If you are actively working to live a high performing life, there will be internal obstacles, external setbacks and plenty of success. It’s part of the process. It’s part of the make-up for those pursuing mastery.
The way you respond to life’s mysteriously nuanced and complicated interconnected flow of micro-events is a combination of your psychological framework (a fancy phrase for how you make sense of life events) and psychological skills (the abilities to be calm, confident, and focused). All of which can be upgraded with a commitment to create a sturdy and flexible framework, and by training those skills.
When you commit to doing the internal work to become your best, it begs the question: Who are you becoming? When you are able to eloquently adjust to any condition in life, what does “your best” look, sound and feel like?
Too many of us use the new year to set hopelessly flawed resolutions. There are reasons why, by the time March rolls around, only about 50% of people who set new year’s resolutions report success with maintaining their goals. One of those reasons is pretty simple: It’s hard to stay the course, without first developing the internal skills to adjust to setbacks, obstacles and successes.
Here are a few strategies that elite performers use to radically optimize their growth arc:
1. Commit to one clear idea for the year. What’s the one (or two) words that you want to commit to this year? Example, “The Year Of _____(fill in the blank)_______.” Making it incredibly simple will drive clarity of the one, big principle that will help create a high-performing sturdy and flexible psychological framework.
2. Make the path your primary goal. The path of mastery is not defined by goal attainment, success and achievement. It’s the commitment to understand the nuances of self and craft. The path of mastery is the deepest reward.
3. Make goals bite-size. Set your mind on small, realistic and challenging, daily goals that support your “Year Of…” statement. For example, committing to a mindfulness training before you leave your house, finishing part of a project before you answer emails, or every time you have a conversation with someone, try to learn something new about them.
4. Cultivate optimism. Keep your mind focused on what you do want, not what you don’t want. When athletes aim for excellence, they rarely try “not to miss.” A more powerful way to engage in sport and life is to cultivate a fundamental belief that something amazing is about to happen. From that optimistic framework, it becomes much easier to aim for what you want (rather than try to avoid what could go wrong).
5. Get your recovery right. Spend time recovering from the busyness of life. Your mind and body perform at an optimal level when given proper rest. When you are better recovered, you’re more likely to have the mental discipline to adjust to challenges. The basic pillars of recovery involve a consistency of high quality (and proper quantity) sleep; optimized nutrition and hydration; a smart plan for fitness; and a strong social support mechanism that helps you laugh (and cry).
6. Learn from and then let go of past failures. Keep your focus on what you are in control of in the present moment. Then, choose excellent actions in the here-and-now. Top performers consistently hold on to what is good about themselves and let go of those parts that don’t serve them any longer.
7. Become aware of your inner dialog. Self-talk (what you say to yourself) has a massive impact on who you become and how you respond to the unfolding and unpredictable unknown. Mindfulness is a great way to create awareness of your inner dialog. With an increased awareness of what works and what doesn’t work, you can begin to upgrade your psychological framework, as well as your self-talk.
8. Enjoy the challenges. Smile often, laugh more, and find regular moments of silence.