Planning Your Way to Peak Performance
Peak performance basically entails reaching your potential when it matters most. It is also defined as the zone of optimal functioning and flow. Have you ever had a test where you simply blacked-out and forgot about all the material you crammed? Have you ever made mistakes or stopped during your performance? Basically, have you ever ended up not performing at your best when it unfortunately mattered the most? Well in my case, I’ve suffered from all of the above. Peak performance is quite the challenge in my book. With my major dance competition coming up, I have decided to research on peak performance and share my findings with you. I can’t imagine that my fellow career lions do not want to optimize their performance on moment suprême!
Here is a summarized list of the most important aspects in peak performance:
Defining your peak
In order to perform at your peak, you will have to define what you want to achieve first. Research has also revealed that setting more specific and challenging goals, also has an increasing influence on your performance.
Planning your way to the top
Once you have defined your peak, you need to do backwards engineering in order to actually achieve this. Taking into account all aspects you need to cover in order to realize your peak performance. This regards for instance your practice sessions as well as the downtime you need to consistently perform over longer periods of time. Also, taking into account obstacles that you might face along the way.
Grit to sustain intense passion and perseverance
Angela Duckworth has defined grit to be a summation of intense passion and perseverance. You need to be passionate, but over a longer period rather than having “firework passion”. She also mentions four psychological aspects in relation to this grit: interest, practice, purpose, and hope. Here, Duckworth stresses that effort counts twice as much as talent. Skills are a product of talent and effort. In order for these skills to translate into achievement, however, more effort is needed.
Having focus and clarity
By having more focus and clarity, one will enter a state of flow as a starting point for peak performance. This can be achieved by controlling your breathing on a daily basis. This will allow you to transform your anxiousness in excitement through breathing, gaining focus and clarity when it matters most. Transitioning from a negative to a positive state of mind and optimizing your performance. This is of great importance as your anxiousness will induce worry that actually takes up some of your working memory required to optimize your performance. Research indicates that even saying “I’m excited” already helps you to positively channel your energy, increasing your performance through more focus.
Naïve practice, simply doing something again and again isn't changing anything. You need to be purposeful about it. This means that you need a plan for each session, setting goals to achieve every time. Being focussed in each of those sessions. You will also need to leave your comfort zone, in order to grow and adapt to this new level of skill that you require your body to handle. Leaving your comfort zone basically means taking risks, deviating from your regular behavioral routine. Also, having direct feedback is of great importance to practice deliberately.
Practicing under pressure
One of the ways to improve your peak performance has proven to be practicing under pressure. Whether it is practicing test under time limits, being judged practicing your dancing routines, or practice competitions, these are the types of practices that will prepare you for the real deal.
Research has also reveals that high-level performances are usually accompanied by high and consistent self-confidence. In order to achieve what you have set your mind to, you basically have to believe that you can. Imagining that you are practicing as well as reaching the peak. If not, you are most likely to be demotivated and fall short. Identifying that you can do this will drive actions, in turn driving your feelings. Try power posing, as taking up more space makes your feel more powerful enhancing your performance as a result.
I have my peak in mind, the world qualifiers of Irish dancing this November. This research has taught me to be even more purposeful about my practices as well as my life in general. Therefore, I have planned all of my practice sessions in my agenda as well as my downtime, including the achievements for each session. These practice sessions also include new exercise classes outside my comfort zone, where I will most likely look a fool among all the “regulars”. There I will work on my overall fitness level, leaving my comfort zone to grow my core strength and stamina as well as my confidence level. I will be working on my mental strength and breathing exercises in the meantime, to make sure I will not crumble under the pressure. I need to become a meditator in less than a month basically. Previous meditation experiences have, however, shown that meditation is quite challenging for me. I don't think there was ever a moment where I was thinking about nothing or even just one thing. Even when you mention “churros” or “sushi”, there are about a million other thoughts rushing through my brain. Before the big competition, I will also be attending another competition to practice under pressure. Self-confidence being a thing for me too, I will fake it until I (if ever) make it. Power posing until I actually become super woman!
When do you have to peak next? And what are your thoughts on achieving peak performance? Please share it in the comment section below.