There is an obsession with performance in our culture. Those who perform the at the highest level, succeed the most in business or sports, who achieve the most and earn the most money become our heroes and the focus of inpsiration admiration or envy.
But in a society that places so much value on being the best and having the most, why do so many people struggle with performance?
Indeed, high performers are the exception, not the norm, and while some make millions or billions, the rest pump billions into the self-help industry to find the magical solution to health, wealth and success… Often only to be disappointed no matter what they do.
Why is performance such a mystery?
Most people have little understanding of human psychology and even less of human performance. When it come to achievement, many people are shooting in the dark, hoping what they do will work, hoping for a big break… yet wondering why they constantly face the same challenges.
What if this is no accident?
Performance tends to be consistent. People tend to get the same results in a certain area of their life day after day. In business, they keep getting the same number of clients, making the same amount of sales and earning the same amount of money. In sports, they keep making the same mistakes, achieving the same times and scoring the same scores. People keep having the same types of relationships, facing the same challenges and feeling like there’s something eerie going on.
What this reveals is that performance is systematic, even if it is poor. Poor performance is actually an achievement itself. How is it that one can keep performing at the same level day after day, getting the same results even despite the additional learning, practice and experience? Even despite changes in life, the world, the economy?
Performance is no accident… It is a perfect mirror of one’s psychology.
Performance Insights from NLP and Neuro-Semantics.
“I made $30,000 last night… and since we began this coaching I have made over $100,000″
This was the news that one of my clients shared with me one morning when he arrived for his appointment. We had been working together to improve his performance as a trader, and the results were pretty impressive.
I left this session and remembered another client who had come to me to boost her sales. Once we had completed our work, her sales had doubled. I began to think about how performance worked. What had happened that enabled these individuals to unleash their performance? What had been holding them back? How did we get it out of the way? As I considered these questions, I began to develop a clear framework of just what I was doing with these clients and how NLP and Neuro-Semantic thinking had helped to solve their performance challenges.
The following is a cognitive framework that can be used to understand performance challenges and boost results in any area of life.
How Performance Works: The Axis of Performance
Performance occurs on a continuum between two “opposing forces,” what I call the axis of performance.
If you’d like to enhance performance in an area of your life, in a team or in a business, there are two factors already present: where you are now (the present state of affairs or the “problem”) and where you’d like to be (the desired state or objective.)
The first step to improving performance is to get a clear picture of the present and desired states. If you want to find effective ways to achieve your objective, you need a clear understanding of your current state. Otherwise, your efforts to change may be in vain. Without a clear outcome, you’ll merely be stuck trying to get rid of a problem, which is rarely an effective way to boost performance.
With a clear present state and outcome, we are faced with an important question:
What’s between the present and desired states?
Most people try to win the game of success by playing out in the world. They may set goals, read books, take courses, and they may even take action, but what many don’t realize is that while they play the outer game, they’re losing the inner game.
What’s in between the two ends of the axis of performance are the various building blocks of human psychology.
As we go through life, we acquire “programming” as the various levels of our psychology are shaped. This programming becomes habituated in a cognitive system and forms our personality. While we try to perform in the world, our programming gets in the way. But while trying and trying to succeed, few even become aware of what they’re carrying around in their own minds.
The Structure of Personality
Internal Representations and Submodalities
So what’s between where you are and where you want to be? All that!, meaning the various elements of and building blocks of your psychology. In a way we could say that what is between you and what you want is your “personality,” the psychological system that has become seemingly “fixed” in place and makes you who you are.
Most people struggle with performance because their internal programming is perfectly aligned with their present state. This is why they get the same mediocre results again and again, effortlessly! This is also why efforts to boost performance fail. In battle between good intention or will-power and unconscious programming, unconscious programming will always win.
The Axis of Performance looks like this:
When it comes to the achievement of a desired objective, we can look at these aspects of psychology as interferences. These elements, and the way they interact, interfere with achieving what you want, and most often, they are limitations due to “unfinished business,” mental habits that are were acquired essentially by chance and strategies that were once but are no longer effective.
One of the most common performance errors people make is that they are so committed to their objective that they find themselves unable to slow down and take the time to find out what is really in their way. Their motivation becomes a limitation because each time they get pumped up, they “go for it” and get the same old disappointing results. This can lead to a state of helplessness as they become convinced that nothing will work since they’ve “tried everything.”
Imagine someone who wants to drive to Arizona and their car has broken down. They really really want to get their, they don’t want to be dealing with a breakdown and so they stand by the side of the road angry, frustrated, kicking the tires and thinking more and more about how much they “just” want to get to Arizona. What they need to do is take the time, all the time is takes, to look inside the car and find out what isn’t working so they can correct it. Only then can they get on their way. What they don’t see is that there’s something else they have to do to get where they want to go. Motivation to “get there” doesn’t cut it.
Winning the Inner Game
Using this model, we can:
- Determine all the elements of a problem
- Understand how they fit together, interact and influence each other
- Discover what holds the system or problem in place and is preventing change
- Decide precisely where to intervene and how
This model can help anyone understand the factors hindering their results and determine next steps to optimize the mechanics of their mind. With this model in the back of my mind, in working with clients I look for which of the above-mentioned elements is in the way, what might be keeping things the way they are, and then determine appropriate methods to intervene.
Many people learn NLP techniques and use them haphazardly, wondering why “it didn’t work.” In order to know what to do what, a challenge must be considered in light of the desired state and along with all the other influencing factors. If there are 5 different interferences in the way that all vary in structure (eg. a memory, parts conflict and a limiting belief) then doing one NLP technique to “fix” things isn’t going to work. You have to cover all your bases.
When the elements of one’s psychology are aligned with a desired result, achievement becomes natural and automatic. It becomes a sort of “well of course I achieve that.” When you win the inner game, it becomes much easier to win the outer game.