Peak performance?

11 04 2008

I hate to be a spoilsport, but striving for Peak Performance is, for most people, just setting yourself up for failure. You may be able to get there (to your own definition of peak) for a few minutes (or even seconds) by psyching yourself up, but it is not sustainable for most people. The simple reason:  it is too much of a stretch.

You see, it’s a simple matter of “You can’t get there from here.” An even more appropriate saying is “A thousand mile journey begins with a single step.” You cannot, under ordinary circumstances, go directly from where you are straight to your destination. All you can do realistically is to keep your destination in mind, and take a first step in that direction. Eventually, you may get to the precise destination you envisioned, but more likely, you will get caught up in the journey, and realize after awhile that your priorities have changed, and the target has moved. Refocus, and take another step in the direction of whatever goal is most important to you.

There are no prescriptions for achieving peak performance in any aspect of one’s life. The reason — every individual is different. I wake up naturally at 5:30 am. I check my e-mail, eat breakfast, then head to work. If it’s raining or I’m tired, I’ll usually catch the bus. If I can, I bicycle the 12.5 miles to the office. When I absolutely have to, I take the car, but I always feel a bit of disappointment in myself for not having been self-sufficient, and for having made a small contribution to the congestion and over-consumption that I see on the roads every day. That is just me. I have my own motives, my own pattern of living, my own way getting through the day.

I seriously doubt that you have the same pattern of living. Maybe you don’t work. Maybe you work two jobs. Maybe you skip breakfast, take kids to school, walk to work or drive 40 miles each way along winding country roads. Maybe you have bacon and eggs for breakfast at 9:00 am, rather than having a bowl of natural cereal at 6:00 am. The details are what make you you, and me me. It does no good for Doctor Don to tell you to walk for 20 minutes a day if you spend your life in a wheelchair, or if you live in a neighborhood where you fear for your life every time you step outside the door. I can’t tell you that you should eat 1800 calories when your personal physician tells you that you need a 3000 calorie diet just to maintain your current weight.

For me, the journey towards “peak potential” means riding my bike to work one more day a week than I do right now. For you, it might mean setting your alarm 15 minutes earlier so you aren’t so rushed in the morning, or promising yourself that you will walk to the mailbox at the bottom of your driveway instead of making the journey in your car. Each person is an individual, and the first step on your thousand mile journey has to start right where you are at this moment. It cannot follow a prescription, unless it is the prescription that you give to yourself.

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