Achieving success is an innate desire in all healthy people. Although the meaning of success is unique to each of us, we are all driven to do our best to achieve it. This is true whether success means becoming the CEO of a company, raising children to be happy and healthy, growing our own business, writing a novel, or just living a serene life. Whatever our definition, we all want to be the best we can be at whatever it is we choose to pursue.
So how can we operate at our best to achieve our goals? How do we achieve peak performance?
A great deal of research has been done to identify common characteristics of people who have achieved great things. Some of the characteristics of peak performers include setting a vision, having a sense of adventure or curiosity, being willing to take risks, a devotion to personal growth, and a strong belief in themselves. While there are others, I believe these 5 characteristics are the most important, and most commonly shared among top performers. Each of these deserves further discussion.
Peak performers have vision. Before we can achieve something, we must be able to conceive it. We must have a goal or a mission that is worthy of the sacrifices we are likely to make in achieving it. For this reason, this mission must evoke passion and commitment so strong that it becomes larger than yourself. It must be aligned with your values and enable you to see beyond the sacrifices, beyond the now, and into the future. It must inspire you, and preferably others around you.
Peak performers take risks. John Paul Jones, the Father of the U.S. Navy, once told his men, "He who does not risk, cannot win." This has been a favorite saying of mine since I learned it on my very first day as a Midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy, and to this day I use it in my email signature.
JPJ realized that in life we face many decisions, and each of them has consequences. Anything worth achieving carries an element of risk. I have found that the greater the potential achievement, the greater the risk. Peak performers weigh the risks of achieving their missions against their vision. While they are not reckless and may seek to mitigate risks through planning and preparation, they often take significant risks to achieve their goals. If you are unwilling to take risks, to "lay it on the line," for your vision, then it is almost certain you will never achieve it.
Peak performers see life as an adventure. Challenges and the unknown are part of life. We can react to each in a number of different ways. We can become frustrated, agitated, fearful, or angry. Or, we can approach both with curiosity and interest. Peak performers are people who see challenges and the unknown as part of the adventure of life. They reframe challenges as opportunities to learn and accomplish; to adapt; to grow. They view the unknown with curiosity and a sense of adventure.
Peak performers are dedicated to personal growth. Steven Covey introduced the concept of "sharpening the saw" in his blockbuster book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. He states that in order to be as effective as we can be, we must take time out to reflect and grow. Peak performers routinely take time out, placing a priority on their own growth and development. In doing so they learn from their experiences and are better able to adapt to the challenges and ambiguity that they face in pursuit of their dreams.
Peak performers believe in themselves. Perhaps the most important characteristic of over achievers is they possess a certainty that they will achieve their vision. This faith in themselves is not born of arrogance, but of a deep-seated belief in their mission and their abilities. The source of this confidence comes from within, and is developed by deep reflection that leads to self-understanding and self-knowledge, and builds as peak performers learn from their mistakes and accomplishments.
Developing the characteristics of peak performer's is not easy. It takes courage and a dedication to the process. It becomes a mission in itself. However, we all have the ability within ourselves to achieve our goals and lead successful lives.