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The Twenty Most Dangerous Myths About Peak Performance

Overcome These Mental Myths To Improve Your Performance - In Business, Sports and Life


Bill Cole, MS, MA
The Mental Game Coach™
Silicon Valley, California


We all perform in some way every day. In what arenas do you want to perform better? To improve your performance abilities, you need to know, understand, recognize and be able to avoid the myths surrounding performance.

Top performers are so fine-tuned in their disciplines that they have seen all the traps, pitfalls and blind alleys about performing, and have devised methods to overcome them to be able to sustain high levels of performance under all adverse conditions. We call these people peak performers.

Why are these myths dangerous? If you don't handle them, they will creep into your performances and sabotage you. And you may not even know what's happening.

I've been helping people reach more of their potential for the past 30 years as a mental game peak performance coach. I've been the Mental Game Peak Performance Coach for the Israeli Davis Cup Team and the #1 US nationally-ranked Stanford University Baseball Team.

Here I teach you the very same mental success approaches I use with top collegiate and professional athletes. The secret lies in having powerful, tested mental game peak performance strategies at your disposal. What your mind believes you will achieve.

Learn to avoid these twenty peak performance myths and you will immediately see your performances soar. Here are the myths and twenty tips to help you become a better peak performer:

1. MYTH -- An All-Out Performance and Total Effort Is Required. Some folks think that if 100% effort is good, then 110% effort must be far better. Peak performers know that there is an optimal level of effort for every activity in a given performance.

Mental Tip -- Through practice, find your optimal levels of effort and avoid trying too hard. Be efficient by targeting just the perfect level of effort and motivation in your performances.

2. MYTH -- You Can Make a Top Performance Happen on Command. In watching a top athlete or musician perform, does it look like they can force a good performance to occur, even if they are having an off day? Sometimes a bad day can be saved by extra focus, preparation or mental strategies, but rarely does forcing a performance work.

Mental Tip -- Allow your best performances to emerge from superior preparation, from focusing rituals built into your performances and from trusting yourself to do what you know how to do.

3. MYTH -- Only Many Years of Training Will Lead to Peak Performances. Anyone can achieve a peak performance following the laws of performance psychology. But the more experience you have, the easier it is to bring forth your best efforts.

Mental Tip -- Have faith in yourself, while still preparing solidly, and you will be able to muster your best under pressure.

4. MYTH -- A Peak Performance Is Just a State of Hypnosis. A specific, non-ordinary mental state is achieved when you are performing. Call it self-hypnosis if you want, but there is nothing mysterious about it.

Mental Tip -- Get into the zone for your best performances. You are in the zone when you have a calm mental state, pure focus, relaxation, your mind is in the here and now and you are allowing things to happen. That is like the hypnotic state.

5. MYTH -- Peak Performances Can Only be Achieved by People With Special Mental Powers. Anyone can turn in a peak performance, and anyone can develop the mental powers needed to do so consistently. You can learn what you need to know to perform your best.

Mental Tip -- Study top performers in your field and see what makes them tick. Ask them what it was they did to develop those powers.

6. MYTH -- A Peak Performance in Sport is Different Than One in Business. Once you achieve a peak performance in anything, you have experienced the zone. The zone is a state of mind and body that ignites your ability to perform to your potential. You can use your zone skills in any performance arena.

Mental Tip -- Learn from every discipline you can, to transfer those performance skills across all performance venues.

7. MYTH -- Once In The Zone, You Can Sustain a Peak Performance by Sheer Will Power. It seems like good performing is all about having strong will power, but it's not. That can be part of it, when you have solid mental discipline, but that's not all of it.

Mental Tip -- Use your will power for self-discipline in your training and for controlling your mind in a performance. Then learn to let go once in the performance so you can attract the powers of the zone, and allow them to take over.

8. MYTH -- A Peak Performance Can Happen Only to Top Performers. It is true that top performers are able to bring forth peak performances more often than the rest of us. But if you cultivate the skills of trust, naturalness and calmness, you can bring forth your best, even if your skills are not highly tuned.

Mental Tip -- Develop your ability to envision yourself succeeding and then to trust that vision.

9. MYTH -- You Are Either Born a Peak Performer or You Are Not. It seems like some people were born to perform, but if you ask them, or learn their background, you will find that what they make look so easy is a result of years of dedicated practice and discipline.

Mental Tip -- Pay your dues and you will make the difficult look simple.

10. MYTH -- Peak Performers Know Exactly How They Do It. I was always amazed in tennis, when I competed against world-class athletes, how little they knew about the zone, and, oddly, how little they wanted to know about it. Their theme was, "I can do it just fine--don't fill me with information that can rock the boat".

Mental Tip -- Those that can do, don't necessarily know how they do. Learn all you can about the zone so you can create the conditions of excellence the zone demands.

11. MYTH -- A Peak Performance Is Easily Duplicated. If you get into the zone you may feel that it will be simple to get there again. A zone performance can be a finicky, temperamental state. You can set up the conditions to ignite the zone, but you cannot exactly duplicate the zone on command.

Mental Tip -- Observe what the zone is all about the next time you are there. Read the sign posts. Then re-create that road map and trust the process.

12. MYTH -- You Can Never Be Too Motivated. It is just as possible to be over-motivated as it is to be under-motivated. Over-motivation will ratchet up your energy and focus levels to out of control proportions.

Mental Tip -- Find your optimal level of motivation. This is specific to different sports, business tasks and also specific to tasks within a performance.

13. MYTH -- A Peak Performance Is a Mystical, Religious Experience. The Zen approach describes the zone as a difficult to explain, esoteric experience. Others have described it as a near-religious ecstasy state. For some people, both could be true, but neither is necessary.

Mental Tip --The zone can be difficult to explain and awesome to experience, but neither mysticism nor religion is required to attain it. Use performance psychology to enter your peak performance and then ascribe your own significance to it.

14. MYTH -- Peak Performers Are Perfectionists. Many peak performers are perfectionists, but few can give a perfect performance. Being a perfectionist can drive you to higher levels of achievement, but being perfect in a performance is not a helpful goal.

Mental Tip -- Use your perfectionism to drive you to succeed, but leave your perfectionism at the door when you enter the zone. Perfectionism is about trying hard and the zone will not allow that.

15. MYTH -- Control Freaks Do Well as Peak Performers. The higher the stakes, the more some people want control. Performance can be anxiety-inducing and high levels of control seems to be one way to reduce anxiety. But it is not the peak performance way.

Mental Tip -- Be in control of yourself, and let go of all else you can't control. The higher your confidence, the less you will seek to control others and outside conditions. You will trust that you will do well and you will relax to allow flow to happen naturally.

16. MYTH -- Peak Performance Is Not Paradoxical. Peak performers actually understand and embrace paradox, because in paradox lies the wisdom of the zone. Performers who can't balance forceful power with effortless grace don't succeed. Performers who don't walk the edge of self-control while going with the flow do not enter the zone.

Mental Tip -- Study paradox to discover the nuance-laden truths about performance psychology. The zone favors those who are sensitive to its subtleties.

17. MYTH -- Peak Performers Don't Need Coaching. I have coached a player in the top 30 of the world at the Wimbledon Championships and have coached top executives. All peak performers need assistance and are not afraid to ask for it. They put aside their pride and align with coaches, teachers and mentors.

Mental Tip -- Seek wise council from those who can help you become a better performer.

18. MYTH -- Peak Performances Always Come From a Strict Plan. Are the best performances born of practice or spontaneity? Could the answer be both? If you recall your practice in your performance in a conscious way, are you connecting with the moment, or are you performing in a robot-like fashion? Maybe a combination of both serves you best.

Mental Tip -- Use your practice to build confidence and structure and then, depending on your performance task, release yourself from that structure to embrace the free-flowing spontaneous connection with your audience, your competitors or your team. Be in the moment.

19. MYTH -- Peak Performers Always Focus on Winning. Every performer wants to win. But peak performers don't focus on or think about winning during the performance. Having that external, outcome-based focus only distracts you from your task.

Mental Tip -- Honor your goal of winning, but be process-focused in your performance. Seize the moment and be one with your surroundings.

20. MYTH -- Peak Performers Never Show Weakness. Maybe during a performance in sport, showing weakness is a poor choice, but in some performances, such as speaking or teaching, showing vulnerability is a sign of high self-esteem and of security.

Mental Tip -- Be so secure that you can show your frailties and your vulnerable side. Be so secure that you can ask for help when you need it. No peak performer ever made it to the top all alone. Now that you know the top twenty myths about peak performance, how are you going to use those myths to help you perform better? You could memorize them so you can recognize them when they come up. You can practice your performances removing any of these myths. You can watch other peak performers and see which ones they fall victim to and which ones they overcome. You can pride yourself on capturing the wisdom top coaches and performers know in their bones, but may not be able to communicate verbally.

Defeat the myths. Go forth and perform brilliantly!


To learn about sports psychology coaching services offered by Bill Cole, MS, MA, the Mental Game Coach™, visit www.SportsPsychologyCoaching.com.

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Copyright © 2005-2008 Bill Cole, MS, MA. All rights reserved.


Bill Cole, MS, MA, a leading authority on sports psychology, peak performance, mental toughness and coaching, is founder and CEO of William B. Cole Consultants, a consulting firm that helps sports teams and individuals achieve more success. He is also the Founder and President of the International Mental Game Coaching Association, an organization dedicated to advancing the research, development, professionalism and growth of mental game coaching worldwide. He is a multiple Hall-Of-Fame honoree as an athlete, coach and school alumnus, an award-winning scholar-athlete, published author of books and articles, and has coached at the highest levels of major-league pro sports and big-time college athletics.


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Myths about Peak Performance


Bill Cole, MS, MA
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