The Seven Elements of Excellence

Many people go through seasons of high productivity followed by droughts where they can’t seem to focus on much of anything. But if you want to achieve lasting success and fulfillment, you can’t allow yourself to only perform when the wind’s blowing the right way. You need to be able to achieve peak performance on command.

And yet, many people find peak performance elusive. But that doesn’t mean it has to be impossible. In fact, if you’ll keep the following seven elements of excellence in mind – and practice the habits behind them – then you’ll be able to enter and remain in a state of flow on command.

#1 – Think Positive

Recent research conducted by a team of seven neuroscientists has revealed that the brain is remarkably malleable. It will actually change shape and develop new neural connections based on the thoughts and ideas that you consistently return to. As Santiago Ramon y Cajal, an early pioneer in neuroscience has said, “Any man could, if he were so inclined, be the sculptor of his own brain.”

This is why positive thinking can be such a game-changer. When you approach your goals with a positive mindset, you’ll be more likely to pursue and achieve them. As Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says in his book Flow, “positive feedback strengthens the self” (Csikszentmihalyi p.74) And this makes perfect sense. After all, if you started chasing a goal with a mind full of doubts, you likely wouldn’t get very far.

So, visualize yourself doing the things that will bring you closer to your goal. Reflect on how great success will feel. When you start off with a positive mind, you’ll be much more likely to make positive progress with your actions.

#2 – Commitment

If you aren’t committed to your goal, you will not achieve it. It’s that simple. Dr. Csikszentmihalyi has noted, concerning flow states, “it requires the commitment of emotions and will. It is not enough to know how to do it; one must do it, consistently” (Csikszentmihalyi p.44).

Commitment will keep you going when problems come your way. It will help you persevere when you want to give up. And it will give you needed perspective when you’re tempted to get tripped up by all the little details.

So, cultivate commitment by returning to the reason you’re committed on a regular basis. Think about your ‘why’ and reflect on how reaching your goal will change your life for the better. Make a regular habit of fanning the flames of commitment and you’ll dramatically increase the likelihood of achieving your dreams.

#3 – Imagine Excellence

We’ve already discussed the power of positive thinking. And while it’s important to make that practice a regular part of your work life, you need to focus specifically on two areas: achieving excellence and making necessary corrections.

So, visualize yourself doing each task you need to accomplish with excellence. Imagine the way it will feel while you’re working. Think about the problems you’ll face, and then reflect on the ways you’ll overcome them. You should also meditate on any corrections you need to make. Before you make them, imagine how they’ll play out and how they will contribute toward your goals.

#4 – Focus

Focus is key for achieving peak performance. As we’ve already discussed, the best way to do this is by attempting tasks that are challenging enough to stay interesting but not so challenging they induce anxiety. You’ll need to do some planning in order to make sure that you include tasks like this in your schedule every day. This will ensure that you stay focused over the long haul and don’t get discouraged with tedium or boring tasks.

#5 – Control Your Distractions

Distractions are productivity’s greatest enemy. Distractions will steal your focus, keep you stalled, and leave you in a perpetual cycle of procrastination followed by overwork. So, eliminating distractions should be one of your top priorities. In fact, Dr. Csikszentmihalyi has argued that the ability to “be oblivious to distractions” is the mark of a person who’s truly in control of his consciousness (Csikszentmihalyi p.61).

You can cut down on distractions by focusing on challenging tasks. But you may also want to physically change your work environment. If you find yourself heading to the kitchen from your home office too many times… try working at a coffee shop or bookstore. If you can’t keep yourself from browsing the web or social media… turn your internet router off. If the TV tempts you to turn it on with each passing moment… get it out of the room!

So, whatever it takes to control distractions so that your mind can focus on the task at hand.

#6 – Mentally Prepare Yourself

One of the most important and oft-forgotten steps needed for peak performance is mental preparation. It’s important to signal to your brain that you are entering ‘work mode.’ This can be as simple as hanging a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on your office door when you’re beginning work or as complicated as an in-depth morning meditation and exercise ritual.

Whatever you do, you should do it every single day in the exact same way. Over time, this will serve as a trigger to your mind that now is the time to enter a flow state.

#7 – Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate

Regular work reviews and evaluations are essential for your long-term success. They’ll boost your confidence as you reflect on everything you’ve accomplished. They’ll give you a realistic idea of how much work you have left on your goal. And they’ll offer opportunities to learn from your successes and failures.

So, take time to evaluate your work on a weekly basis (at least). This will help you stay motivated and empower you to make the refinements to your process needed to succeed.

How a Coach Can Help You Achieve Peak Performance

If you’re tired of the constant struggle and of inconsistent performance, maybe it’s time to start implementing some of these things into your life. And if you’re overwhelmed with the idea of trying to build seven new habits, a coach might be able to help. With a trained and experienced coach by your side, you can get personalized advice on which elements of excellence you need to work on the most. And you’ll have someone who can offer you the practices needed to strengthen them at a pace you can keep up with. In short, a coach can empower you to finally reach peak performance when you need to.

Need coaching? Contact me today about my special coaching packages.