Last week’s blog on motivation generated a good amount of healthy dialogue. I want to elaborate on that topic and discuss ways to generate more sustainable levels of high performance, getting you to be at your best as often as possible in lieu of relying solely on the fleeting nature of motivation, which–as I discussed last week–is a great way to perform at high levels but only for very short durations. To reiterate, motivation, as most of us understand it to be, is a very short period of fearlessness based on low cortisol levels induced by very positive experiences.
Understanding what prevents you from performing at a high level is the first step. And I am not talking about external factors, though many are quite legitimate. I am talking about fear, especially the self-induced kind. This fear comes from the collective repository of your negative experiences. Typically, any abuse of love, trust, or effort is associated with a negative experience.
As an adult who wants to get the most out of yourself, you should take inventory of this. If you were to buy a new home, an inspector would give you and your financial loaner a list of things that are wrong with the house. A good inspector will write everything down, from a scratch on a small window in the attic to a perhaps major structural issue in the home.
Similarly, you need to sit down and make an inventory of these items with the highest level of candor. It can be a private list–one only you will ever see. This list can start with your childhood experiences and extend to your current work or life situation. Once you have the list, categorize your experiences into Green/ Yellow/ Red. Green experiences are the ‘scratch on the window kind’, Red experiences are the more traumatic kind and everything in between would be Yellow.
This categorization is exactly what your brain is already instinctively doing. When we are most inspired or motivated, it is often because the Red experiences are addressed or overcome. In other words, in order to be proactively motivated or inspired, finding a stimulus that positively impacts your Red list (can be stories, movies, articles, people, places) can be a very powerful way to perform at a high level, especially when you know you must. For example, if you have a fear of speaking and you have to present this afternoon, watching a great speaker on YouTube could, at least temporarily, address the fear.
The next thing to do with your list of Green, Yellow, and Red fears is to come up with at least 3 Emotional Enablers – these enablers address each state of fear. Using these two lists together and keeping them live and evolving is really the way to re-wire your brain’s instinctive process.
Most of us rely on random experiences to motivate us. If they happen, we’re lucky on that particular day. This is not what high performers do, and it certainly is not the way to get to your best as often as possible. Using self-awareness to recognize your fears, and self-regulation (via enablers) to change the instinctive process flows of your cognitive and emotional functions is the way to sustain high levels of performance.