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Achieving peak performance.

Achieving Peak Performance

Executives perform, but because it is through others that they achieve results, they must also motivate others to perform. Yet many executives - even those with successful records - do not fully understand the dynamics of peak performance.

Performance means having well-defined goals - reaching a certain level of profit, completing a difficult assignment successfully, or winning a golf or tennis tournament. And performance means wanting to achieve those goals. But peak performance has another dimension, one that requires us to understand an inner domain and tap into the power of the mind.

To appreciate the importance of the inner domain, contrast two types of achievers: a CEO and an athletic champion. Both individuals are successful in their professions; both understand their goals and want to achieve them. But the CEO's success is less than it could be because he or she lacks an understanding of the inner resources used to achieve a higher level of performance.

To reach his or her goals, the CEO sacrifies the moment-by-moment joy of living. Pushing too hard makes him or her angry and impatient, chafing to get through one job so the next can be started. He or she ignores a lot of the information and signals from staff members, replacing the interest in feedback with a demand for results.

Unlike the CEO, the athlete's performance carries no hidden price tag. He or she presents the appearance of effortlessness. The athlete knows something that the CEO has forgotten or never knew - that the quality of an achievement depends on the quality of the moments leading up to it.

The goal should not be more important than the process used to achieve it. Whether instinctively or by training, the athlete knows this. He or she works to achieve two things: a quiet mind and a relaxed body. The athlete knows that optimal performance of any kind depends on being mentally calm and physically at ease.

Is the kind of focus or balance required in sports different from the kind of focus required in corporate affairs? Not fundamentally. All focus depends on minimizing noise, both mental and physical. This increases an individual's ability to pick up and respond to information from both inside and outside.

The cost of losing focus is hidden in corporate affairs. Performance specialist Anthony Robbins in Ultimate Power points out two fundamental rules for achieving top performance. One rule is knowing the desired outcome. The other is cultivating sensory acuity. Over time, sharpened senses allow the performer to read his or her environment and abilities effectively.

Sensory acuity builds intelligence and power because it is from the senses that people get information about the world. Peak performance depends on focusing the senses instead of shutting them down.

Robbins points out that everyone can develop greater sensory acuity and, therefore, be more effective. He fails to point out, however, that an individual cannot open up his or her senses unless all internal interference is eliminated.

Not only are a calm mind and body crucial to focus, but a calm body is a calm mind. By developing control over his or her physiological processes, a person can directly affect the quality, intensity, and power of his or her mental state.

Georgi Lozanov, a Bulgarian scientist and founder of the learning methodology called Suggestopedia, developed a successful accelerated learning technique widely applied to learning foreign languages. Lozanov taught students to improve their concentration dramatically by using breathing and deep relaxation techniques to eliminate mental and physical static.

In a similar vein, a host of psychologists, doctors, and psychotherapists have demonstrated the direct connection between meditative practices that slow down body rhythms and the growth of mental acuity.

So why is it not widely understood that the focus of the mind depends on the calmness of the body? One of the primary reasons is embarrassingly simple: most people learned the opposite. In school, children are taught to associate learning, concentration, and achievement with tension and stress.

Children hunch over their desks, clutch their pencils, furrow their brows, gnaw their fingernails, strain at the blackboard, and work hard at blocking any sensory information that interferes with their one goal - solving the problem before them. Instead of expanding to learn, children are contracting. They learn to associate achieving with overcoming internal resistance. They are learning to cheat themselves of their real potential, and to suffer ill health and dissatisfaction.

Two fundamental obstacles prevent developing personal power. One obstacle is the illusion that we are as fully focused as possible. Some open-minded experimentation with techniques to create greater mental and physical awareness show that focus can always be increased. The second obstacle is the persistent cultural belief that work means stress and that performance is effortful.

Peak performance is effortless performance, but only performers who understand this fully work toward developing the inner tools required for peak performance. Others struggle on, leaving inner resources untapped.

A corporate culture that integrates management by objectives with an emphasis on process creates the conditions for peak performance. This culture builds a strong bond between achieving corporate goals and finding personal satisfaction, and it creates an environment that stimulates creativity, teamwork, and quality. These are necessary for an effective work environment. Such a corporate culture also dramatically decreases the costs of mental and physical stress and the substance abuse and diseases that result.

Dr. Ingrid Lorch-Bacci is a performance and stress management consultant based in Briarcliff Manor, NY.
COPYRIGHT 1992 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Managing
Author:Lorch-Bacci, Ingrid
Publication:Security Management
Article Type:Column
Date:Jan 1, 1992
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