High performers are often lauded for their impressive feats and extraordinary accomplishments. But behind closed doors, many top performers struggle with a debilitating character trait: perfectionism.
Perfectionism is not black and white, but rather this quality exists on a continuum: for some, perfectionism emerges only when they’re feeling especially vulnerable, for others, perfectionism can be habitual, persistent and paralyzing. To better understand what perfectionism is and isn’t, I’ll turn to the wise words of Brené Brown, a researcher and storyteller who’s work on topics like vulnerability, shame and worthiness has profoundly impacted our understanding of how to strive for excellence without sacrificing wellbeing. In her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, Brown explains:
Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be your best. Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth. Perfectionism...
Introduction: If you don’t love your life, who will?
In the annals of self-development books, there are some that have achieved classic status. Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking is one example. Another is Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. I can remember the first time I came across another: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. My father had just finished it, and he had left it on our kitchen table. Over breakfast, I picked it up and casually flipped through it. I was curious to know what these keystone behaviors were that set the most successful people apart. Almost instantly, my attention was drawn to the seventh habit, which I found particularly interesting. If you haven’t read the book, I’ll bring you up to speed.
Stephen Covey, the author, calls this habit “sharpen the saw.” It is his code word for “self-care.”...
In the world of performance psychology, fear is the primary foe. The examples of this are numerous and fairly obvious. Athletes can be afraid of performing badly at an important event, of becoming injured in a risky sport, or of letting their teammates down with a poor performance. Very similar fears are rampant within non-sporting domains. Executives might fear an important presentation, the failure of a risky initiative, or a disappointing performance review. Fear is present in relationships. We fear rejection when we pursue a love interest, and sometimes how our partner will react to a mistake, or perceived personal failing. Fear is everywhere in our lives.
A great deal of my work is centered around helping people overcome fear. Often fear of a poor outcome causes someone to alter their behavior so that the reality of a poor outcome actually becomes more likely. My job is to teach people how to recognize their fear, it’s effect on them, and...
People often think of vacation as an opportunity to relax. Instead, it can be an opportunity to develop.
Have you ever heard the following sentiment expressed? “I wish everyone could experience what it’s like to work as a server in a restaurant.” I’ve heard some variation of this expressed often; perhaps even on an annual basis. To a person, my friends and colleagues who espouse this idea have worked in restaurants themselves. When they imagine a world in which everyone takes a turn carrying dishes and taking orders, I wonder what—exactly—they are trying to say. I think that some of them are wishing that restaurant patrons would have more empathy for the tough work of serving. I think, for others, that this notion is based in social class: they wish that middle- and upper-class people could appreciate what it’s like to be underpaid. Whatever the reason, they seem to want to promote a greater general...
As the authors of a book about deliberate practice, we are delighted to see that the term has gotten to be so popular. Everywhere you look, it seems, you find “deliberate practice” this and “deliberate practice” that, and the idea that deliberate practice is the key to excellence in almost any field is now widely known.
At the same time, though, we think it is crucial that we remind people about our criteria for deliberate practice since some important details are getting lost. Too often we see people lumping all sorts of practice activities together and calling it “deliberate practice” when it really is not, or expecting other types of practice to have the same results as deliberate practice. And this is not just in popular accounts but, unfortunately, in the scientific literature as well.
This sort of confusion creates several problems. It keeps individuals from getting the maximum...
HPI is delighted to publish its research and findings on our ongoing efforts to academically measure and validate high performance.
The abstract is below, and you can view the entire report here.
Measuring High Performance: The High Performance Indicator Development and Validation.
By Alissa J. Mrazek, Michael D. Mrazek, University of California Santa Barbara; Daniel A. Southwick, University of Pennsylvania; Brendon Burchard High Performance Institute
The desire to maximize potential and performance is one of the greatest motivators of the human spirit. Philosophers, scientists, and personal development leaders have long sought to understand the attitudes, behaviors, and traits that enable people to excel, succeed over the long term, and make the most of their lives. However, despite their mutual interest in the topic, little has been done to synthesize efforts across fields. Under the direction of Brendon Burchard, scientists and high performance...
“Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself. It’s as if they’re showing you the way.”
- Donald Miller
What makes a great leader? Most of us have thought about this question at least a handful of times in our lives.
Why do we care?
We care because we recognize the vital role of the leader. Nations rise or fall on the strength of their political and military leaders. Sports teams win or lose, in large part, by the strength of the coach. Classrooms learn or languish, based on the strength of the teacher.
Leaders matter, unequivocally.
Recognizing this, it’s important for each of us to consider the qualities we want most in a leader—not just so that we can be led, but also so that we can lead. In this blog, I will focus on the commonalities I’ve witnessed in successful leaders in numerous domains throughout my time as an athlete, and as a mental...
Do you want to do things perfectly?
I do. Striving for perfection is what high achievers do. The good is the enemy of the perfect: high achievers are never satisfied with what they’ve done. No matter how good they get, they are constantly searching for ways to get better. The Japanese call this kaizen— “continuous improvement.”
As legendary basketball coach John Wooden put it, it’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.
But more commonly, it is said that the perfect is the enemy of the good. This is also true. How so?
Because the secret to kaizen is short cycles of full-throated effort, followed by feedback and reflection, followed by an adjustment, leading to another round, and another, and another. In each cycle, you try your very best to reach perfection. You do as well as you possibly can before the clock runs out. You scan your email for typos before you send it, you think and rethink your strategy...
About a month after I moved to Philadelphia to work full-time at the University of Pennsylvania, my advisor, Dr. Angela Duckworth, offered me some frank feedback:
“If I had to give you performance feedback right now, it’d be that you’re not a very good planner.”
It wasn’t just what she said—It was the way she said it. I knew she was annoyed with my work thus far.
I was a little surprised by Angela’s no-nonsense feedback because I had come to know her as unusually supportive. It was her encouragement, after all, that inspired me to pursue a PhD in the first place. But the reality was that I was falling short. I was up to my ears trying to manage the uneven transition from being a professional athlete to being an academic at an Ivy League university. And, despite working long, hard days, my projects were moving at a glacial pace. Even worse, I had no plan for exactly when they would be...
I awoke with sand in my hair, and a damp freshness to my skin. I didn’t know that dew visits the desert. The Colorado River conversed beside me. All night I’d been eavesdropping on this conference between water, stone, and air – a communion as ancient as the earth itself. This conversation with the canyon is precisely what I’d come for. Yet six months ago, if you’d suggested that I stay up all night to watch the world, I would have replied with an empty stare. Something has changed within me that I didn’t ask for, and that I never would never have predicted. My relationship with the desert is different now. This is my story of that change.
As a child, I believed that for the most part, the course of my life was in my hands. I was a devout proponent of cliche agency. You know, “if you can dream it you can do it;” “shoot for the moon and you’ll land among the stars;” “the future belongs to...
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