On a daily basis, our external world can be ridiculously noisy — our phones, computers, newsfeeds, social media accounts, notifications and emails fight for our fleeting attention. Without awareness, these distractions easily take the place of internal reflection and introspection. In awkward situations or tense silences, instead of stepping up to address the circumstances, it’s easier to reach for our phone — the loyal companion always an arm’s length away. But when real pressure falls upon you and there are no distractions to lean on, do you trust yourself to perform at the highest level? Do you bet on yourself? Do you have your own definition of high performance that you live by to guide you?

There’s no easy metric to determine a high performance way of living for every single person. It’s complicated and will probably take a while for you to clearly articulate what it means for you. SEALFIT Founder and CEO Mark Divine puts it beautifully, saying “mastery is a progressive process of integration: refining the physical, mental, emotional, intuitional, and spiritual until they emerge as one.” (Finding Mastery podcast episode #059).

Digging deep to answer the question of high performance can bring you closer to mastery of personal fulfillment. A 75-year Harvard study to understand how to obtain happiness and joy and meaning revealed an important pillar:

“Those who wrestled with the difficult questions in life were more often on the path to fulfillment.”

Wrestling with the question, “What is a high performance way of living?” is a challenge. And giving a definitive answer will give you clarity about how to line up your thoughts, words and actions toward a high performance way of living. Coming up with the answer will show you that when times are tough and the circumstances are unknown, you can trust yourself to get through it. The definition will give you a framework to rely on when a challenging or unexpected situation comes up in life.

Exercise: Defining High Performance

To start exploring your definition of high performance, think about whether you measure your performance in relation to someone else’s, or by your own standard. To be a high performer, do you have to be the best in the world, or better than you were before? If you think it means being the best in the world, that’s an easy definition — you’re either the best or you’re not. But if you interpret high performance as working to be better today than you were yesterday, that’s going to take some thought. Pulling more on that thread, are there particular words and ideas that create an image of high performance for you? Maybe it’s when you’re completely engaged with your spouse, locked in when your kids tell you about their day, nailing a presentation, being in a place where you actively feel yourself growing, or doing an extra rep in your workout when you didn’t think you had anything left. Are you feeling happy, determined, stressed, or anxious in those moments? Whatever it means for you, start to explore that imagery.

For me, high performance is a dynamic concept, changing with failures, successes and insights that were once not part of my understanding.

Think about what high performance living means for you today, maybe even build a definition.

The more you put yourself on the edge of an uncomfortable situation, the more you’ll be able to test your high performance lifestyle.

 

Dr. Michael Gervais is best known for his work as a high performance and sport psychologist in rugged, extreme and high-stakes environments.
He is co-founder of Compete To Create with Pete Carroll, the Head Coach of the Seattle Seahawks. He also is the founder and host of the Finding Mastery Podcast and is the co-creator of USC's Peak Performance Institute.