVA or S-HEALTH make this task even more enjoyable.

Tony Olejnicki – an engineer, motivator and exercise physiologist specializing in high altitude training is the creator of the HiACHIEVR Program, an inspirational program helping professional working in an office environment to improve productivity and life quality by lowering physiological age, improving cognition and optimizing personal health.

Contact us for a free consultation about the personalized transition with HiACHIEVR Program to high productivity workplace.

What is The Most Dangerous Job?

By Tony Olejnicki | Creator of HiACHIEVR Program

According to Safe Work Australia, agriculture, forestry, and fishing industries are the most dangerous working environments in Australia with 44 fatalities in 2016 out of a total of 218 work fatalities.

Considering over 3 millions of sedentary office workers in Australia, with 8 fatalities reported in 2016, the office job appears the safest job in Australia.

But wait…

According to 2018 Report, 30,000 Australians died of a sudden cardiac arrest (heart attack). And 7,500 deaths occurred at work. (*)
(*)Submission for the 2018 Review of the Model WHS Laws-30 April 2018

Major known factors were: chronic stress followed by poor nutrition, a lack of exercise and other not-diagnosed heart conditions. The Victorian Government has acknowledged the stress is often work-related.

Sedentary office workers constitute over half of Australian workers, so statistically over 3000 office workers die at work each year, as a result of the sudden cardiac arrest symptom. This, however, is not included in the office accidental death statistics due to its complex nature. The stress may not be caused exclusively by the office environment. Also, there are other contributing factors due to personal choices.

Sedentary Behaviour

So, if you are reading this now, sitting at your office desk, you most likely work in the most dangerous job.

Any of these factors can cause chronic stress. Do any of them apply to your working environment?

  • Toxic Organisation culture
  • Bad management practices
  • Excessive job content and demands
  • Poor relationships at work
  • Long working hours sitting at the desk
  • Heavy workload
  • Boring work
  • Harassment
  • Discrimination
  • Poor relationships with colleagues or bosses

Are deaths due to the heart attack work related?

It is not totally clear, it all depends on the working environment and your personal health risks.

  • Are you sitting more than 6 hours at your desk?
  • Is your office environment chronically stressful?
  • Has your doctor assessed you as a high risk for heart disease or diabetes?

If the answer to one or more of the above question is YES, you are a stressed sedentary person. And, you are well on the way to developing one or more sedentary diseases in your 50’s.In fact, your chance to get there is 50 percent.


If you had a 50% chance of a car accident, you would average a prank every second day.

If so, would you care to take-up a car accident insurance?


Risk of Death in the Office

If you are still long away from your 50’s, then consider the risk of the sedentary death syndrome (SeDS) due to an excessive sitting. 40 years old office worker clocks in 30 years of sitting... This translates to 69,000 plus hours of sitting...

Imagine an enormous amount of stress on your body and unprecedented in 300,000 years history of human evolution.

Every extra hour spent sitting, increases the risk of dying from a SeDS as much as 18 percent.

(*) According to a 2010 study of 8000 people by the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute.)

That’s true even if you exercise regularly. The research shows that to compensate for 3 hours of sitting, one would require 1 hour of exercise, clearly unachievable even for an extreme gym junky.

An excessive sitting is a reason for the early onset of aging in the mid-’40s rather than ’60s for non-sedentary people.

  • Typically a 30 years old sedentary person reached the physiological age of 35.
  • A typical sedentary 50 years old is physiologically close to 60.
  • With a life expectancy of 85, controlled by the physiological rather than chronological age, the implications are obvious.

Most of the sedentary office workers do more sitting than just hours at work. If your behavior is like that on the graph below you maybe sitting 15 hours a day and this is truly extreme risky behavior and a serious health hazard.



Sedentary Work Cycle lowers the Work Performance


The health hazard aside, sitting contributes to poor work performance. The brain can sustain only about 30 minutes of sitting before its concentration and cognitive availability starts fading rapidly.

Within one hour, the body will respond with a strong pain to force you to get up and move. The pain is the wake-up call helping to restore the brain's full Cognitive Availability.

An intensive sitter will experience 4 to 6 such events throughout a working day. This offers only 2-3 hours of effective full Cognitive Availability within 8 working hours. It is also very unpleasant but most people get used to it.

Risk Countermeasures

The way to reduce the risk of death at work is to change to an active work environment, reduce the stress, improve nutrition and sleeping. This will also help to reduce the physiological age and stimulate neurogenesis (brain rejuvenation). The good news about the physiological age is that, unlike the chronological age, it can be slowed down.

The optimum way to create active work environment is to switch to working at a standing work station, regular exercises and measuring your effort with a smartphone app.

Alternatively, set a reminder to get up every 30 minutes and compel yourself to a short stroll in the office. Find an excuse and make the active office your bottom step in your hierarchy of needs.

How to Recognize Symptoms of Work-Related Stress?

The signs or symptoms of work-related stress can be physical, psychological and behavioral. Safe Work Australia lists these as follows:

Physical symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Muscular tension
  • Headaches
  • Heart palpitations
  • Sleeping difficulties, such as insomnia
  • Gastrointestinal upsets, such as diarrhea or constipation
  • Dermatological disorders

Psychological symptoms:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Discouragement
  • Irritability
  • Pessimism
  • Feelings of being overwhelmed and unable to cope
  • Cognitive difficulties, such as a reduced ability to concentrate or make decisions.

Behavioral symptoms:

  • An increase in sick days or absenteeism
  • Aggression
  • Diminished creativity and initiative
  • A drop in work performance
  • Problems with interpersonal relationships<
  • Mood swings and irritability
  • Lower tolerance of frustration and impatience
  • Disinterest
  • Isolation


Tony Olejnicki – an engineer, motivator and exercise physiologist specializing in high altitude training is the creator of the HiACHIEVR Program, an inspirational program helping professional working in an office environment to improve productivity and life quality by lowering physiological age, improving cognition and optimizing personal health.


Contact us for a free consultation about the personalized transition with HiACHIEVR Program to high productivity workplace.

How to Improve the Brain Efficiency and become Younger, Smarter and Healthier

By Tony Olejnicki | Creator of HiACHIEVR Program

The GOOGLE search for “how to Improve Brain Efficiency”, will offer the advice from Wellness Gurus on motivation, brain diet, ketogenic diet, short naps, exercises, mindfulness, building strong connections and many more. These are all great snippets of advice. However for an average office worker busy and stressed with competitiveness, shortage of time and financial resources they are difficult and unrealistic to implement.

All these advises are too generic, too complex in detail and require a serious time commitment for any sensible person being able to implement any of them, even in a short form or express version.

Ask yourself this question:


Has any quick motivational program, hyped up exercise styles or trendy diet worked for you in a long term?


Most of the businesses implement office productivity tools and automation (digital transformation), protecting stressed employees from customer interface and shifting stress on customers instead. Alternatively, businesses outsource the workforce abroad, often forgetting that a customer is a key to the profit bottom line. These will make a business more profitable in a short-term, however, will make no one younger, smarter or healthier. As an example, consider banks, telecommunication businesses, and utilities just to mention some.


Imagine now, if you could improve your Cognitive Availability (Brain Efficiency) in a simple way and complete your work in half of the time available?


There are companies which do exactly that. They collaborate with employees for a win-win wellness and productivity proposition and improve profits with shorter working hours.

How do they do it?

Is this some other wellness gimmick for a psychological motivational feel-good-training?

Brain Efficiency and Productivity

The Office Worker Productivity is closely coupled with the Brain Efficiency or Cognitive Availability, regardless of whether you are doing repetitive or creative and inventive work. The human brain works at its best in the Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) mode, which makes a perfect sense considering 300,000 years of human evolution.

NEAT is a state of continuous non-repetitive mobility at low effort level, where the body system uses fat as the fuel (Thermogenesis) to generate energy. In this state, the brain generates complex and diverse neural activity to the muscles as it keeps the body balanced in the upright position. It also monitors feedback from proprioception sensors. The heart beats at a slightly elevated level delivering an increased Oxygen level. This, in turn, energizes the brain and supporting cognitive functions. The brain is the heaviest user of Oxygen out of all human organs. It consumes as much as 25% of total Oxygen despite its comparatively small weight of about 2% of the total body weight.

Guess what happens when you sit down and stay sedentary in the chair focusing on your computer work?

It takes about 30 minutes for the body to sustain the Brain at its full cognitive availability before it settles to the resting state. The heart slows down delivering less oxygen to the brain so the brain enters a resting mode which also limits the cognition.
After one hour of a motionless sitting the Brain Cognitive Availability diminishes to a level equivalent to the sleeping condition. If you have not dosed off, you will be prompted by the brain activity to a movement with a strong pain signal in your back, shoulders, neck or maybe a cramp of your leg muscles.

As soon as you stretched your legs and took a walk to the coffee machine your brain resets to its full cognitive capacity for another 30 minutes and the Brain cognitive cycle repeats. Typically most of the sedentary office workers would repeat this cycle 6 times in a day. As a result, this offers a full cognitive engagement for about 3 hours per working day. The remaining 5 hours of the working day blend into a low Brain cognitive mode without most people realizing it.

Have you ever asked yourself any of these questions:

  • What have I done today?
  • Have you ever arrived to work by a car not remembering details of your journey?
  • Why am I behind the schedule despite working so many hours?

Becoming Younger

Have you ever wonder why many people look older than their chronological age?

Often it is due to genetics. For most people, however, genes by themselves determine predisposition only. The condition such as a ‘speed of aging’ must be triggered by environmental factors.

In the past, we thought about aging as a static process determined by the chronological age. Since science fully explored the role of stem cells, we understand that aging is controlled by the physiological age.

The stem cells abundant and active in children and young adults diminish with age, however, they do not disappear but remain dormant until activated and can be stimulated and rebuild any organ to its original state.
In the eighties, scientists participated in BIOSPHERE2 noticed by coincident that caloric restriction diet leads to organ regeneration. In other words, the hunger causes the body to use protein as a fuel and at the same time, it stimulates a stem cell regeneration when the supporting environment becomes available.
Take the muscles for example. You can rejuvenate them through an intensive exercise and nutrition as athletes and bodybuilders do. For most healthy people it can be done to most of the body organs up to 50. However, for people with a lifelong commitment, it can be done beyond 50.

Most generally healthy individuals above 30 are physiologically 5-20 years older than their chronological age due to their sedentary lifestyles and poor nutrition. The amazing thing about physiological age is that it can be lowered. NEAT with appropriate nutrition and daily exercise will lower your physiological age.

It is worth it and achievable for most people to engage in the HiACHIEVR process. It is very rewarding to retire at 65 having a body equivalent to 55 rather than 85.

50 is a pivotal age and most people have the opportunity to peak at 50 as a combination of financial status and physiological endurance and be ready to ‘climb’ their ‘Life's Everest’.

The alternative for the sedentary population is developing a sedentary condition. Half of the population over 50, in developed countries, will contract one or more, a totally preventable, sedentary condition such as diabetes, sedentary lifestyle cancers, hypertension, stroke, dementia just to mention few.

Becoming Smarter

Brain stem cells also exist in adult bodies and can be stimulated to replace damaged neurons.
Similarly to nutritional deprivation stimulating muscle tissue rejuvenation, reducing oxygen concentration stimulates stem cell production in the brain and brain cell rejuvenation, neurogenesis.

For the last 5 years, I have observed such an effect with my clients participating in our high altitude adventures, including myself.

My original explanation stemmed from high altitude exercise physiology. I linked it to increased production of red blood cells to deliver a sufficient amount of oxygen at the high altitude. The observable effect of improved cognition and energy lasts a couple of months after returning from high altitude but the studies indicate even more long-term benefits.

The NEAT system employed in the HiACHIEVR Program helps to improve cognition through consistent increased blood flow to the brain rather than Oxygen deprivation in the low Oxygen environment. The HiACHIEVR program also offers a high altitude extension for all participants who successfully completed the HiACHIEVR program.

The HiACHIEVR Program protocols, based on personal experience in high altitude training and the latest neurological research, lead not only to physical improvement but also improve the cognition.

Tony Olejnicki – an engineer, motivator and exercise physiologist specializing in high altitude training is the creator of the HiACHIEVR Program, an inspirational program helping professional working in an office environment to improve productivity and life quality by lowering physiological age, improving cognition and optimizing personal health.

Contact us for a free consultation about the personalized transition with HiACHIEVR Program to high productivity workplace.