My first job out of college was a dead-end position as a Buyer at a fancy retail store in Arizona. I thought this would be the perfect position for me because—surprise, I loved to shop! Although I dreaded going to work everyday, I found myself wooed by the glamour of the position and the great discount on very expensive clothes.
At first, I was enamored with the idea of being a fashion buyer—and I was successful by most people’s standards. But I came to be miserable, because I was in a job that, ultimately, did not leave me feeling my life had either meaning or value.
There was a voice inside that reminded me of the regret I would feel from living a life of mediocrity and it challenged me to uncover my full potential.
In listening to that voice, I became an FBI agent and was continually placed in situations that stretched my abilities, but I also knew these challenges were moving me closer to a purpose that held both success and fulfillment for me.
Peak performance and success are two sides of the same coin. Peak performance is linked to a concept known as “flow.” Flow is a state of mind during which we become so involved in what we’re doing that the world seems to fade away and nothing else matters. When we’re in a state of flow, times flies by, our focus becomes sharp, and we experience a loss of self-consciousness.
We experience the flow of peak performance when we achieve a personal goal we’ve set for ourselves. It’s a “runner’s high” that we feel when we are following our heart’s calling and truly engaged in activities that give us meaning and purpose.
Peak performance is having the mental toughness to be our best so we can be successful.
The ultimate definition of success is to realize our fullest potential so we can accomplish what we desire to accomplish.
Let’s take a look at how you can increase your odds of success:
1. No Sugar-Coating—It All Starts with Honest Self-Evaluation
Successful people are emotionally intelligent. They can not only accurately perceive the emotions of others, they are also adept at identifying and understanding their own emotions as well. They have a high level of self-awareness and are able to accurately assess information about their abilities, even when it is unflattering.
Once you know yourself and your limits, you know exactly what you’re afraid of and exactly how hard to push against it.
If you are not willing to take a honest look at your abilities and identify where you need to improve, you will never move past your current circumstances. Those with self-knowledge do not worry when their radar comes up with something about themselves that is unflattering. The reason is because they are also acutely aware of their strengths.
To become successful, it is essential to have accurate information about your abilities so you can learn more efficiently and effectively.
2. Don’t Be Content with Mediocrity—Stretchtoward Peak Performance
Unless you know your limits, you will not be able to prepare either your mind or your body to move past them. To move toward peak performance, you need to stretch your current skill level—but not so hard that you want to give up.
Experts agree that this magic stretch is 4% greater than our skill. For most of us, it’s not much at all. However, it’s important to keep that continual tension between stretch and skill if we want to move toward our peak performance.
3. Everything Starts as a Struggle
This is the same whatever the learning cycle: we begin by overloading our brain with information. If you’re an athlete, you will engage in serious physical training. If you’re in marketing, you may begin with fact gathering. If you’re a CEO, you may begin with a concentrated problem analysis.
An important chemical change takes place in our brain during struggle. Tensions rise, and frustrations, too. Adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine are pumped into our system.
How we handle negative feelings during this stage is critical. We’re struggling to identify patterns and then repeating those patterns so our brain eventually no longer sees them as a series of steps to be taken but as a chunk of activity. Chunks simplify activities for the brain so it takes a very small bit of information and then predicts the outcome.
Until this happens, however, we are awkward and uncomfortable. This is where many people give up and settle for mediocrity.
4. Relax and Remember There is a Light at the End of the Tunnel
Researchers have found that to move out of the struggle phase, it’s important to move into a state of mind where you take your thoughts off the problem. Once you can find a way to relax in the midst of your struggle, the stress hormones in your brain start to decrease and the feel-good chemicals like dopamine start to kick in.
This is why humor is so important in high-stress jobs. It can defuse an intense situation by letting the brain relax.
Success is not a measure of how much money you make or the size of your house. It is knowing that, at the end of it, you have been brave enough to become the person you were truly meant to be.
What we are is God’s gift to us. what we become is our gift to God—Eleanor Powell
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