Top performers practice what they’re bad at, even though it’s frustrating, and they do it to the point of mental and physical exhaustion. They go until they break down old habits and develop new ones.
I believe in this approach–that is, I believe that it’s helpful to people to first acquire a new set of skills and then push themselves to continue to refine those skills until they become second nature.
The process of gaining, practicing, and refining skills through feedback may sound laborious, but it’s actually liberating. It takes you up to a new level each time, and from each new level, it takes less effort to be effective, gain perspective, and accomplish goals.
Think of new skills like a bicycle, and think of the process of pushing the skills deeper and farther like the oil that keeps the wheels turning smoothly, without energy-sapping friction.
Here are some tips on how to make the process just as important as the outcome.
- Set goals, not only for outcomes, but for how you will achieve the outcomes. Top performers focus on the process, and even on one aspect of the process.
Mikaela Schiffrin, the phenom of the U.S. Olympic ski team, is known to win races, not by envisioning results, but by executing her process. If you and your top talent want to get better at something, set goals, design a process, and then execute.
- Be mindful of what’s happening in the moment.
For instance, the best distance runners scan their heart rate and breathing to keep a steady ratio between steps and breaths. Average runners tend to think about anything other than what they’re doing because what they’re doing is painful and boring.
In the case of office workers doing purely mental work, elite performers monitor what they’re thinking–in other words, they think about their own thinking, and make adjustments.
- Measure progress against a chosen standard. Create a scorecard or assessment form. Get feedback from a variety of sources.
Average people are content to say they did well, OK, or poorly. Top performers are more specific. They measure themselves against a standard that is relevant to what they are trying to achieve.
Assessing the data, setting new goals, designing new methods to achieve them–these are actions that elite performers take. And they are the people who stand out.
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