Peak performers focus on the specific results to achieve and cut out all irrelevant ‘noise’. This sounds easy in theory, but it can be harder in practice.
Observers, critics, bosses, the press, bloggers and many others want to provide a running commentary. Sometimes this can be helpful. But people can get diverted by those with other agendas, especially if these are provocative.
How to stay concentrated and avoid being sidetracked? Let’s begin by exploring your own experience. Looking back on your life, take the following steps.
* Describe a time when you focused on achieving a specific goal and cut out all ‘running commentaries’. You may have concentrated on passing an exam, launching a web site, completing a project or whatever.
* Describe the things you did right to stay focused.
* Describe how you can follow these principles in the future.
Clarifying the results to achieve
J.K. Rowling focused on her specific vision, even when experiencing severe difficulties during her twenties. Recalling her early years of writing, she said:
“I had a daughter I adored, a typewriter and a big idea.”
She aimed to produce a seven-volume epic for young readers that chronicled the adventures of Harry Potter. She was clear on the road map, the milestones and the feelings each book should evoke.
“I just wrote the sort of thing I liked reading when I was younger (and still enjoy now!),” she explained.
Certainly there were lots of ups and downs along the way, but she pursued her daily disciplines to reach the goal. J.K. Rowling chose to focus on the things that were vital in her life. As she later wrote in Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets:
“It is our choices … that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
Try tackling the exercise on this theme.
* Describe a specific result you want to achieve in the future.
* Describe the pluses and minuses involved in achieving this goal.
* Describe how you can build on the pluses and minimise the minuses.
* Bearing these things in mind, rate your commitment to achieving the goal. Do this on a scale 0 – 10.
Clarifying the potential running commentaries
Peak performers are dreamers who do and deliver. They are, by definition, extremists: they focus on a few things and do them extremely well. Such people choose to be creators rather than complainers; doers rather than talkers.
But doing great work creates waves. Some people will appreciate their efforts, but others will criticise them, especially if their work is in the public eye – such as in sports, the arts, politics or other fields.
Peak performers learn to focus on the results, however, rather than get distracted by other people’s constant running commentaries.
“Professional feedback is vital for me, because I want a reality check,” said one pioneer. “But I want it from people I respect.
“The people I listen to are those who share the same values and vision. They give me honest feedback and suggestions about how to get results. I have little time for observer critics, complainers or those with other agendas.
“In the old days, for example, I saw talented people being criticised by moaners in organisations who used 360 degree feedback to vent their frustration. Great workers will be respected by some people, but not be liked by everybody.
“Certainly they should listen to constructive suggestions. But they shouldn’t get dragged down by people who have settled for mediocrity.”
Let’s return to your chosen project – the specific results you want to achieve.
Who are the people who might give ‘running commentaries’? What might be their agenda? What might they be saying? Will they be constructive, critical or a combination of both? What might be the other kinds of commentaries, ‘noises’ or diversions?
Looking at the results you want to achieve, describe the potential ‘running commentaries’ that might accompany you on the journey. Try completing the following sentence.
Clarifying how to focus on the results
rather than the running commentary
Peak performers seem to exist in their own space – their own zone, tunnel or bubble. They keep their eyes on the prize. Concentrating on the concrete results to achieve, they cut off other distractions.
Golfers, tennis players and other athletes, for example, often have physical rituals they use to ‘brush off’ criticisms, heckling, mistakes and other disruptions. Peak performers stay calm in their own space, rather than get caught in other people’s agendas.
The Dalai Lama, for example, stays true to his values, even when provoked. Like Mahatma Gandhi, his life is his message. Explaining his philosophy, he says things like:
“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible … I find hope in the darkest of days, and focus in the brightest. I do not judge the universe …
“If you can, help others; if you cannot do that, at least do not harm them … If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion …
“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness … Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them.”
You will, of course, follow your own rhythm in your own way. Describe the specific things you can do to focus on the results rather than the running commentary. You can then focus on achieving the picture of success.