how to reach peak performance self image self confidence basketball baseball football soccer donnie mckinney free advice teenage counseling online teens doing your best being the best

Peak Performance

By Donnie McKinney  c 2006

how to reach peak performance self image self confidence basketball baseball football soccer donnie mckinney free advice teenage counseling online teens doing your best being the best
Imagine there are five seconds left to play, your team is down by one point, and the ball is in your hands. Thousands of people are cheering. It’s your chance to win. It’s a moment you’ve worked for all your life. Imagine the feeling. Is it too much pressure? Or is it tremendous excitement? . . . Being a winner is an attitude, a way of life, a self-concept. It’s a heads-up, full-speed ahead way of living and being. It’s wanting the ball at crunch time because you believe in yourself.”  Denis Waitley

The difference in being a peak performer or being like the vast majority of other people is in your mind. Here's short video that illustrates what I'm talking about -

Obviously, some areas of life require some other basic attributes. If you are four foot two and decide that you want to win the national slam-dunk contest, then you might be disappointed. But, even in physical competitions the proper mental make-up can overcome a few shortcomings.

Five Foot what?

United Press - Updated: 3:57 a.m. ET Feb. 19, 2006, HOUSTON

NBA basketball is a big man’s game.

Don’t tell that to 5-foot-9 Nate Robinson. The New York Knicks’ rookie won the NBA All-Star slam dunk competition Saturday night, beating out 6-foot-6 Andre Iguodala of Philadelphia, 6-9 Hakim Warrick of Memphis and 6-9 defending champ Josh Smith of Atlanta.

Robinson, a first-round draft pick out of Washington, electrified the Toyota Center by taking a bounce pass from Spud Webb, the 1986 champion, and leaping over the 5-7 Webb to jam. The stunt earned a perfect 50-point score to force a dunk-off against Iguodala, who had received two perfect scores.

Robinson gave an assist for the memorable dunk to Knicks teammate Jamal Crawford. “We were on the plane and he was like, ‘Man, I have the perfect idea,’ “ Robinson said. “I was like, ’What?’ He said, ‘You should jump over Spud Webb. It’s been 20 years (since Webb won the title)."

“We had to get in touch with him, so we did and he was like, ‘Yeah, sure,’ “ Robinson said.

Webb, the only other player shorter than 6 feet to win the popular contest, said he enjoyed sharing the spotlight with Robinson. “He doesn’t know what he did tonight,” Webb said. “He made history. One day he can tell his kids about this.”

You can perform at your peak by learning a few basic principles about how to operate a human being. While basketball is obviously Nate Robinson’s natural, unique, God-given talent, it may not be yours. The first step in achieving peak performance is to find your own natural, unique God-given talents and abilities are and then use them.

Most people undermine their own self-confidence and self-esteem by unfairly comparing themselves to the best traits of others. Each person has his own unique talents. When he is using them, he is going to excel. Your talent may not be singing, but you can destroy your self-esteem by thinking you are inferior just because you can’t sing as well as a classmate who has that particulaar natural talent. You will excel at those things that fit your own talents. You cannot be the best at everything. You can be the best at something. Find that something. Applaud those who are peak performers in other areas.

Go to Talents and see what clues to your own talents you can detect by completing the Talents Worksheet in that section of The Real Me study. Once you start getting involved in activities, sports, extra-curricular activities and part-time jobs that utilize your natural talents you, too, will be on your way to becoming a peak performer.

Napoleon Hill did a twenty-year study of peak performers to determine what unique attributes they possessed. One of the key factors he found in each person’s success was that they had developed a “burning desire” to succeed. You can do the same thing in your life by setting a goal and then pursuing it with a passion.

There is a lot more involved in achieving a humongous goal in your life than is first apparent. Properly setting a goal includes brainstorming the hurdles you will have to jump over to get there. Each hurdle identifies skills you need to develop, education you need, people you need to meet, books you need to read, activities you need to get involved in, and even the money you will need to get the tools to jump over those hurdles between you and your goal.

As you set intermediate goals to acquire the knowledge and skills you need to accomplish your main goal, you are mapping a strategy to achieve whatever you want in your life. Each intermediate goal, successfully accomplished, brings you one step closer to your big goal. Identifying those intermediate steps, or hurdles, is vital to achieving peak performance.  Goal Setting will provide you with a method of planning your success in whatever endeavor you decide you want to pursue.

Developing the mindset of a super-achiever is the next step toward becoming a peak performer. Developing a healthy Self-Esteem  is the key to releasing yourself from the typical hang-ups that undermine your efforts to excel. Healthy self-esteem is simply accepting yourself exactly as you are right this moment – an imperfect, but changing and growing, worthwhile human being. That’s it. Nobody can be perfect all the time. Fretting over not being perfect is not only a waste of time, energy and brain cells, but it will prevent you from performing at your peak.

When I see a high school athlete getting angry and beating himself up over missing a basket or striking out, I have to resist the urge to go over and explain this simple principle of life to him. You are going to fail on occasion. Everybody does. Failure is just finding another way something didn’t work. The peak performer thinks, “I missed that shot because . . .  Next time, I’ll . . . “ The average performer thinks, “I can’t do anything right.” or “I can’t hit that shot.” That's a learned response he picked up from some other human being. He'll make the same mistake next time. You don't have to.

So, relax. That’s the key to peak performance. If you find yourself uptight or nervous when you’re trying to do something, you will impair your performance. If you’re a singer, your voice will show stress. If you’re an athlete, your game will suffer from simple mistakes. Every performance is practice in improving the next one. It's not the end of the world if you didn't do it perfectly this time.

Whether you are practicing or performing for real, learn to live in the present moment. The present moment is the only time you are alive. Keep your mind completely focused on what you are doing. Thinking about mistakes in the past will bring recurrence of the same mistakes. Worrying about what someone else thinks will keep you from being relaxed and confident. Thinking about the next performance will detract from your present ability. Nothing else matters when you’re performing except being in the present moment and doing your best.

When you’re doing what you love to do, and using your natural talents, you will find yourself getting “in flow” and losing track of time. Athletes call it getting "in the zone." That’s what living in the present moment means. Your mind has totally blocked out all distractions and you are totally focused on the task at hand. You will become energized. Your adrenaline is flowing. You are performing at your peak and having fun.

You may find during a performance or a game that your current “peak” performance still isn’t perfect. The time to analyze and strategize is after the game or show. Do your best during the performance. Work on improving your best later. When you go back over your performance and look for areas to improve, don’t beat yourself up. You simply have some things to work on. Look at your efforts objectively. See where you didn’t perform as well as you desired and decide what you need to do to improve in that area. Keep emotions out of it.

You may need more training from the best expert you can find. Seek him out. If you’re doing something physical, find someone who does whatever you want to do perfectly. Ask him to go through the motions and watch every muscle movement. Ask him to tell you what they are thinking as they do it. If you learn exactly what they do and exactly what they’re thinking, you can do it exactly as they do it.

Tony Robbins developed a system for training marksmen in the U.S. Army by doing exactly that. He found the best marksmen and studied their every movement. He asked them what they were thinking. Then he trained new recruits by having them do and think the exact same things. He had the highest success rate and the fastest training time the Army had ever experienced by using this technique. You can do the same thing. Find whoever is the best at what you want to do and emulate them.

Develop an attitude of “positive self-expectancy.” Denis Waitley says, “Winners expect to win in advance.” That’s a simple principle you can use to develop peak performance. It’s all in your Attitude  Stop being negative. You tend to get what you expect. Expect to win.

I learned a simple technique from Tony Robbins that works in any performance. I remember one night when I was about sixteen. A bunch of us guys were staying at a lake cabin and swimming off the dock late at night. I swam like a dolphin. It was effortless. I never swam like that before. It seemed that I was in perfect harmony with the water. I was having relaxed and having fun. I was performing at my peak, even though I’m not normally that great a swimmer.

Stop and think about a time when you felt that way. You seemed invincible and could do no wrong while you were doing whatever it is you want to excel at. Think back and relive the feeling you had. The confidence. The effortless performance. You were having fun. You were relaxed. Now, while you are in the same mental state you were during that peak performance, “attach” it to some physical act; such as, clenching your fist. You can choose any physical act that feels natural to you. It doesn't matter what it is.

Then, when you get in a similar situation and the pressure is on, clench your fist or whatever physical act you chose and it will “associate” in your subconscious mind with the confident feeling you had in the earlier performance. You will find yourself getting into the same frame of mind you were in when you excelled earlier. Your tension will dissipate. You will be able to focus on the task at hand and bring that feeling of confidence into the present moment and “release” yourself to perform at your peak.

A lot of athletes use some of these techniques without knowing what they are doing. Have you ever chuckled at a basketball player’s antics before shooting a free throw? Some reach down and touch their socks. Some bounce the ball three times. Some rub the bottoms of their shoes. They are all tying their past peak performances to some physical act. The just don’t know it. They do know they shot a free throw well when they did that before, so they do it again. Some think it’s just superstition. It’s not. It’s a simple act of involving their subconscious minds in their physical performance.

The most important thing you can learn to rise to peak performance is to use visualization to let your subconscious mind direct your physical body to accomplish your task without interference from your conscious mind. Olympic athletes use this technique before each performance. Dick Fosbury was one of the earliest examples of this highly-effective technique when he introduced the “Fosbury Flop” to the world, winning a gold medal in the 1968 Olympics.

When reporters asked him what he was doing when he stood still, swaying back and forth, before he started his record-breaking jump, he said he had his eyes closed and was visualizing mentally every movement he would make in his jump. If you want to become a peak performer, then you need to learn to do the same thing. Jack Nicholas said he has never shot a put in a golf tournament without visualizing the shot in advance. That’s what peak performers to. You can do it, too.

Once you “know” how to perform your particular thing perfectly by studying the best and getting training from the best trainers, bring your subconscious mind into the equation by visualizing perfect performance. You will never be able to perform at the level of excellence you desire until you learn to let your subconscious mind control your body. It’s that simple. The best athletes aren’t “thinking,” they are simply “doing” it. The best singers are just letting it "flow" from their mouths.

One of the best examples of the effectiveness of visualization is from a high school basketball coach who was working on his team’s free throw abilities. He divided the team into three groups. The first practiced shooting free-throws for thirty minutes a day for a month. The second group didn’t touch a basketball for thirty days. The third group sat for thirty minutes each day and visualized shooting free-throws perfectly. At the end of the thirty days, the first group, who practiced every day, improved 95%. The second group improved 0%. The third group, those who didn't even touched a basketball, improved 93%.

Can you imagine what a fourth group could have done if they both visualized and practiced? Unfortunately, the coach didn’t think of that, but if he did, I imagine the results would have been really amazing. If high school kids can improve almost 100% by doing nothing but visualizing something, just think what you can do if you incorporate visualization into your performance.

The reason visualization works so dramatically is simply that you cannot “think” about all the intricate muscle movements, hand/eye coordination, vocal cord function or whatever it is you need in your performance and actually do it at the same time. Your subconscious mind can. Learn to use it. Visualization is explained in detail at Visualization

Working on all of these areas will result in a change in your own Self-Image. You can never do anything that is inconsistent with your own self-image. Think about that for a minute. If you "see" yourself as a 60% free throw shooter, you're going to be a 60% free throw shooter. If you hit four shots in a row, your "robot" self-image throws up a red flag,"Hey, I can't do that, I'm a 60% free throw shooter." Your subconscious mind will cause your body to do "something" to make sure you stay within the limits you have set for yourself. Your little finger with twitch, or you'll throw too hard, but rest assured you will do "something" to make sure you miss the next shot and stay within the limits you have set for yourself.

Understand this clearly - your limits in life are set by your own self-image. The good news is you can re-set your limits by changing your self-image. It's that simple. If you want to be a peak performer you must "see" yourself as a peak performer. Develop that all-important "goal image" of whoever you want to be in life, achieving whatever you want to achieve and performing at your peak. Your "goal image" is who you are "becoming," not who you currently are.

Norman Vincent Peale told me, when I wrote him to ask what I should be teaching teenagers,

"Tell your young people to use the 'as-if' principle. Tell them to decide who they want to be and what they want to do in their lives, and then act 'as-if' they are already that person. They will slowly and inperceptively become that person."

That's good advice. It's the most important thing you can learn on your journey to perform whatever it is you want to do at your peak. Keep your mental goal-image clearly in your mind and visualize yourself as the person you are "becoming" every day of your life, until it becomes a reality.

If you haven’t taken time to study the articles in the links above, go do it now. Each area is a vital part of developing into a peak performer. They all work together to re-set the limits you’ve placed on yourself from being around other people who don’t know how to be a peak performer. You have to let go of all the fictitious and erroneous thought patterns and habits you’ve developed and release yourself to excel. It’s not hard. It’s simply learning how to utilize all the assets you already have at your disposal to perform at your peak.

My recommendation is to study the entire The Real Me  study with your particular goal of peak performance in your mind while studying each section. Relate each of the principles explained to your goal. Try to understand what influences are holding you back through conditioning and being around other, non-peak performing, humans. If you want to excel, you need to be different from most other humans.

You can learn to recognize destructive self-talk and replace it with performance-enhancing self-talk. You can learn to eliminate embarrassment from your life. You can learn to learn from your “failures,” and use one as training ground for your next performance. Once you accept yourself exactly as you are, and love yourself as you are, you can take responsibility for becoming who you want to be.

Then, when you are on the court, or on the stage, or wherever you do your “thing,” you can relax and do what you already know how to do. That’s what peak performance is all about. Relax. Have fun. Be confident that you are improving every time you do it. Visualize yourself doing it perfectly. Expect to win in advance.

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