Who doesn't want to perform at their best? We all want to do more with less, have more time to enjoy the things we enjoy most, feel at our absolute best, feel empowered and accomplished.
As much as we would love to feel like that all the time the reality is different. Whether is a day or a season in our lives, we all have felt on the opposite side of this coin. We all have felt we are hustling and working hard but making no traction, we all have felt we don't have enough time in the day, we have felt as the circumstances around us control our day. There are nights we go to bed feeling we didn't accomplished anything that day. We all have those days or seasons in our lives.
The key question is why? What is causing us not been able to perform at our best? And, how can we revert that?
Let's talk about the things that might be stopping you from performing at your best.
We can be our worst enemies. The stories we tell ourselves and how we tell them many times is the main reason why we don't achieve what we want to achieve, perform at our best or feel at our best. We limit ourselves by telling us stories like "I can't do that", "I am not good enough", "I don't know where to start", "I am a failure", "I don't deserve that" etc.
Those stories we tell ourselves stop us from showing up as the best version of ourselves, they stop us from taking action and perform at our best.
So, how can we shut down those voices in our heads? Personally I think it all starts with the questions we ask ourselves. Some of my favorite questions I ask myself to stop my negative self-talk and help me perform at my best include:
- What can I learn from this situation / experience?
- How will I feel if I accomplish this?
- What would it mean to my life, and the life of those I care about if I do this?
Trying to do it all by yourself
I've been guilty of this one too. This is one I personally struggle with. Yes, I confess I've never hired a babysitter or someone to help us cleaning our house. My kids are eleven and four. I always believed it was expected of me for me to do it all: To be an exceptional wife and mom, to be successful at work, advance my career, keep the house clean, pursue my dreams and passions, be active in the community, help others, etc.
I felt that asking for help was a sign of weakness, that it was a way of saying I can't do it all (which by the way is true, no one can do it all). I felt and up to today feel guilty for asking for help. Maybe not all types of help but most. I mean, what kind of a mom I am if I leave my kids with a babysitter on the little time I have to spend with them?
Me trying to it all translated in not doing anything well, in feeling I am not good at anything, and no wonder why I feel that way when I am stretch that thin.
When we talk about getting help the first thing that comes to our minds is to hire someone: a nanny, babysitter, cleaning person, etc. Many people want to get help but they don't because they can't afford it. I get it! The good news is help doesn't have to always come with a price tag.
Your urge to be always on control
You guess it! I am guilty of this one too. I have been able to back up over time, I've learned to delegate and not care as much about things that are not worth me caring as much. When I started my career and as I stepped into my first leadership role I felt this big urge to be in control of everything. I felt that in order to produce the quality work I wanted to produce and be known for, I needed to stay on control of everything. That was true on my personal life too.
Why is that we always want to be in control?
Control is rooted in fear. We are afraid of what might happen if we are not in control. How the outcome might not be achieved, afraid of what others might think of us. Control is also a result of being attached to a specific outcome—an outcome we’re sure is best for us, as if we always know what’s best. We don't want to leave our "fate" to someone else to decide.
Let go of control! I know it's easier said than done and probably would take a whole podcast episode or blog post to cover this one. The one thing that I can say is that this is not not something you can let go of overnight, but you can push yourself out of your comfort zone every day. Start small. The more you practice, the more comfortable you will get.
Staying in your comfort zone
Talking about your comfort zone, you probably already know this but I will say it: Merely strolling through life on cruise control is not the blueprint for success. You need to challenge yourself at times. Push yourself and stretch your limits. Aim to reach your maximum potential, and then go beyond that. Magic happens outside of that comfort zone! Like the prior point, we can talk for hours about this one. I love the quote from Eleanor Roosevelt "Do one thing every day that scares you" .
Ok, maybe not something scary but definitely something that feel uncomfortable. Just like with letting go of control, the more you make yourself uncomfortable the more comfortable you will become with those things that make you feel uncomfortable today.
Focusing on the negatives
There are and will always be negative circumstances in life that you have no control over. There are also plenty of positive experiences in your life. I am willing to bet you have more positives in your life than negatives. You are capable of living with a positive perspective. If you want to cultivate success in your life and perform at your best, you need to concentrate on all the good. You shouldn’t disregard the negative, but you don’t have to give it so much of your attention. Otherwise you are never going to be satisfied because you are so focused on the unfavorable conditions of your life. I believe that what you focus on, expands. If you focus on the negatives you will attract more negatives in your life, but when you focus on your positive you also attract more positive things into your life. And I don't know about you but I feel and person at my best when I am surrounded by positive things.
One thing that can really help you change your perspective and move away from focusing on the negatives is to implement a gratitude practice. Yes, once again I am bringing gratitude to the mix. I am not going to expand on this one, I think you might start to get tired of listening to me talking about it. I hope, if you have been listening to my podcast I've been able to make a point that resonates with you ad invite you to try to implement your own gratitude practice.
Another practice that has served me well is when I start to focus too much on the negatives in a situation, I grab a piece of paper, I split it in two columns, and I write down all those negative things in my mind. Then on the column next to my list I write as many positive things as negative things I had on my original list. This helps me stay in balanced and when I am in balanced or better off, when I am able to stay focused on the positive things is when I perform at my best.
If you have an iPhone you probably get a weekly report on how many hours of screen time you had that week. I am not sure if other phones do that. Have you ever been shocked at how many hours a week you spend in front of your phone screen? I have.
Imagine how many other things you could have done with that time. The thing with screen time is that a lot of it happens in the middle of our "productive time". Our phones today are probably our number one distraction. Why is such a big deal anyway? According to a University of California Irvine study, “it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task. If you do the math, if you schedule an hour to work on a project and let's say you get distracted once by a reminder or a notification, which probably is a very optimistic assumption that you only get distracted once; you would have lost half of your "productive" time. Today we are only talking about screen time, but being realistic that is not the only distraction we have. Emails is another big one. Have you ever thought about the amount of time you spend on emails during your working hours?
The key question is how can be limit these distractions. Here are a few things that have worked for me:
I disabled all notification on my email and I keep my email closed when I am trying to get deep focused work. It's easy to get tempted to check your emails if they are right there in front of you or to respond to the popup saying yo have a new email, specially if you see that email is coming from your boss or from someone you were expecting an email from.
I also put my phone in "no distraction" mode and use that time to charge it (if needed) away from my reach.
I schedule my deep work time in 50 min increments, that allows me to take a break at the end. I know I will have ten minutes once I'm done to check my email, check anything that came through my phone, refill my water bottle or my cup or coffee or do anything that otherwise would have distracted me. I am able to accomplish so much more in 50 minutes of dedicated work time than in one hour of work with one or two distractions.
I put on my headphones and listen to background music. I don't do that always, depends on what I am working on, but the noise music helps me quit down other distractions.
I might even change my Skype or Teams status to Not Disturb or minimum as busy to avoid interruptions.
I believe that no matter what you want to do, what new project you want to start, what new venture you want to embark on, there is someone out there who has successfully done it before. Why reinvent the wheel? Looking for inspiration and trying to imitate others who have been successful at what we are trying to accomplish is a great way to get started.
It's important thought that we don't get stuck at immigrating others. While it's a good way to get started we need to aim to grow into the own version of ourselves. You'll never reach your peak performance or become the best version of you by imitating others.
Making everything urgent
Early in my career I was fortunate to come across the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. On Habit 3, doctor Covey talks about Putting First Things, First. Here is where I learned about the time matrix that teaches us about the difference between the important and the urgent. We tend to spend more time that we should on the urgent and we tend to procrastinate on the important and not urgent, which ends up making those things urgent creating a vicious circle we can't get out of easily. I personally believe that increasing the urgency can be a helpful tool to accomplish more. Us human beings fill the time we have. Yes, remember that project you had to complete and you had a full month to complete it? I bet you took the full month to work on it. I also bet you've had other projects as complex as that one where you only had two weeks to finish it and you did as good as a work on that project as the one you had a full month to work on. Not only that but I bet you felt much more productive on the two week project.
On the other hand, making everything urgent ends up hindering the quality of our work and causing burnout. Is key to find the right balance and while increasing the level of urgency can be a great productivity tool, is key that we use it on the right tasks and situations, and like Doctor Covey teaches us on the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, strive to spend more time on that quadrant II, that is the important and non-urgent tasks. Paying attention to these will helps us feel more in control and maximize our effectiveness.
Stop blaming other people for why you don’t get what you want. Stop refusing to accept responsibility for your mistakes. You make your own choices and you make your own mistakes. In general, stop justifying your poor choices and stop attributing your lack of success to things outside of your control. Successful people don’t do this.
Typically excuses look like "I'm too busy", "I don't know where or how to start", "I don't have the money, or the knowledge to start this project . .. " , etc. One strategy that helps me identify my excuses and let go of them is to substitute those statements with "I don't want to do this". Sometimes that feels right, maybe is not the right time for me to do or work on this particular thing. But most of the times, this statement doesn't feel right.
Not taking care of your health.
Every time I talk about health, I refer to physical, mental and emotional health. When you neglect your health your performance suffers. You can't expect to perform at your best when you are not at your best. Investing daily in your health and making yourself a priority is imperative to maximize your performance. This week I published a podcast episode on Nutrition to Feel and Perform at your Best , or check this blog post.