What comes to mind when you think of Peak Performance?
Do you think of a Navy Seal passing the rigors of BUD/S training? Perhaps you think of the cyclists climbing the long, steep mountains in the Tour de France?
While both of those definitely apply, I think of a broader category of people who set significant goals for themselves and pursue them with relentless passion, energy, and focus. High Performers don’t quit until they’ve achieved the success they’ve been aiming for.
While a strong, fine-tuned physique is vital for high performance, especially in athletes, peak performance in goal setting comes from the mind.
And just like athletes training to get stronger and faster through repetition and exercise, we can work to improve our goal-setting strategies by understanding a few fundamental principles and exercising them over time.
What does it take to achieve peak performance and crush your biggest goals?
We can find the answer in the 4 C’s: Competition, Commitment, Completion, and Closure.
The first C is Competition, but not in the way you might be thinking of.
Psychologists have a concept they refer to as “goal competition.” Goal competition says that one of the most significant barriers to achieving your goals is the other goals you have. Have you ever noticed how busy everyone seems to be these days? We all have a thousand things to do!
Whenever you decide to pursue a new goal, you inevitably take time away from some other goal you’ve been chasing. Each goal takes time, energy, and focus, all of which are finite resources and we only have so much of each in a 24-hour day.
So, how do we decide?
Most of us start by choosing which goals we’re going to focus on, for example: “I’m going to do these five things.”
Then, when something new and exciting comes along, we add that to the list. And in our excitement, many of us even start on the new goal right away. And that’s not counting the goals we elect subconsciously or the goals placed upon us by our family, friends, bosses, co-workers, etc.
All of your work assignments, home improvement projects, extracurricular parent duties at school—they’re all some form of a goal, and they’re all competing for your time and energy.
How many goals do you have right now that you’re not even counting among your core goals?
Even while writing this article, I can think of several goals I’m pursuing that are not in my quarterly goal planner. These necessary, but unwritten goals are competing against my real goals, or at the very least, causing me to question which goals ARE my real goals.
It’s situations like the ones I’ve just described that lead to so many of us having various, partially-completed goals competing for our time causing stress, overwhelm, fatigue, and discouragement.
True peak performance in goal setting starts with understanding goal competition and choosing which goals NOT to pursue.
Out of the 25 things you want to do, which 5 goals are you going to focus on in the coming months? Which 20 are you NOT going to focus on?
If you want to achieve peak performance, it’s far more important to decide on the things that you’re NOT going to do. And just like with you’re active goals, you need to write them down so that you don’t forget about them, but instead of actively pursuing them, store them away for a later date. You can call this your backlog of goals.
As time goes on and you think of new and exciting goals, add them to your backlog. Then, once you’ve achieved some of your priority goals, you can revisit and reprioritize your backlog before committing to some new active goals.
The second C in peak performance is Commitment.
When we commit to our goals, we pursue them with determination, focus, and a zero-tolerance policy for excuses. This also means that we must avoid goal competition.
One definition of commitment is “the state of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc.”
A far stronger definition is “an engagement or obligation that restricts freedom of action.”
When you set a goal, which definition do you tend to follow? Are you dedicated, or are you so dedicated that you don’t allow yourself to lose focus no matter what?
We cannot achieve peak performance in goal setting until we’re truly committed to our goals and the effort that it will take to reach them. Life-changing goals are going to be difficult. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t be life-changing.
We can’t always predict or plan for every challenge we might encounter while pursuing a goal, but real commitment means working towards a goal until it’s 100% complete, regardless of the difficulties you might face along the way.
Completion may seem like an obvious variable in the peak performance formula, but it seems the two most difficult aspects of goal setting are getting started and achieving 100% completion.
Only 20% of people bother to set goals for themselves regularly. Of the 20% who do set goals, only 30% tend to achieve the success they’re looking for.
These stats mean that only 6% or 3 out of every 50 people see success in goal setting.
Why are there so few people achieving goals?
I believe it’s because there is a massive difference between doing 95% of a task or a goal and seeing it through to completion.
Surprising as it may be, it’s very common for people to get 90-95% of a task done and then quit. However, when we quit before completing a task, we never receive the endorphin-release that gives us the feeling us success, accomplishment, and reward.
Endorphins: The Goal Setting Fuel
Endorphins are the hormones that give us a sense of well-being and elation—they’re the hormones that make hard work and dedication worth it in the end. When we never see a goal through to completion, we never get to feel the sense of gratification that comes from these endorphins.
Why would we work hard towards a goal if we don’t associate goal-setting with pleasure?
If we always quit at the 95% mark, we learn to associate goal setting with hard work, but not happiness. We’ve put 95% of the effort, but we’ve received 0% of the rewards that should come along with that effort.
On the other hand, when we complete a task or a goal to the 100% mark, we receive a surge of endorphins—the bigger the task, the bigger the surge. These endorphins make us feel good about ourselves and ultimately make us want to repeat the feeling by achieving our next goal.
As we achieve more and more of our goals through this domino effect, we learn to love the feeling that success brings, and we build a habit out of achieving our goals. Over time, we reach peak performance because we learn to see all of our goals through to completion and closure.
Finding Closure in goals we’ve completed is easy. We achieve our goal, get a surge of endorphins, and celebrate our success. We feel as light as a feather, and we move onto our next exciting goal.
But what about the goals we don’t achieve? Nothing causes more stress, overwhelm, and dissatisfaction than unfinished business.
We all have goals we’re working towards. We pour our passion and energy into these goals, and when they’re complete, we feel amazing. But when we abandon or lose track of a goal due to the lack of focus, we leave behind what I call “energy anchors.”
Forgotten Goals and Energy Anchors
Energy Anchors pull at us from behind, draining our energy and our momentum.
When we lose track of a goal, our subconscious mind tries to remind us of what we’ve forgotten. If we give up on a goal prematurely our mind is still going to warn us about it over and over unless we get closure.
These situations lead to an ever-growing sense of stress. You know the nagging feeling—the one that keeps making you feel like you’ve forgotten something though you can’t remember what it is.
Then, at 2 in the morning, you wake up thinking about that goal you forgot, or it suddenly jumps to mind in a meeting or while you’re showering before work.
It can be maddening!
Multiply that feeling by the number of unfinished things you’ve left in your wake, and you’ll break out into a cold sweat.
But as we’ve seen, sometimes we have to elect not to pursue a goal, and sometimes our priorities need to change. How can we get closure on a goal that we’re choosing to leave behind? How can we eliminate some of these Energy Anchors?
Access Why You’re Not Focusing on a Goal
I often talk about connecting your goals with a strong why for achieving maximum success, but you also need to look at why you quit, paused, or postpone a goal.
Sometimes, the timing isn’t right, so we have to postpone a goal or put it in our backlog for a later date.
If that’s the case, that’s okay, but you need to acknowledge that truth. Tell yourself that the timing isn’t right and write the goal on your backlog. This way, it’s out of your mind and in your notebook, so you don’t have to feel like you’ve abandoned a goal.
If it’s not the timing that’s wrong, but the goal itself, then think about why the goal is wrong for you. You need to dig deep and explore this.
If the goal you’re quitting because the goal became difficult or lost it’s luster, then you’re creating an energy anchor. But if the goal is wrong because of a real reason, identify that reason and connect with it. Permit yourself to set a new goal that’s more significant to you.
It’s easy to set goals for the wrong reasons, whether it be fear of missing out (FOMO) or jumping on the wrong bandwagon, but you shouldn’t feel bad about ditching the goals that are wrong for you.
To get closure, connect with why you’re changing direction and make sure your reasoning is founded in truth and not in excuses.
Putting the 4 C’s Into Practice
If you’re looking to start working towards becoming peak performing goal setter today, you might be wondering where to start. It all depends on where you’re at in your goal-setting journey.
If you’re struggling with your goals, sit down and evaluate everything you’ve been doing, everything you’ve wanted to do, and everything you have done. Start by celebrating your wins. What have you succeeded in? What have you accomplished?
Then, decide on which goals you are going to set and which you’re not going to set. For the ones you’re not going to pursue, give yourself permission to leave them behind and get the closure you need. Cut ties to those Energy Anchors.
Finally, commit to the goals you’re setting for yourself and see them through to completion before setting or pursuing any new goals.
Practice Makes Perfect
As with all things, practice makes perfect. If at first, you don’t succeed, try again. Don’t give in to frustration or feelings of failure. You’ve only failed if you’ve quit trying.
If you set a goal and find yourself wanting to quit, think about why and get closure if you can. If you can’t find closure because you’re only finding excuses to quit, keep pushing. Connect with why you set that goal and tie it to a deeper meaning.
And when you complete a goal, be careful not to move on too quickly. Allow yourself to feel and celebrate the win.
Over time, these practices will become second nature, but in the meantime, I recommend getting a goal planner like Michael Hyatt’s Full Focus Planner to help keep you on track. I use mine daily, and it’s a life-changing tool.
And if you need a little extra help in getting started, feel free to reach out to me. I’m always happy to help a goal-getter in need!