The Four Keys to Optimal Performance and Results, part one (#781)

When an athlete or performer is on their game, they are at their best – present to what they’re doing, highly responsive to their environment, and somehow just knowing what to do at exactly the right time to do it. When they lose their bearings and go off their game, they get caught up in their heads, attempting to replace the flow of instinct and intuition with an ever increasing amount of rules and information and spending more time worrying about their performance than actually performing.

The same is true for each one of us, and points us to an unbreakable rule in the game of life:

The more time we spend being “on our game”, the more effective we will be, the higher our level of performance will be, and the better results we will produce.

Here are four keys to utilizing this distinction to increase your effectiveness in your life and work…

1. Recognize when you’re on your game and when you’re not

Let’s begin with a simple question:

In the work that you do, what percentage of your time would you say that you spend “on your game”?

Regardless of what number you came up with, the fact that you could come up with any number at all indicates that you already have some sense of what it feels like for you to be on your game and what it feels like when you’re not.

Here’s a contrastive analysis I did for myself to highlight some of those differences as I personally experience them:

Chart 1
Take a few moments before moving forward to reflect on these distinctions for yourself.  If you like, you can fill in the chart below with your thoughts:

Chart 2
Once you recognize the importance of being on your game in creating better results and have a sense of what some of your personal key indicators are for being on or off your game, the obvious question to ask leads us to key number two…

2. Learn to be on your game more often

In his book You Already Know How to Be Great, executive coach Alan Fine points out the difference between traditional performance coaching and what he calls the “inside-out” approach:

In traditional coaching, performance = capacity + knowledge.  In other words, the only thing between you and optimal performance would be some missing piece of information.  Once you know what to do, you will get the most out of your innate capacity.

But even a cursory glance at our own lives shows up the fallacy in that idea.  How much of what you know do you actually apply?  How many “strategies for success” have you studied in your lifetime?  Are your results commensurate with what you “know”, or do they seem to have more to do with what you actually do?

The actual formula for success Fine shares in his book is this:

Performance = Capacity – Interference
In other words, when we get out of our own way, we will perform to the peak of our capacity.  So the key to being on our game more often is to limit those things that interfere with being on our game.

In my own work, I would put it like this:


You were born in the zone.  From the time you were an infant, you naturally learned about life through present-moment instinct and intuition.  You followed your fascination not because “curiosity is a positive human trait” but because  you were genuinely interested in results and what it would take to achieve them.

You didn’t learn to walk because you thought it was important; you learned to walk because there was somewhere you wanted to get to and walking seemed to be a good way to get there.  You didn’t learn to talk because you thought it would make you appear more intelligent; you learned to talk because there was something you wanted to express or request and that seemed to be the best way to do it.

And you learned quickly and you practiced tirelessly and you didn’t get bogged down in your “failures” for one simple reason – you didn’t think about them.  Which points us to the number one source of “interference” that limits the amount of time we spend in the zone and on our game:

We get caught up in our personal thinking and we lose our bearings.

Recognizing that this is the only real obstacle you have to overcome is half the battle won; the other half is even simpler:

You do not need to control your thoughts to be free of them.

To the extent that you see that your experience of life is thought created, those thoughts begin to lose their hold on you.  It’s like waking up inside a dream, or becoming conscious of the movie theater when you’ve been caught up in a movie.

You don’t need to do anything about it – the drama of your thinking fades into the background and you find yourself once more in the zone, on your game, and doing exactly what needs to be done to perform at your best and create the results you desire…

Next week, we’ll explore two additional factors that can make a real difference in your pursuit of optimal performance and results.

Until then, have fun, learn heaps, and may all your success be fun!

With love,

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