Each and every one of us owns our own performance through the conscious choices we make coupled with an attitude of constant curiosity for learning
A great scene in a movie called The Blind Side, starring Sandra Bullock, reinforces the importance of this point. In the scene, she is dropping her birth son and adopted son at the school gates, and her parting words to them both are;
‘Have fun and learn something new today’.
Now, while the ‘have fun…’ part is important, it’s the second part that really struck me as central to success: ‘…learn something new today’.
Sometimes, particularly as adults, we slip into the trap of complacency, operating in a state of unconsciousness where it feels like are just going through the motions. It’s the day you slip into a place that I call ‘the groove or the grave’ – no man’s land. It’s the day you accept your place in the world of mediocrity where just enough is good enough. It’s the day when you lose your edge and stop being your best self.
In an increasingly competitive world, there is no such thing as standing still. All around you, people are actively moving forwards and standing still really means you’re falling behind.
Can we seriously expect to improve the performance of others, if we are unable to improve our own performance?
But a big challenge for many of us is how we learn to improve ourselves.
Now I’m not talking here about needing to learn a new skill and filling this gap by attending a course or programme. What I’m talking about is showing up every single day being the best version of you.
It’s about being committed to achieving greatness in your field of endeavour, whatever that may be. It’s about investing your time every day to raise your personal standards and chase perfection, even though perfection isn’t truly attainable, you may just catch excellence on the way
Here are my 3 important steps you can take to ensure you’re on the pathway to becoming the best version of you;
#1 Become your own performance coach
Learn something new today should not be just a lesson from when you were a child, it should be a lifelong lesson. High achievers know this and it becomes their daily ritual.
Because high achievers have this insatiable thirst for learning, for showing up every day being the best version of themselves they can be. They spend their life being their own performance coach, ensuring they reach their true and maximum potential.
One of the six core human needs is the need for growth – for emotional, intellectual or spiritual development. If you are not learning and bettering yourself every day then you are not growing.
Maintaining relevance in the fast-moving arena of life is about being fresh, living life with deliberate conscious intent as the architect of your own destiny. It’s about learning and developing self…perhaps most importantly it about applied learning and having the attitude of action.
How do you become your own performance coach?
Let me ask you a question.
When was the last time you read a biography, a business or educational book? A book which feeds your mind, emotions or spirit? If you’re not a keen reader the same question applies; when did you last purchase an audio book?
If your daily commute is for example 1.5 hours a day, that’s 7.5 hour per week. The average audio book is 7 hours. That’s one audio book per week!
If you don’t have a long commute or drive to work what about on the train, in the gym, or whilst out running? Turn your mode of transport into a learning environment (your university on wheels!) and imagine your potential you could unlock with just this one strategy!
Download podcasts, watch a TED talk, get active on Pinterest, join and participate in groups on Facebook or LinkedIn, attend a webinar, get active in the community. Choose something to help you grow personally or professionally.
Personalise your preferred learning plan and start to apply the concept of Being YOUR own performance coach. Ask yourself the question; what have I learnt new today? and reflect on your successes, achievements and learning opportunities at the end of each day.
Remember, the day you stop learning is the day you stop earning!
Keep feeding your mind, growing personally and professionally in order to become the best version of you every single day. Nobody is going to do it for you, this is one job which definitely has your name on it.
#2 Set YOUR standards for personal excellence
Sounds great in theory but how do you put this into practice? How do you set your standards of personal excellence so you are being the best version of you every day?
I’ve spent two decades coaching and mentoring business leaders, managers, owners and entrepreneurs and my first question is always ‘where are you setting your bar personally and professionally?’ This simple question often results in an awkward silence so to bring it to life I use an exercise called Raising the Bar.
The exercise begins with me asking the individual to pick up an imaginary bar and hold it above their head at 6ft in the air. I then ask them to write down 3 easy strategies to get over the 6ft bar. Answers always include pole jumping, standing on a chair, leap frogging – you name it, I’ve heard it!
Now I ask the individual to raise the same bar so it’s 100ft in the air, and write down 5 strategies to get over the 100ft bar. This is where the answers get creative…build a wall, hire a crane, shoot yourself out of a cannon, honestly, I’ve heard this one!
Then I close out the exercise by asking will the strategies to get you over the 6ft bar get you over the 100ft bar? Obviously, no. Will the strategies that get you over the 100ft bar get you over the 6ft bar? Yes, absolutely, every day of the week.
So, my question to you is this… ‘where are you setting your bar personally and professionally?’ Is YOUR bar set at 6ft and therefore you’re having 6ft thoughts or is it set at 100ft and you’re having 100ft thoughts?
At the 6ft bar we’re thinking from a narrow tunnel perspective, doing just enough to hit the mark, no more and no less. However, at the 100ft bar we’re thinking from a wide funnel perspective, stretching our minds as to the sense of possibilities and the opportunities open to us in both our personal and professional life.
Don’t fall into the trap of setting yourself limiting beliefs by aiming only for a 6ft bar, set your sights on the 100ft bar and surprise yourself with what you can achieve.
As Michelangelo famously said…
“The greater danger for most of us is not that our
aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we hit it.”
Andy Murray, the professional tennis player set himself a 100ft bar when he was just starting out in his career. He turned professional in 2005 and was ranked 407/500 in the world. He spoke to the sporting press and said he wanted to break in to the top 100 before the end of his first season. What did they say? He was stupid to set a season ending target of being in the top 100. Yet he completed the first season ranked 64, well within the top 100.
He continually improved year on year; ranking 42 in 2006, 10 in 2007 and 4 in 2008 and becoming world number 1 in 2016, in addition to being crowned Olympic Champion. His current injury forced him to withdraw from the US Open two days before the start of the tournament, making it the first Grand Slam tournament he had missed since the 2013 French Open.
How does Murray summarise his success:
‘Setting goals helps you perform at your best – I think it helps you stay focused and know what you’re aiming for.
I definitely have a target list of tournaments I want to win. I have incredibly high standards, and have always expected a lot of myself.
I think it’s good to have high expectations – it enables you to focus on what’s important and forget the noise around you.’
Murray certainly sets himself a 100ft bar and I have no doubt he will be aiming just as high in his recovery plan so that he can get back out on court as quickly and safely as possible. Where is your bar currently set? Are you aiming for a 6ft or 100ft bar?
#3 Hold yourself accountable
There is a misconception that we can ‘will ourselves to success’. Honestly, in all my experience I’ve never come across this one actually working (!).
This is YOUR performance, YOUR standards of excellence, so no surprise, it’s down to YOU to make this happen. It shouldn’t be some else’s job to make sure you are doing the things that you know you should be doing and you certainly shouldn’t leave it down to chance or luck.
But taking sole accountability doesn’t mean you have to go it alone.
Get an ‘accountability buddy’. There is an expression which says ‘If you want to fly with the eagles don’t hang round with the turkeys’. Who you spend time with is who you become. If you want to be a high achiever surround yourself with like-minded people with common values who will stretch and challenge you to grow.
Find a mentor either on an informal or more formal basis. The seasoned individual you know you can tap in to help you work on your area of improvement or the gap you know you have. When writing my book, Built to Grow, I found the most experienced proven Author who had travelled the pathway I was about to embark on. Not only did they share with me their experiences along the way but kept me on track with hitting word counts and deadlines.
Remember, a mind once stretched never returns to its original dimension.
Are you stretching your mind?
What steps are you taking to improve your performance?