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Abigail Ireland

Understanding Performance

Peak Performance Strategist

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How to develop a performance mindset and navigate change

Three actions to improve your performance in the face of unpredictability.

We know how challenging life has become since Covid-19 reared its ugly head, but that doesn’t make it any easier to manage. Initial expectations that this situation would all be over in a matter of weeks quickly extended into months, and we’re now one year into this surreal way of living.

We place so much weight on what we do but we forget that every action begins with a thought. 

On the upside, the pandemic has disrupted the way we think on so many levels. My work centres on peak performance on a sustainable basis, and there is no better time than now to embrace the relevance of this concept.

Thriving through change

Navigating our way through constant change can be exhausting on a mental, emotional and physical level. Adopting a powerful mindset is the differentiating factor that enables us to thrive rather than survive.

I’ve worked with hundreds of individuals and teams since Covid-19 landed, and I’ve noticed common themes. We are starting to recognise how resilient, agile and capable we are, despite the circumstances. We have all stepped out of our comfort zones, adapted, innovated and even embraced the changes bestowed upon us. If you want to move forward positively and feel in control, it helps to adopt a performance mindset.

What is a performance mindset?

A performance mindset enables you to operate at a high level on a consistent, reliable basis. This means having the ability to succeed despite the circumstances, and this requires intentional training of the mind.

The world’s top leaders, entrepreneurs, athletes and executives all invest in strengthening their mindsets to achieve high performance. They recognise that this is the key to a successful journey and outcome.

We all experience highs and lows in life. It’s important to sit with those feelings and then move forward. Reframe difficult situations by acknowledging what you can learn and how you can be more mentally prepared for future challenges.

How do you acquire it?

Whilst I could talk for days about this topic, here are three fundamental factors that can help you to develop your performance mindset and navigate change more skilfully.

1. Be clear on how you want to show up

Despite the ongoing uncertainty, you can become a beacon for others and for yourself. Step back and reflect on how you want to show up mentally each day. Then consider the impact you want to have on others. For example, do you want to be proactive, positive, energising and focused? Or do you want to leave others drained by your negative attitude and language?

ACTION: think about the consequences of your actions and approach. Which behaviours and thought processes are going to be the most impactful and productive? Think about people who make a positive impression on you. What do they say or do?

2. Be pliable and park all that is out of your control

There is a great analogy about a surfer riding the waves. We can’t control the rough seas but we can equip ourselves to respond strongly by developing our swimming/surfing skills, our ability to get back on the surfboard if we fall off, and our expertise in assessing the waves coming at us.

By being proactive and pliable, we can make smarter choices and develop strong habits that serve us well when the going gets tough. Rather than direct valuable mental and emotional energy towards worrying and wishing life was as per 2019, work with what you have.

Invest in taking action to reinforce your resilience and outlook. Be open to new opportunities and ways of doing things, recognising that true progress often involves leaving behind old ways that no longer serve us.

ACTION: spend five minutes writing a list of everything that drains your energy but that you feel you cannot influence. Then keep in mind someone who you perceive to be a high performer and consider what they would do in response to each item on your list in order to reclaim a bit of control over the situation. What would be their attitude towards the challenge?

3. Perfect your patience

Life is fast-paced and the last 12 months have reminded us all to slow down and take stock. Every athlete knows that results take time, and it pays to take on board this mindset in our own situations.

When we seek instant gratification and immediate results, we typically give up and get frustrated when things don’t go to plan. Instead, agree to accept the situation and focus on taking steps forward each day, no matter how small. This approach supports consistency and long-term habit creation. Nothing lasts forever, and our ability to ride the waves is an asset.

Like an athlete, we also need to factor in rest periods to reflect and recover. During these slower phases (often when we feel like we’re not making any progress), we can step back, see the bigger picture and take a well-deserved breath before continuing with gusto on our journey.

ACTION: look back over the past year and note down five things you have learned about yourself, others and life in general. How can you use these insights to be a more effective worker, leader, friend or colleague in the future? What can you keep and what behaviours or attitudes can you discard?

Moving forward with impact

Acquiring a performance mindset doesn’t happen overnight, and it’s something that most people aren’t even aware of. We place so much weight on what we do but we forget that every action begins with a thought. The more we can optimise and strengthen our mindsets, the more powerful our actions will be and the more confident we will feel in the way we navigate through unchartered territory.

On that note, select one action from the above and set an intention to develop your performance mindset over the coming weeks and months.

Interested in this topic? Read How to ramp up your resilience and bounce back from change and challenge.

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Abigail Ireland

Peak Performance Strategist

Read more from Abigail Ireland

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