Elements of Peak Performance

Improving your productivity and increasing your level of success naturally involves working at – or as close as you can get to – your level of peak performance.

Obviously, you can’t expect to operate at your peak all the time. It’s just as obvious, however, that you can almost certainly learn to spend more of your time operating closer to your peak level of performance than you do now.

Here are some techniques to help you:

Don’t Fight the Feeling

We know that anger, anxiety, disappointment, fear, frustration, worry, and other strong emotions interfere with your brain’s higher-level “executive” and analytical functions. These higher functions are what enable you to figure out what’s going on and take actions to move forward effectively toward your goals.

As a result, many people try hard to suppress their feelings in hopes of giving their rational capabilities more control over what they think, say, and do.

But this is not going to help you.

Why? Because engaging your rational capabilities when your emotions are going strong is simply pitting one set of brain functions against the other, preventing either one from holding sway. Your emotions won’t work themselves through as easily as they normally would, while your executive and analytical functions won’t accurately focus on the real essentials or make the best choices.

The better strategy for peak performance is to let your emotions run their course, and only then try to engage your rational capabilities.

Bide Your Time

You cultivate and deliver peak performance when you feel comfortable, rested, and strong. That’s one reason some top performers have learned to react to emergencies, high pressure, and powerful demands by relaxing, taking a break, and carefully preparing for action before they deliberately turn to the task at hand.

I remember a time I woke up in the middle of the night to find the house next door to mine was totally on fire. I watched in awe as fire fighters took their time to roll out hoses, position themselves in key locations, and coordinate their plans. After a few minutes of quiet, calm preparation, the went into action and very quickly put out the fire!

I was – and continue to be – highly impressed.

From this and other experiences, I have learned that peak performance does not come from frantic or haphazard reactions to events, no matter how rapidly they are unfolding. Instead, top results come from purposeful planning and savvy preparation, combined with calm activity carefully calculated for maximum impact.

Know Yourself

One of the interesting things about delivering peak performance is that your ability to generate your best results evolves as you grow. Like many athletes, when you’re young you can rely on your strength, speed, and agility to put up great numbers. As you get older, you rely more on your knowledge, experience, and sharply honed skill set to deliver equally remarkable performances, often in substantially different roles.

What’s more, your willingness and ability to endure uncertainty and rapidly developing situations also change as you pile up more years in your career.

One of the keys to peak performance, therefore, is to know yourself so well that you can accurately throw yourself into demanding situations in just the right place, at just the right time, in just the right way to produce the results you are seeking.

You may start out as a hammer seeing every situation as a nail, but later you may become a complete set of tools able to apply yourself, as needed, to deliver top performances in the widest possible range of circumstances.

Stay Positive

Humans are hard-wired to react differently to threats than to rewards. It’s extremely difficult to deliver peak performances when you are focused on the threats, the dangers, and/or the potential for loss you’re facing in the situation.

But in the same situation, when you see yourself driving toward a desirable reward, striving to capture a prize or obtain an incentive, your skills, abilities, knowledge and experience can much more readily come to the fore, giving rise to a performance likely to approach your best.

Build a Safety Net

There’s a great difference between walking a tightrope stretched one foot above the ground compared with walking the same tightrope stretched over the Grand Canyon. Obviously, a feeling of safety is a powerful element in the composition of peak performance.

For this reason, when preparing to tackle a situation that calls for peak performance, it’s important to consider your safety – how much you can lose, how far you can fall, how embarrassing a failure would be, and so forth.

Building your self-confidence is a great way to lessen the fear-factor in most or all of the common dangers we face. So is increasing your range and depth of capabilities.

But a specific safety net is also valuable, such as:

  • Savings that can tide you over in the event you lose your job,
  • Support and assistance from people you can always rely on,
  • Some form of a “no-cut” contract that prevents you from being fired when problems arise,
  • Great relationships and a range of contacts that promise stability in the event of sudden changes,
  • A backlog of resources you can draw on should your current supply be interrupted,

and so forth.

The more of all these factors you can build into your work and your life, the more often you will be able to deliver performance that is close to – if not actually at – your peak.

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