Jim Camp e-book “Press On” Chapter 3 pt 4 “The 6 characteristics of peak performers”
The 6 characteristics of peak performers
Before I go on, I would like to bring a list to your attention. It is a list of characteristics shared by peak performers in all fields of human endeavor. If you build these 6 characteristics into habits, these alone will change your life and help you co-create the life you wish. Of course, if you incorporate it within the context of everything else contained in this book, your opportunities for success and happiness increase exponentially.
(i) Effective decision maker
Since this is the common thread that runs through this book, I won’t add any comments here. To me, this is the most important one of the six.
(ii) A Valid Mission & Purpose (M&P)
I have explored M&P in detail, in the previous chapter.
(iii) Valid Goals and Objectives
A long time ago, I came across the definition of a goal as “An action or effort to an end”. Using that definition, an essential feature of a goal is that it is something that a person can control. You can start or stop an action or an effort to an end, at will. This is what I term a valid goal. That is why I teach that your activities and your behaviors are what qualify as valid goals. You have total control over your activities and behaviors. Now, I do not discount the fact that we all have undesirable habits that manifest in our activities and behavior. I maintain they are under your control because you can replace an undesirable habit with a desirable one. The fact that it requires effort and practice does not mean it is not under our control. On the contrary, it illustrates that are under your control. When you think of a goal, it will help you tremendously to think in terms of activity goals and behavior goals.
Invalid goals are goals over which you have no control over. In the previous chapter, I showed you how people’s long term aims often consist of performance goals over which they have no control. Any goal that does not fall under an activity or a behavior is something you do not have control over, and consequently falls under the category of either an invalid goal or an objective. Outcomes and results of any sort fall into the category of invalid goals. An outcome (or result) is dependent on numerous variables which are not under your control. Thus you can influence an outcome but you cannot control it.
An objective is something you aspire toward because
It helps you execute the plan you draw up to solve a particular problem/challenge.
It advances your M&P.
Is something you achieve using valid goals.
Use valid goals to help you prepare, execute, and review your performance. In that way, you can pinpoint what works, what doesn’t work, and what changes and improvements are required. Valid goals are a necessary means in growing in focus and discipline.
Gaining mastery in a language is an objective. Selecting which language is based on your M&P. Deciding how you will go about it – to take a class, an online course, engage in self-study, and determining how much time and effort you spend on it daily or weekly – are valid goals.
In the military, you mastered a number of skills. You achieved this mastery by focusing on your behaviors and activities and building these into habits. You focused on what was under your control. You must continue to use that method to build mastery in anything.
(iv) Habitually create and execute plans that solve the real problems
To achieve a particular objective, and solve the problems and challenges that stand in your way, you must plan. This becomes even more important when you are dealing with complex challenges.
Think of any challenge you are facing, or that you foresee. In a time of transition, the challenges you face in life do not come at you in an easily managed, linear sequence. Interdependence means that many of these challenges are linked to others. In fact, the solutions to some could be the seed of a new challenge. It could be anything – building a career, building a business, wisely using the funds you get upon your discharge from active service, rebuilding a life after disability, straightening out a dysfunctional relationship (or relationships), building a career, straightening your finances, increasing your income, investing your discretionary funds, improving your skills and abilities to generate a bigger or more stable income, planning and prioritizing your day or week, or settling a family dispute that is affecting too many people, or (and this might not be too popular), admitting and seeking help for emotional or mental ill health.
It’s not enough to engage in certain activities and then label the end result a plan. Your plan must be designed to identify and solve the real problems that stand in the way of you achieving your objective(s). Effective plans firstly identify them (and the interconnections with other problems if these exist) and then solve them by solving the root cause. Otherwise, your plans run the risk of being little more than wishful thinking or intellectual gymnastics.
When trying to solve complex challenges, it’s almost certain that you will be required to readjust your goals and objectives. If you have a valid M&P, it won’t matter. Each such adjustment will be an effective decision. On the other hand, if you choose to stick with the plan you already have, that too will be an effective decision. In fact, if you are an effective decision maker, you can even change your M&P. But that will happen on the basis of new facts, trends, information etc. If you have created an M&P carefully and thoughtfully, it won’t change on the basis of moods or emotions. Keep in mind that you execute your plan using your activity goals, behavior goals, and effective decisions.
I shall explore this in detail when I show you what it takes to be a negotiator and a strategist.
(v) Develop laser-like focus
More than something that you do, developing this sort of focus is actually a consequence of living the other five. This focus will help you clearly see what is required for an effective decision, and what represents an effective decision in a particular situation. You will see the knowledge, information, skill, or expertise gaps that exist and that must be filled in order for you to make an effective decision.
This laser-like focus will help you see clearly what is important and of consequence, and what is not important and merely incidental, and distinguish between the two. You will also clearly see what is under your control, what is not under your control, what you can influence but not control, and the interconnectedness that exist between all three.
You will also see the obstacles that stand in the way of living out your M&P both in the here and now, and over the long run, and help you become aware of the opportunities you encounter and which, if utilized, will advance your M&P. It is also this focus that will help you become aware of when and how to change your M&P. This is a far-reaching decision that cannot be undertaken lightly.
You will then be able to bring this kind of laser-like focus to bear on each aspect of your life and identify and solve any challenge, using effective decision making, effective planning, and effective goal setting. The benefits will be incalculable.
(vi) Growth Vs. Fixed Mindset
A mindset is the habitual mental attitude or disposition that predetermines our responses to, and interpretation of, events and situations. Stay with that definition for a few moments. It’s a habitual mental attitude or disposition that predetermines how we perceive or how we respond to things. Habits, as we all know are built or broken by repetition. We are all creatures of habit. However, since it’s a mental attitude/disposition, our mindset may actually operate in our lives while we remain unaware of its existence and influence.
Simply put, the Growth Mindset is a deep seated belief that knowledge, intelligence, skills, talents, and abilities are capable of growing and growth. This mindset is expressed and observed by a simultaneous willingness to learn, improve, and grow regardless of one’s current intelligence, skill, talents, abilities or achievements. Events and experiences, successes and failures, and challenges are seen as opportunities for learning and growth. Every area and aspect of our lives is perceived as one growth can and should occur. No level of achievement or success is seen as having made or transformed us into a “finished product” nor does any failure make or transform us into “damaged goods”.
A Fixed Mindset is an equally deep-seated belief that “you either have it or you don’t”. The “it” often refers to a particular skill, ability or capability. It views that ability or skill as fixed and incapable of growth or change. It views skills as possess inherent limits which are, sadly, imposed a priori. The particular manifestation of the Fixed Mindset might vary from person to person, situation to situation, circumstance to circumstance, or event to event, but the manifestations and consequences are fairly predictable. If you believe you are not capable of doing something, or that you already know it so well that there’s no need or scope for improvement, you are going to decide, plan, choose, act and respond on the basis of those beliefs.
It’s a sobering truth to realize that the Growth and Fixed Mindsets operate not only in the lives of individuals. Families, public and private institutions, organizations, companies, societies, and even civilizations operate (and have operated) on the basis of one or the other. A crisis may stimulate action, but once it blows over, the dominant mindset kicks in.
I do not consider the Fixed Mindset to be the opposite of the Growth Mindset. When I observe these mindsets in the lives of specific individuals, groups, organizations, societies and even civilizations, I notice that the Fixed Mindset is the absence of the Growth Mindset just as darkness is the absence of light.
We human beings are born with the Growth Mindset. The toddler is constantly learning about the reality that surrounds him or her and constantly adapting to it. That’s how he or she begins to master it and acquires the knowledge and abilities needed to live, grow, and thrive. The toddler is the ultimate learner. Just observe one learning to walk. To me, this means the “default settings” of each human being is the Growth Mindset. The Growth Mindset is innate whereas the Fixed Mindset is something acquired or developed.
What would have happened to you in your military career if you had been caught in the grip of a Fixed Mindset? A host of unseen and undesirable consequences awaits you if you get caught up in a Fixed Mindset, now or in the future.