In last week’s tip, we explored the first two keys to creating optimal performance and results:
1. Recognizing when you’re on your game and when you’re not
2. Learning to be on your game more often.
(You can read part one here.)
This week, let’s continue our exploration by looking at two things which are perhaps less obvious but no less important in sustaining our performance and results over time…
3. Do less damage when you’re off your game
I was talking to a young man once who had dropped out of university as a result of a depression that had gone on for several months and was feeling doomed to live out the rest of his years in misery. When I asked him to catalog what had actually changed in his life during his months of malaise, he asked me what I meant.
“Well, did you drop out of school or get kicked out? That is, if you wanted to re-enroll, could you?”
He thought about it for a few moments and then acknowledged that he would be able to go back if he decided to.
“Do you still have your job?” I asked.
“For now – they’ve let me know they’re unhappy with the drop off in my performance, but so far they’re still willing to wait for me to get back on my game.”
“How about your girlfriend? Has she left you yet?” I asked, smiling.
He looked at me a bit incredulously, then smiled back. “For some reason,” he said wryly, “she still seems to like me.”
“Then”, I concluded, “it seems to me that although you’re a bit worse for wear, your life is still in pretty good shape.”
And as he began to regain his bearings and find his way back to himself, he too was grateful that he hadn’t done too much damage to his life while struggling with his thoughts and emotions.
One of the great ironies of the human condition is that we seem most motivated to make dramatic changes in our lives in those moments where we are least equipped to do so. We get angry and want to change the world, but in our anger and frustration we alienate the very people who could help us to achieve our aims. We feel insecure and alone and think that now would be a good time to sort things out with our partners “once and for all”.
In fact, one of the most reliable ways to spot that you’re off your game – that your feeling state has dropped and your thinking has become circular and unproductive – is that you feel compelled to take dramatic action to change a person, situation, or even your own life.
The truth is, we all lose our bearings from time to time. We get caught up in some dark thoughts or a low mood and the world seems a harsh and unforgiving place. To the extent that we can see these times for what they are – momentary or even extended periods of being off our game – we can limit the damage we do to our relationships, our careers, and our lives.
Instead of following through on the seemingly urgent directives of our own insecure thinking, we can instead step back, allow ourselves to get reflective, and wait for our thoughts and mood to rise. Then, when we are feeling “more ourselves”, we can once again trust our thinking, take appropriate action, and move forward with our lives. You may still have some mess to clear up – but considerably less mess than if you’d blindly acted on plans hatched in a moment of “temporary madness”.
4. Teach the people around you whatever you understand about the power of state of mind.
At a recent corporate event, I was speaking about the first three keys when one of the executives in the room asked how I suggested they get their team to operate more consistently in higher states of mind. “Should we all hold hands and sing “Kumbaya” before a meeting?” she asked, tongue very much in cheek.
While I’d love to be there if she tries it, I’ve found a more consistently effective way to encourage optimal performance and results in teams is to point everyone involved towards a deeper understanding of the impact of state of mind – being on or off your game – on practically everything human beings do..
If everyone in the room recognizes that the best results are going to happen when the majority of people are operating from higher states of mind, the room will regulate itself. Cooler heads will prevail more often than not, and people work together to not only create the desired result, but to create and sustain an environment that is conducive to the states of mind that lead to those results.
Best of all, you don’t need to be an expert teacher for your teaching to make a difference. Because you’re pointing to something that’s universal – true for all people at all times – people will tend to intuit the truth of what you’re pointing towards and have insights into its impact no matter how awkwardly you may present it at first.
This is, for me, one of the true joys of teaching – the more you share from what you know, the more you wind up knowing. When you open up to the flow of fresh thinking and deeper wisdom that is available to all of us at all times, you will be pleasantly surprised at what comes through you…
In the meantime, have fun, learn heaps, and enjoy!