Peak Performance: Conditions for Optimal Functioning

“I think it is possible to engineer peak performances; that being at one’s best is not just a fluke.”

                                                                                                                        -Stan Proffitt

How clear are you regarding the conditions under which you perform at your best?  Regardless of the arena, be it leadership, surgery, construction, engineering, sports, graphic design or any other endeavor, I think it is possible to identify the conditions that give rise to a peak performance.  I have been on a quest to discover these conditions for myself and take steps toward managing as many of the variables as possible.  Here are some guiding thoughts that have been helpful to me in making progress toward optimal functioning.

There is a perpetual cycle of reflecting, refining and implementation that I follow.  It can be depicted by the diagram below.

Planning Cycle

I start with looking at specific categories of factors that influence how well I am doing.  Many of these factors I can control or impact directly.  Examples of categories that have emerged as most influential for me include:

Personal Self-Care – Personal self-care involves three primary domains: physical, mental and spiritual.

  • Physical – Taking care of self physically involves managing three aspects of self-care. These include exercise or movement, nutrition (including use of substances such as caffeine and alcohol) and restoration/recovery.  Staying on a routine of physical exercise, good nutrition and proper rest are essential for me to be at my best.
  • Mental – Engaging in mentally stimulating activity across a broad range of interests promotes an integration of creative and analytical thinking. Integrating these seemingly opposed processes allows me to better see connections and promotes perspective.  Daily meditation also helps de-clutter my mind and promotes clearer thinking and the ability to focus.
  • Spiritual – Staying connected and focused on a larger sense of meaning and purpose, beyond the immediate situation, enables me to rise above the fray and operate out of a more thoughtful, less reactive position. Knowing my purpose anchors my actions.

Relationship Management – There are relationships that are important to me.  When these relationships are out of balance or there is tension, it is impossible to not be affected.  Attending to and cleaning up any relationship conflicts and misunderstandings is essential to performing at my best in every other interaction.  This involves looking at and taking responsibility for my own part in any relationship challenges.

Physical Environment – Simplicity in my physical environment is important.  As a manifestation of an uncluttered mind, an uncluttered physical environment promotes calmness and ordered functioning.  I can’t function well when my physical environment is unorganized.  This includes clothes and shoes, business files and paperwork, electronic files, vehicle and to the extent possible, the work environment I am in.

Preparation – There is no substitute for preparation.  If I have a presentation to give, by the time I am in the live interaction, I have worked through the presentation many times in my head, making connections and clarifying my message.  This means being self-disciplined enough to forego a popular or fun activity for the sake of being prepared.  But this involves more than just the day or night before an engagement.  Everything I do is in preparation for everything else I do.  I view all activities as connected and influential.

Regulation of Contact with Negative Influencers – While it may not be possible, or wise, to eliminate all variables that could have a negative influence on me, I pay a lot of attention to what happens to my motivation and energy level when in contact with people, places, events and other types of stimulation.  How much time will I spend watching news programs that seem to be designed to feed social anxiety?  News and information is important and useful, so how much exposure is helpful?  There are people whom I experience as very draining on my energy level.  It is a lot of work to try to stay engaged with another who is overly self-absorbed or negative.  I choose to spend as much of my interaction time with people with whom I have a reciprocal energizing relationship.  I try to make conscious choices about all of my engagements.  For example, when will I go along with a family dinner and when does taking time for solitude make more sense in the bigger picture.  The primary anchor for these decisions is what is in the interest of my ability to be at my best for clients and others.  What will most help me move toward my most important goals and purposes?

The ongoing cycle of managing the factors outlined here, observing how what I am doing is impacting my performance and continuously tweaking how I manage the various factors is the goal.  There is no end-point for me.  I keep my attention focused on the process, knowing that as I get clearer on the conditions that promote my optimal functioning, and better at managing those conditions, the performance will take care of itself.

Each one of these points deserves a deeper dive.  Additionally, how one talks to others about the choices one makes is important.  Skillful self-definition warrants yet another deeper dive.  For now, I invite you to experiment and share your observations.

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