Being At One’s Peak As Against Being At One’s Best

“When I compete for gold, I am focusing on giving my best, not on the medal. Because I know that if I focus on the medal I may not win it”
An Olympic champion’s mind-set

In the course of three decades of working with high performers, I witness the impact of the reality of high performance cultures on people’s lives. In more cases than not, it’s not pretty. The incessant demand upon the person to perform and deliver is responsible for many modern-day maladies, most notably the burn-out syndrome.

Looking into the problem
The human system naturally alternates between a fast and slow, short-wavelength and long-wavelength, doing preponderance and being preponderance inner polarities. While we are made to be on a never-ending journey of development, constantly disproving and re-defining the impossible, we are also meant to achieve the impossible through the incorporation of both the doing and being vectors. It’s meant to be an intuitive, fluid alternation, a dance, if you like, between the two states. The actuality of the 21st century is that for many the dance is mostly contained to the doing aspects. By analogy, lots of quick-step with very little Waltz. Or, too much hard driving, little cruising. In the bigger picture of living, it’s counter-productive for the process of human development and for the kind of creativity and innovation possibilities that reside in the long-frequency / long-term dimensions of the human opportunity.

Gain and loss is the master of ceremonies of the short-term mania 

Stress and burnout due to imbalance
The demand to deliver into the short-term is so extreme, to the point where the natural balances of the human system have become rewired by the rhythms of the doing frenzy. This perilous imbalance is one of the greatest causers of systemic stress in the human physiology and is responsible for a huge range of maladies and mental and psychological disorders because, as indicated, it alters the natural pressure dynamics of the human system. By analogy, it’s like a dance where the spaces in between are shrunk. Use your imagination to get the point of this. This describes graphically the rhythm of the times we live in.

Stress is not knowing how to use oneself properly and it starts with one’s natural doing-being balances

The chasm between aims and targets
Together with the fundamental awareness to the doing-being balances, understanding the difference between aims and targets is pivotal to perceiving the reason why the 21st century’s idea of peak performance is misguided, thus negatively impacting people’s personal effectiveness and spiritual well-being.

A target quantifies an outcome by using exact metrics. An aim indicates a desired outcome freed from being subject to dominant metrics. “We project a 10% growth at the very minimum” is a target. “We work to be firmly located in a continuous growth trajectory” is an aim. Which one of them would you naturally gravitate to if the choice was entirely yours to make? I thought so. One of the nightmares of a publicly-traded company is in the need to comply with analysts’ expectations: “Company X just missed its yearly target by one and a half percent”. What a tragedy.

Targets are an outcome of comparison metrics based on short-term expectations; the aim mind-set is primarily concerned with creating the conditions that promote progress and growth with the exclusion of fixing expectations.

Target is singular or a combination of hard metrics, thereby creating a hard process and hard processes inhibit the ‘soft’ aspects of the human capability. Aims integrate the soft and hard evaluations with a preponderance to the soft in such a way as to allow for organic growth. So “We may have only grown by four percent in terms of revenue but we have grown immeasurably in the context of team spirit, innovation thinking and sense of mission”. In this way the entire growth gradient is being nurtured – from the material to the spiritual end.

The world’s idea of high performance and peak performance is tied at the hip to the hard, human-doing dimension of living. While it has its thrill and gain factors and gets result in the short-term, it has a wrecking ball impact upon people’s well-being. Sure, some thrive on it. However, more don’t than do – many, many more. Thereby creating a human ecology with brittle foundations.

Try to only ever have aims rather than targets. If you must deliver in a target-fixated environment, like most do, find ways to balance it with the aims mind-set

The being high ground
What does ‘being’ call up in your mind..? Does it summon a ‘quiet meditation, stillness and harmony’ imagery? If it does, it’s only a small segment of the actuality of the being life.

The centre of gravity of the being life is quality of process: What kind of process is active in us when we engage – in anything? The evaluation of quality happens first and foremost in our feeling lives. When you associate with a quality person – one who unwaveringly demonstrates the presence of a recognizable quality in thought and behaviour – you feel it and desire to be exposed to it more than you would want to be near someone who may be a super-effective individual yet with a coarse radiation.

“Birds of a feather flock together”

While quality has its obvious physical expression such as in how attitude, skill, colour, material, texture and design combine to make up an object, the higher end of the quality bar resides in the energy worlds.

Think ‘wisdom’, ‘warmth’, ‘finesse’, ‘love’, ‘devotion’, ‘foresight’, ‘courage’, ‘determination’, ‘resilience’, ‘personal magic’, ‘trust’, ‘passion’ – these qualities exist along a bar, the higher end of which is pure ‘modulated’ energy in essence form, harbouring its own unique kind of intelligence, which when connected to is tremendously empowering. When you live your unique brand of wisdom and passion the effect it has on those around you is an outcome of the energy ‘essence quanta’ that you radiate, having the effect of higher-emotional superfood.

People get paid to do something. How about paying people to also be something..?

What is a ‘being super effort’?
What does pushing oneself to the limit mean in the being worlds? What is the nature of a ‘being super effort’? Think of the last time you were in a situation that called for an outplay of a quality, such as listening, where you listen with full, genuine attention and interest. Or, when a situation arises that triggers the reactive you and you make that tiny little super effort to side-step it and instead respond – not react – through the vector of a quality that you summon and practice at the point, thereby powering on its evolution. It’s an inner struggle to create new; an inner drama that can’t be captured by way of a video clip like some dare-devil action. Yet, in terms of its impact on one’s life and the lives of others is not less glorious and potentially far more impactful in the worlds of human development.

The theatres of the being lives are more subtle and unseen in comparison to the theatres of the doing lives. It’s in the inner struggle, the firm insistence on what one will not do that is oh so easy to betray when under pressure or when presented with seductive baits. It’s about those tiny little changes that a person makes, redirecting oneself at the point into one’s own moral, intellectual and spiritual high ground time and again, from within an immersive, never-ending learning process.

Taking oneself on with a purposeful intent is arguably our greatest task in the context of being human

It’s a matter of balance
Many of the greatest scientific discoveries in the course of history – think Archimedes having that bath – happen in moments of absence, not moments of intense effort. Life is a finely balanced inter-play between doing and letting it done; pushing and taking a side-step; making a tiny super-effort and letting go; creating in oneself the space for one’s thinking to be shaped by the nearby presence of new intelligence.

Yes, each of us must perform and deliver. But not at the cost of our quality of being. Progress happens through both lives. We are at our best when the being and the doing merge into the third way, combining to produce a finely weighted, concerted response to screaming – or muted – needs. And, where it’s not about a person driving oneself to a self-fixing peak but rather, about being at one’s best in a way that creates space for growth inclusive to the whole gradient of the human possibility. From the doing to the being and what the balanced union of these two lives may then proceed to win from the blue oceans of the human opportunity.

The thrill of living is in being a player in the great arena of life while letting life have its outplay in the great arena of you

David Gommé
World Copyright 2015© David Gommé

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