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Thinking for Peak Performance

April 21, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 203

Peak performers know that their thinking affects their performance. They know that some of their thoughts are helpful, that they improve their focus, drive and application of skills. They also know that some thoughts get in the way of their performance. What truly sets peak performers apart from others, though, is their ability to recognise unhelpful thoughts as they occur, and quickly minimise the impact of these thoughts on their performance. Peak performers are also quick at generating more helpful thoughts to use in the place of those that are inhibiting their performance.

Essentially, peak performers are masters of their PITs and PETs:

PITs (Performance Inhibiting Thoughts)

These are thoughts that get in the way of performance. We often describe these as "negative" thoughts, but sometimes "positive thoughts" can be just as inhibiting of performance. Generally, PITs are automatic. They sneak into our minds and create a mental environment that distracts us from effective application of our knowledge and skills.

PITs have their effect on our performance through our emotions - and this is key to mastering them. Many people still striving for peak performance consider their emotions to be separate from their thoughts - to be distinct, discreet and unrelated. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Consider an executive, Jill, who has to give a presentation to a panel of customers. On the way to the presentation, she passes one of the members of the panel, Alex, and sees him talking to another member of the panel, and notices that he appears rushed, frustrated, and even angry. She makes some assumptions about what she has seen - the situation, and these assumptions may be PITs. She thinks "Alex doesn't want to be here. He won't be attentive or receptive to my pitch. And now he's poisoning the rest of the panel! Why am I bothering with them?" What emotions do you think these thoughts will create in Jill? She may be frustrated herself, worried about Alex's reaction in the meeting, and lacking in confidence. As a result, when she begins the presentation, she rushes, assuming that the panel will want it to be quick. She loses focus, forgets the order of her presentation, and finds it difficult to connect with her audience.

A non-peak performer will associate the situation with the outcome: "Alex threw me off balance - I couldn't concentrate because I knew he wasn't interested." The situation and the outcome are seen as external - "...happening to me." In reality, it is Jill's initial thoughts which have created an emotional condition which has inhibited her performance in the presentation.

PETs (Performance Enhancing Thoughts)

Now, imagine Jill in the same situation. She has the same presentation to make, and makes the same observations of Alex. This time, thought, her thoughts are different. "I wonder what's happening with Alex. He looks distracted, so he might need me to be a bit more structured than usual, and I will probably need to check in with the panel more often during this presentation."

Jill's thoughts are focused on the presentation and her effective performance, rather than being preoccupied with what might go wrong. Jill is focused on how to ensure that the presentation goes well. She is maintaining a sense of control over the situation and her emotional state. As a result, Jill is more likely to be focused during her presentation, looking for opportunities to check in with Alex and other panel members to ensure that they are still with her, and to maintain her initial structure. Again, the situation has aroused initial thoughts, which have created an emotional state, which has impacted the outcome. The difference that makes all the difference is the content of Jill's thoughts.

A true peak performer will still have the PITs. What makes the difference, though, is the peak performer's ability to recognise the PIT, and change their thought about the situation, so that the emotion and the outcome are more beneficial. This process is called "re-framing" and is a crucial skill of the peak performer.

Craig Nobbs is an executive coach with experience across the education, pharmaceutical and financial services industries. He challenges your thinking at

(c) Craig Nobbs and Audacity Consulting. All rights reserved.

Source: EzineArticles
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