Aiming for Peak Performance

Achieving performance excellence through emotional intelligence and knowing where your stumbling blocks are.

Athletes, performers, musicians and achievers of all kinds are often preoccupied about attaining peak performance – “getting in the zone” or a Flow state. Originally researched by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a Flow state is a universally available experience in which people often feel at their happiest. It involves a simultaneous immersion and clear awareness in a given task; the right balance of challenge to a highly honed skill; a state of mastery that has the quality of clear focus and exhilarating freedom. Peak performers strive to attain this state of Flow and embodied focus, not only because it is associated with their maximum performance, but because the state itself is extraordinarily rewarding and associated with pleasure and joy. In this state people feel connected, feel themselves to be at their best; they feel inspired, and completely present. It is a state which is experienced as inherently meaningful.

Performant patterns in nature

Mental and Emotional Obstacles to Attaining Peak Performance

Very often it isn’t so much of “getting your head right” in order to be in a state of Flow, as much as getting out of your head altogether. Brain scientists have discovered that the Flow state activates a different part of the brain and a different type of processing than the conscious, analytic, and self-monitoring part of the brain that underlies most mental activity. It is a part of the brain that moves much faster than the thinking part – faster than conscious intention. It is unencumbered by self-doubt and second-guessing. What prevents athletes and other high achievers from “getting in the groove” are the same insecurities and blocks as anyone else. But ambitious and talented people who want to excel do so by developing higher order psychological skills, which may be facilitated by professional help. Only by addressing mental obstacles and seeking personal as well as performance excellence can performers gain the competitive edge they desire.

Obstacles that can be addressed in peak performance therapy include:

  • Self-limiting attitudes or beliefs
  • Overly harsh or punitive inner critic
  • Inability to get over past failures
  • Fear of competing due to fear of failure or underperforming to expectations
  • Lack of balance due to exhaustion and burnout
  • Identifying realistic stretch goals and optimal level of challenge
  • Managing frustration
  • Maintaining focus
  • Lack of confidence
  • Impulsive or risky behavior
  • Choking
  • Overthinking
  • Managing anxiety, discouragement, depression or despair
  • Personal traumas

How Therapy Can Help You Attain Peak Performance

The value of self-awareness in attaining peak performance cannot be underestimated. Knowing what your own motivations and drivers are, what you believe and what is important to you are vital aspects to your success and training strategy. Being able to recognize, tolerate, and manage difficult emotions is the prerequisite of building positive emotions and mindset. Understanding yourself means knowing where your stumbling blocks are, to avoid being derailed by them. Mindfulness, positive psychology and positive emotions help you to be more resilient, operate with an open mind, be more flexible, and achieve personal excellence.

Peak performance therapy may also improve your goal orientation by working on a strengths-based strategy of training and coaching. This requires a holistic examination of who you are, what your values are, what is important to you, and by extension, what you do best and why. It also includes understanding how you get in your own way, and developing a repertoire of psychological and emotional skills to improve how you relate to both your own successes and your setbacks, to your talents and your blind spots.

Sail of a ship

Examples of what can be worked on in therapy to help you attain peak performance:

  • Understand your strengths, your values, & your priorities to establish foundation for your goals
  • Develop a positive mindset
  • Build resilience
  • Help you manage difficult emotions, such as anxiety, discouragement, loss of confidence
  • Improve emotional intelligence
  • Understand your blind spots and personal obstacles
  • Increase presence and mindfulness
  • Manage negative thoughts

Psychotherapy helps you to tease out what might be causing your shortened attention or concentration. Psychodynamic psychotherapy is particularly well suited to comprehending the breadth and complexity of interwoven factors that may look like a disorder or diagnosis. Attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) tend to be over-diagnosed or inappropriately diagnosed.

For many, whose symptoms may have long been misunderstood or misdiagnosed, getting the appropriate diagnosis and, subsequently, the proper medication that could improve symptoms may come as a significant relief.

But problems involving attention reach into so many areas of personal, professional, and social functioning that simply taking medications seldom resolves the diversity of challenges facing those who live with them.

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