Hitting the highest level of performance—in your sport, your work, your life—means getting in the zone and reaching new heights. You can strive for peak performance in any area of your life by using this winning trio: courage, adaptability, and grit. Here’s how to cultivate them:
All too often, we know what it will take to get to our goals, but fear gets in our way. Fear can paralyze us and stop us in our tracks before we even take the first step. When you come face-to-face with fear, you have two choices: you can run from it or you can confront it. Courage is taking action in spite of fear. What courage doesn’t mean is the absence of fear.
In Star Wars, Luke Skywalker is sent to defeat Darth Vader. In that scene, Vader’s head is cut off, revealing Luke’s face. This is a powerful metaphor showing that, often, our fears lie within. We can be our greatest obstacles—essentially, our own worst enemies. The upside is, once you realize that the fear is all in your head, you can overcome it.
Just as in life, nothing in sports is static. Things you don’t expect will happen. And despite our best efforts at planning, some things are bound to change on us. Every athlete needs to know what is in his or her control, and what is not. The process of training and competing is really about preparing well for the expected challenges while recognizing that surprises can and will happen. And the best way to be prepared is to be adaptable.
Adaptability is the ability to respond and make necessary adjustments to those things in our lives that are out of our control. So the next time you have an unexpected challenge that affects your performance—an injury or illness, a bad night’s sleep—remember that setbacks are temporary, but the growth and resilience you see as a result can stay with you permanently. Your adaptability just may save your race, your season, or your life!
This is my favorite trait of the three. University of Pennsylvania researcher and professor and author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance Angela Duckworth, PhD, attests that grit surpasses even intelligence and natural talent as the most important characteristic of success. Grit is about having what some researchers call an “ultimate concern”—that is, a goal you care about so much that it organizes and gives meaning to almost everything you do. Grit means holding steadfast to that goal. Even when you fall down. Even when you screw up. Even when progress toward that goal is painfully slow. Because people who possess grit simply do not give up, they’re far more likely to succeed. Grit helps distinguish between the merely good and the excellent. And the really good news is that scientific evidence indicates that grit can grow.
Consider this: Once you reach a certain peak, give yourself a pat on the back, but don’t stop there. Keep challenging yourself to reach further. This way, you’ll stay engaged with life and be happier all around.