Seek clarity on your identity, values, and goals. Then, generate energy to maintain focus, effort, and well-being. Raise the necessity of exceptional performance by creating internal standards and external accountability. Increase productivity in your primary field of interest by focusing on prolific quality output. Then, develop influence with those around you to get help and support. Finally, show courage by expressing your ideas, taking bold action, and standing up for yourself and others, even in the face of fears and uncertainty.
To reach high performance, you have to consider more than your individual passions and efforts, and you'll have to go well beyond what you feel like, prefer, or naturally do well, because, to be frank, the world cares less about your strengths and personality than about your service and meaningful contributions to others.
Certainty is the enemy of growth and high performance. Certainty ultimately blinds you, sets false or fixed limits, and creates "automatic" habits that become predictable bad thinking and openings for your competitors to surpass you.
High performance isn't just about never-ending improvement. Mere improvement does not always result in high performance. Lots of people are improving but not necessarily crushing it—they're inching forward, but so is everyone else.
You can be wildly happy with what you have, and still strive to grow and contribute.
What we do with what we have tends to be far more important than what we have in the first place. What you're innately good at is less important than how you choose to see the world, develop yourself, lead others, and remain persistent through difficulty.
When people talk about how they feel in high performance, they report feeling full engagement, joy, and confidence (in that order). This means they tend to be fully immersed in what they are doing, they enjoy what they're doing, and they have confidence in their ability to figure things out.
Clarity is the child of careful thought and mindful experimentation. It comes from asking yourself question continually and further refining your perspective on life.
Be more intentional about who you want to become. Have vision beyond your current circumstances. Imagine your best future self, and start acting like that person today.
No matter your current level of performance, clarifying your primary field of interests (PFI) and the skills you need to master for your next level of success must be a priority.
Before entering any performance situation, high performers contemplate how they want to feel regardless of what emotions might come up, and they envision how they want to feel leaving the situation regardless of what emotions might come up. Then they exert self-control to achieve those intentions.
Enthusiasm + Connection + Satisfaction + Coherence = Meaning
When you learn the difference between busywork and your life's work, that's the first step on the path of purpose.
Stress is the ultimate energy and well-being killer. It slows the production of new brain cells, reduces serotonin and dopamine (which are critical to your mood), and fires up your amygdala while simultaneously decreasing your hippocampus function—making you a frazzled person with decreased memory.
The easiest, fastest, and more effective way to help them increase their energy is to teach them to master transitions.
High performers cultivate joy by how they think, what they focus on, and how they engage in and reflect on their days. It's a choice. They bend their will and behaviors to generate joy.
We all know what to do to increase our physical energy, because by now it's common sense: Exercise—work out more. Nutrition—eat healthier good. Sleep—aim for seven to eight hours.
If the demands of your job of life require you to learn fast, deal with stress, be alert, pay attention, remember important things, and keep a positive mood, then you must take exercise more seriously.
A rather uninspiring truth: you don't have to do anything. You don't have to show up for life, for work, for your family. You don't have to climb out of bed on a tough day. You don't have to care about being the best you can be. You don't have to strive to live an extraordinary life. And yet, some people do feel they have to. Why? The answer is a phrase that explains one of the most powerful drivers of human motivation and excellence: performance necessity.
Necessity is the emotional drive that makes great performance a mush instead of a preference. Unlike weaker desires that make you want to do something, necessity demands that you take action. When you feel necessity, you don't sit around wishing or hoping. You get things done. Because you have to.
These are the factors in performance necessity (which I call the Four Forces of Necessity): identity, obsession, duty, and urgency. The first two are mostly internal. The second two are mostly external. Each is a driving force of motivation, but together they make you predictably perform at high levels.
The goal for all underperformers must be to set new standards, self-monitor more frequently, and learn to become comfortable with taking a hard, unflinching look at their own performance.
If you owe it to someone to do well, and you feel that doing well will exhibit your expertise, then you'll fell greater necessity to perform at higher levels.
To help you tap into both the internal and the external demands of necessity, try this simple practice. Set a "desk trigger" for yourself. From now on, whenever you sit down at your desk—that's the trigger action—ask: "Who needs me on my A game the most right now?"
If you truly want to increase your performance in any area of your life, get around some new people who expect and value high performance. Expand your peer group to include more people who have greater expertise or success than you, and spend more time with them.
The fundamentals of becoming more productive are setting goals and maintaining energy and focus. No goals, no focus, no energy—and you're dead in the water.
When people multitask, they cannot focus fully on the task at hand because their brain is still processing their last unfinished task.
It is useful to organize life into ten distinct categories: health, family, friends, intimate relationship (partner or marriage), mission/work, finances, adventure, hobby, spirituality, and emotion.
Your brain also needs more downtime than you probably think—to process information, recover, and deal with life so that you can become productive. That's why, for optimal productivity, you should not only take longer breaks—claim your vacation time!—but also give yourself intermittent breaks throughout the day.
Researchers have found that procrastination is really a motivational problem. It's an issue that arise because you're not working on things that intrinsically matter to you. In rare cases, it can be about anxiety or fear of failure, but far more often it stems from working on things that don't excite you, engage you, or matter to you.
To become more productive, become more competent. You have to master the primary skills needed to win in your primary fields of interest.
Steps to progressive mastery:
The only way to influence another person is to first relate with them and then help raise their ambition to think better, do better, or give more. The first happens when you ask rather than accuse. The second happens when you work to shape their thoughts and challenge them to rise.
To gain influence with other, (1) teach them how to think about themselves, others, and the world; (2) challenge them to develop their character, connections, and contributions; and (3) role model the values you wish to see them embody.
The kinds of courageous acts that you will be proud of at the end of your life area note these tiny acts of self-interested sharing. No, the kinds of courageous acts that you are proud of at the end of your life are those where you faced uncertainty and real risk, where the stakes mattered, when you did something for a cause or person beyond yourself, without any assurance of safety, reward, or success.
When we learn to see struggle as a necessary, important, and positive part of our journey, then we can find true peace and personal power.
There are only two narratives in the human story: struggle and progress. And you can't have the latter without the former.
Embrace the suck. Sometimes, doing your duty sucks. Training sucks. Patrol sucks. The weather sucks. Circumstances suck. But you can't just avoid them or be bitter. You have to deal with it, face it, and will yourself to persevere and rise. You have to embrace the suck.
When we live our truth—expressing who we really are, how we really feel, what we really desire and dream of—then we are authentic; we are free. This requires courage.
Sometimes, courage appears to be a spontaneous act. But what I have found is that it's usually an expression or action built up from years of acting deeply about something or someone. So begin seeking things and people you are about. Give. Care deeply about something now. Stand up for something now. And then you will be more likely to find courage when it matters.
When you fail at the beginning of a journey, it's frustrating. When you fail hard after making it for so many years, it feels immeasurably worse.
You are not better than anyone. You likely just got more exposure to your topic; you had more information or opportunity available to you; you got trained better; you had the opportunity to put in more passion or deliberate practice over more time; you had the opportunity to receive good feedback and guidance. These things are not inherent to who you are. These things, if given to another person, would help them rise to your level.
Humility is a foundational virtue that enables many other virtues to grow. It is associated with positive outcomes like marital fidelity, cooperation, compassion for others, strong social bonds, general group acceptance, optimism, hope, decisiveness, comfort with ambiguity, and openness to experience. It's also tied to our willingness to admit gaps in current knowledge and the tendency to feel guilty after wrongdoing.
Those who never satisfied are never at peace. They can't tune in to their zone—the noise of a dissatisfied mind prevents them from finding a rhythm that makes them feel alive and effective.
Being satisfied, then, doesn't mean "settling." It simply means accepting and taking pleasure in what is. It's allowing yourself to feel contentment whether or not a thing is complete for "perfect."
According to the high performers who failed to maintain their success, overreaching was a problem that stemmed from an insatiable desire for more, coupled with an unrealistic sense of what is possible in a short time frame, which led to overcommitment. In other words, it was an issue of going for too much, too fast, in too many domains.
The best way to avoid neglecting something important to us is to teach others to value that very thing. If you are teaching your children the value of patience, for example, then you tend not to neglect that virtue.
Confidence is the secret ingredient that makes you rise to the challenge. When someone is more confident, they consistently have greater charity, energy, productivity, influence, necessity, and courage.
As you strive, it's important that you begin a practice of reflecting on your progress and your new learning. Don't wait until New Year's Eve to think about all the great things you did and learned this year. I recommend you spend at least thirty minutes every Sunday reflecting on the previous week. What did you learn? What did you handle well? What do you deserve to give yourself a pat on the back for? As simplistic as this may sound, it can have a profound effect in helping you gain more confidence.
What drove the development for high performers in each of these areas was curiosity. It was curiosity that developed their knowledge, skills, and abilities. Curiosity drove their self-examination. You have to ask a lot of questions of yourself to see whether you're living a congruent life. Curiosity made them want to seek out others. Perhaps, then, there is a formula at play:
Curiosity x (Competence + Congruence + Connection) = Confidence
The promise of this equation is that you don't have to pretend to be superhuman. You just have to care enough to learn new things, to live in alignment with who you want to become, to take interest in others.
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