On February 16, 2011, the Salt Lake Chapter of the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals (AA-ISP) had the distinct pleasure of hearing from renowned performance psychologist Dr. Craig Manning. Dr. Manning has been a key performance consultant for the U.S. Olympic Ski team, and professional and amateur athletes in dozens of other sports.
As the keynote speaker at the meeting, Dr. Manning presented a powerful overview of how high-performance athletes create a mental platform for success—and how those same principles apply to businesses that want to break through their own performance barriers.
Using principles and practices from his ground-breaking book The Fearless Mind, Dr. Manning stated that most performance models begin with a simple formula:
P + T = Pf.
Potential + Training = Performance
However, Dr. Manning continued, as the highest achievers in all aspects of life have discovered—athletes, business professionals, doctors, performers—”High performance is a way of life, a mindset. If you’re not performing, you can’t simply put a band-aid on it.”
To change performance levels, he stated, a third element needs to included in the formula:
P + T – I = HPf
Potential + Training – INTERFERENCE = High Performance
In observing world-class athletes for decades, Dr. Manning has noticed that in most cases the difference in potential between athletes is often narrow.
“The difference between the guy who finishes #16, or #32, or #44 in the World Cup Ski standings, and the guy who finishes #1 is almost never about potential and training,” said Dr. Manning. “All of them have nearly equal potential, and all of them are training at the same intensity. The difference is that the guy in the #1 slot has learned that the mind is a muscle. It can be trained, conditioned to power our success, or create interference that impedes performance.”
It is this element of “Mental Interference,” Dr. Manning believes, that is the key differentiating factor between mediocre and high performers. “Negativity, focusing on what we do wrong ruins our ability to reach our potential. That’s not to say that we should be unrealistic, and think that everything is sunshine and roses when it’s not. But too often our mental barriers are self-created, and then we live in them.”
The keys to getting out these “interference patterns” is to first have clear, constructive goals. “Having clear goals, goals that are difficult yet attainable, gives us the confidence we need to achieve them,” Dr. Manning said.
Next, having established goals allows us to focus on things “in the now,” and stay engaged with the task at hand. “Too often we can get stuck looking to an outcome in the future that ultimately saps our confidence and effort, ultimately becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. If something can’t be done, our tendency is to immediately slip into a mindset of negativity.” To make true changes in behavior and performance, Dr. Manning notes, it’s not effective to simply think, “Don’t do that.” To really increase performance, one mindset must be replaced with another, along with a new course of action.
Doing so allows us to build confidence and improve performance because our focus is entirely on the things we can control. Along the way, Dr. Manning’s system requires athletes to keep a daily log of their training goals. Each is required to state three things they did well during their training sessions, and one thing that needed improvement, and then to revisit the pattern the next day in preparation for their next session.
“Fear is always based in the future,” said Dr. Manning. “The best performing athletes learn to put the fear of the future, and the guilt of the past into proper perspective. When you can stay focused on the task at hand, the past and future disappear into simply doing what we can do NOW.”
Tennis image courtesy of Boss Tweed: https://www.flickr.com/people/39027316@N00. Licensed under the CC Attributions 2.0 generic.
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