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October 2016

Easy 4 Ingredient Recipe to Staying in the Zone of Peak Performance

Victory

The flow state, sometimes known as the "zone," is a state of peak performance treasured by athletes, artists, and high performing businesspeople. Fields like Sports Psychology and NLP study this “peak performance” state in order to help people create it more consistently and utilize it for higher achievement.


Can you remember times when everything seemed to flow? When you were immersed in what you were doing and lifted by inspiration?


With our attention scattered by multiple devices and a steady stream of emails, learning and implementing the peak performance flow state has more relevance and strategic advantage than ever.

 

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If you'd like to know a simple recipe for peak performance, read on and let's consider a simple 4-step process for bringing more of it to your life, your team, company, or wherever else you'd like to apply it:


The 4 Steps are:


Define - Discover - Analyze - Implement


1. Define the state of peak performance


Charles Garfield, in his book Peak Performance, defined that state with these 8 characteristics he calls "neurophysiological cues of peak performance feelings" which I here summarize and paraphrase-

  1. Mentally Relaxed - inner calm and peace
  2. Physically Relaxed - no undue muscle tension
  3. Confident/ Optimistic - expecting success
  4. Focused on the Present - attention on the here and now
  5. Highly Energized - feeling "charged" with energy, more than enough for the task at hand
  6. Extraordinary Awareness - acutely sensitive to the sensory environment
  7. In Control - directing mind and body to do what is needed
  8. In the Cocoon - In an envelope of power, undistracted by the irrelevant and extraneous

Garfield used these criteria to help both athletes and business people better recognize their personal peak experiences with exercises like rating them on a 1-10 scale.  Drills like that help to clearly "mark out" peak performances from lesser ones, clearing the path to having them more often.

 

2. Discover a set of peak experiences


Make an inventory of the best personal peak experiences you can remember. You can use Garfield's 8 characteristics above as criteria. Remember specific times when you were really in the zone and feeling extremely focused and successful about whatever it is you were doing. What you were actually doing and whether or not you succeeded in the eyes of the world isn't as important as your own feelings of success. Find at least 3 or 4 personal peak experiences and give each one a name and short description that will jog your memory.


Now, as we would say in NLP, "elicit the state" of peak performance to bring these experiences fully back to life. Relax and fully immerse into each one and relive it with all your senses engaged . . . see what you were seeing . . . hear what you were hearing . . . feel what you were feeling . Notice how your body position, posture, and facial expression shift with feelings like confidence, focus, and control reawakened.

 

3. Analyze your peak experiences

Once you have a few peak experiences closer at hand, analyzing them helps you learn they didn't just happen by chance. There are things you did and thought that helped create the climate that high performance thrives in.

Doing a "mind map" is a good way to better understand how you created these experiences and can create more in the future.

As you think about one, let your thinking flow as you use a mind mapping app or just doodle on a piece of paper, listing all the things that were going both physically and mentally before and during that time. Afterwards, as you review several, you will see things you did or thought that were consistent between them that can become your personal keys to peak experience.

 

4. Implement what you have learned.

Studying these mind maps of your personal peak experiences and inventorying the controllable factors that brought them about helps you arrange your life to be in "the zone" more consistently and consciously.

Design your environment and actions so peak experiences happen more often. For example, if you found that having a coach was a common to your past peak experiences, you know to build a coach into your current plan.

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By knowing the definition of peak performance, discovering such times in your own life, analyzing how they came about, and implementing what you learned, you can live at a higher level of inspiration and success.


How will your life be different, rallying and amplifying your highest state of peak performance and then consistently focusing it on the activities and outcomes important to you?


The 6 Levels of the Aligned Team

Introduction to The 6 Levels of the Aligned Team- Creating a Congruent Peak Performance Company


"Alignment is a necessary condition before empowering individuals..." Peter M. Senge


It's nice to be near the ocean, but Charleston is flat as a pancake so I have to escape to the mountains regularly. Looking down on vast misty valleys and shimmering lakes from a Pisgah National Forest trail awakens a certain feeling of inspiration. Maybe it's my Scottish Highlands blood.


It's more fun to get out of the comfort zone of the trails I know and explore the unfamiliar, so I might get a trail map from the outdoor shop in Brevard.


A hiking guide shows where to find good trails and the general nature of each hike, but it's nothing like smelling the trees, hearing the wind whistling through the trees and wondering if it's a bear with those heavy footsteps in the bushes.


Regardless, it helps create a great trip, whether for an overview of a general area to explore or to plan more specific point-to-point experiences.


A map can also help motivate a team to grow a company by leading customers to great experiences. The 6 Levels of the Aligned Team (6LAT) model is such a model. it isn't a substitute for direct experience any more than the hiking guide is but can similarly help create a great journey by charting a course.


“Experience by itself teaches nothing... Without theory, experience has no meaning. Without theory, one has no questions to ask. Hence, without theory, there is no learning.” ― W. Edwards Deming


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The 6 Levels of the Aligned Team model (6LAT) is a hierarchical model of creating congruent high level results in a business. The levels, from top to bottom, are

  1. Timeless Principles
  2. Mission
  3. Mental Models
  4. Capabilities
  5. Practices
  6. Results

Distinct strategies address each level to bring an organization into alignment . A misaligned level will affect all the levels beneath it. If the conductor of a symphony has a seizure, it doesn't matter whether or not the second seat violin is out of tune. And positive changes at a higher level can wash down the levels below like a waterfall after a heavy rain.


An aligned team in a business works together more congruently with a common mission and values that answer the "why" behind the goals. Energy that could have been wasted on internal friction like an engine running with no oil can be recovered and focused on serving customers at a higher level.


Tony Robbins speaks of how congruent people naturally radiate because they are living in accordance with their values and dreams. Similarly, companies that are congruent through alignment radiate specialness. An aligned team works together with not only shared goals, but also the deeper rapport and congruence that comes from shared mission, values, and beliefs.

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"Integrity is congruence between what you know, what you profess, and what you do." Nathaniel Branden


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To get an overview of the 6LAT map, let's take a brief journey through the levels, starting at the top:

 

Timeless Principles

Timeless principles are expressions of immutable archetypal forces. They can be variations on this set of nine:


            1)  Empathy
            2)  Innovation
            3)  Discipline
            4)  Abundance
            5)  Competitiveness
            6)  Leadership
            7)  Harmony
            8)  Communication
            9)  Imagination


Aligning an organization with values like these chosen collaboratively with the team helps the organization flow with the river of life instead of swimming upstream. Which principles are behind your ideal of excellent service to your customers? Do your people see how their highest internal values align with those of the company?


Mission


The mission tells how the organization distinctively expresses timeless principles through enriching the lives of its customers. Making money itself is not a compelling mission because it is inwardly directed as opposed to outwardly directed. Just focus on that and you'll make less money because people can smell they are being used for another's end. On the other hand, people are likely to willingly give the energy exchange of money to a business that is focused on helping them. What's the highest calling behind what your company does?


Mental Models- from Unexamined to Conscious


Mental Models can also be known as "belief systems" but in this context I prefer the more malleable connotations of the term "Mental Models". What are the assumptions, the presuppositions behind how your company does things? Shifting a mental model can be a powerful leverage point for breakthrough growth. The challenge is uprooting these and bringing them to light so you and your team can ask questions like "how else can we think about this?"


Capabilities


What skill sets do your people need to fulfill the mission? What digital resources does your company need to stretch the mission fulfillment? Should there not be ongoing training and education programs? Where will stretching capabilities in any of these areas enhance the special benefits offered to your customers? Is continuous improvement a guiding principle for your organization?


Practices


What are the processes that drive the business? Are they documented so they can serve as a baseline for ongoing improvement? How do shifts in principle orientation, mission, mental models, and capabilities suggest the need to evolve these practices or replace them with new ones entirely?


"If you can't describe what you are doing as a process, you don't know what you're doing." W. Edwards Deming


Results


The natural outcome of getting alignment through these levels is measurably improved and more harmoniously obtained results. Instead of pulling and pushing people with the carrot and stick, this flow helps evolve performance driven by the intrinsic motivation stemming from your peoples' personal values and mission aligning with that of the company.


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A performance by a great jazz combo can illustrate the levels. Their common mission of deeply moving creative expression is guided by principles like creativity, excellence, and spontaneity. The musicians share common mental models like the 12 note scale and various rhythmic patterns. They have refined their capabilities of utilizing those models with dedicated practice on the instruments. They apply the capabilities in the process of creating great music in the moment. One result is likely to be an appreciative audience.


Peak performance in such a system comes from the harmony and collaboration between the high-performing players so the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. The music is enriched by how they listen and respond to each other.


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Defining these things sets up a roadmap that becomes alive with an ongoing implementation strategy. What feedback loops best reinforce the values and mission of the organization? How can leadership align with these visibly and how can people use them for decision making? How will feedback correct course if and when people stray from these principles? Is management brave enough to sacrifice an easy short term result to a principle?

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Sources/More Reading

Peter Senge, The 5th Discipline

Sue Knight, NLP at Work: The Essence of Excellence


In an interview, Charles Garfield, author of Peak Performance and Peak Performers, said " The mission of the individual needs to align with the mission of the team, which needs to align with the mission of the organization. In fact, I would take it further -- the mission of the organization needs to align with the mission of the society in which it is embedded and the mission of the planet to which we are all indebted. "


The Aligned Team model, a key component of the e-Merg program, is derived in part from the neurological levels model of Robert Dilts, who wrote in a Brief History of Neurological Levels, "Our brain structure, language, and social systems form natural hierarchies or levels of processes....The concept of logical levels of learning and change was initially formulated as a mechanism in the behavioral sciences by anthropologist Gregory Bateson, based on the work of Bertrand Russell in logic and mathematics."