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Published on December 23, 2020

How to Be a High Performer and Achieve Excellence

How to Be a High Performer and Achieve Excellence

Even if the idea of starting your day with a bout of exercise at 5:00 am doesn’t appeal to you, you can still achieve excellence and become a high performer in all aspects of your life. It does, however, require investing time in reviewing and regularly sharpening mental skills using different combinations of awareness exercises, growth exercises, and self-monitoring.

To be a high performer, you don’t need to exercise all of these following strategies together or simultaneously. Simply committing to a few of them in measured doses, over time, will have you well on the pathway to achieving excellence in whatever areas of life you wish to experience greater rewards and satisfaction.

1. Develop Plans

Becoming a high performer and achieving excellence doesn’t happen by accident. It’s planned and deliberate. Plans also contain more proactive strategies than reactive ones.

There is no shortage of research documenting the benefits of writing down plans and goals and that doing so increases the likelihood of you achieving what it is you set out to do, experience, and be[1].

There are at least two levels of additional processing occurring in your brain which foster the likelihood of achieving goals you write down:

  • External storage: By writing out your plans, you now have an external place which also holds this information. You don’t commit further energy to needing to remember your plans; you’ve created an external reference point you can go back to.
  • Encoding: A part of your brain called the hippocampus plays an important role in filtering information funnels and deciding what gets transferred to long-term memory. Your amygdala works in tandem with your hippocampus to modulate memory consolidation. When information has certain emotional frequencies attached, this helps to consolidate that information into long-term memory.

With this knowledge in mind, you can maximize your chances of becoming a high performer by strategically bringing life to your plans.

Don’t just let your plans consist of spoke diagrams and Gantt charts. Use an array of pictures, images, stories, animations and whatever other materials you can find that ignite your emotional resonation to action steps of your plan(s).

As you develop, write and map your plans, know they can also change. Be open to this and make space for this. Review and visit your plans often.

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Visit three to five key points each day that invite you to take specific steps and actions. Deliberately set time aside to routinely do this.

If you are finding you are developing plans but not following through with them, consider working with a coach to recalibrate them. There is likely misalignment with your goals and true values and priorities.

2. Regulate Your Emotions and Prepare for Discomfort

Any high performer is born with the capacity to feel and experience a wide spectrum of emotions.

There is a key separator between high performers who consistently manage to operate from a state of flow —even in the most stressful of circumstances—and those who crumble. High performers respect their experiences of negative emotions. They exercise considered and deliberate efforts to learn their unique response and reactionary patterns.

They don’t make excuses to mask or cover up negative emotional responses and reactions. They don’t repress them but cleverly compartmentalize and contain their experiences and commit to coming back to process them later.

Undertaking a few sessions with a therapist to learn and practice acceptance and commitment therapy techniques (ACT) can be widely useful[2]. You can learn to alleviate the intensity, sting, and duration of certain emotions.

Having techniques that teach you to predict, embrace, and process the mental and emotional impact of challenging relationships and situations will give you a winning edge. Another benefit of learning such skills is feeling you are living more fully and authentically, despite challenges. A new level of confidence develops as you come to learn and recognize that despite what happens, you will always be ok.

3. Self-Monitor and Live More Consciously

In order to become a high performer, you first need to know or set your benchmark as a starting reference point. Monitoring activities therefore must constitute part of your plans and goals. Determining and mapping starting points is essential. Simple as it seems, it must be done with caution, particularly in situations involving high pressure and mental strain.

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A study[3] examining the effectiveness of digital self-monitoring applications demonstrated numerous benefits, but also some very clear negative impacts. Across numerous studies assessing 1768 participants’ experiences with using digital applications that help to promote health and wellbeing, reported benefits included:

  • Highlighting of problem behaviors
  • Increasing individual accountability
  • Fosters more reflection and attention to activities that bring about positive change
  • Increase awareness and consciousness of the state of health and wellness
  • Concrete information and feedback give greater control to participants to make helpful and informed decisions

Some noteworthy drawbacks included:

  • Self-monitoring exercises being tedious and boring
  • Monitoring activities provoking health disorders, unhealthy behavioral patterns and thinking (e.g. excessive calorie counting, focusing on weight and body mass, as opposed to recognizing positive mental health changes).

If you are also in the pre-contemplation stage of behavior change[4], then self-monitoring can have a negative effect. If you are not willing or open to change, self-monitoring and goal setting in themselves are completely pointless activities.

Stages of Change

     

    4. Master Habits and Behavior Change

    To be a high performer means you need to engage in behaviors that align with excellence. Like the rest of us, you can probably come up with at least ten behaviors and choice patterns that are not high-performance-yielding behaviors!

    Created by psychologist and researcher Dr. Albert Ellis, the A-B-C model of behavioral change[5] can help you explore how your unique beliefs and values drive your reactionary responses.

    With this stronger self-awareness and understanding, you can then test to see if you are open to challenging your belief system by considering other perspectives and interpretations of what happened. In doing so, you get to explore different responses as opposed to remaining vulnerable each time you are triggered by similar events or situations.

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    Applying this thought process—particularly toward situations and circumstances that trigger uncomfortable emotional reactions—will greatly help you to regain a sense of mental balance. You increase your ability to remain focused and still maintain momentum in activities that are a high priority for you.

    5. Apply Growth and Learning in Regular, Small Doses

    Research repeatedly shows that getting optimal sleep improves our memory retention[6]. If you were looking to improve your muscle tone by committing to a weights routine, your personal trainer wouldn’t recommend you exercise the same muscle groups every day. Nor would they recommend you look to increase your reps nor amount of weights you lift, at every subsequent workout.

    We are at our greatest point of power to change when we are present in the moment. Therefore, it helps to set goals to focus on experiencing growth and change in short spurts over shorter periods. Our brains are highly powerful at reverting us to what feels safe, comfortable, and easy. If you set goals that require long periods of discomfort and pain void of enough pleasure and emotional reward, you’re setting yourself up for a setback, if not failure and disappointment.

    Set goals that entail shorter chunks of effort interspersed with reflective rest periods. Then, go again. This approach also allows for other unexpected life events and important relationships to be preserved and receive the devoted attention they deserve to remain strong and healthy for the long-term.

    6. Commit to Personal Development

    To achieve excellence requires taking action. A high performer knows and prepares themselves for the fact that taking action that will result in change is likely to bring them pain and discomfort.

    Our brains primarily function to protect us, help us survive, solve problems, and bring us back to feeling safe, comfortable, and in balance. We, therefore, look to avoid painful and uncomfortable situations as much as we can. For example:

    • Asking for a pay rise because we fear rejection
    • Saying no to things we feel uncomfortable about and/or disagree with because they are misaligned with our core principles, beliefs, and ethics
    • Fear of dating again after we have survived a nasty relationship dissolution
    • Starting again when we have experienced significant failure
    • Having confronting conversations with friends, loved ones, or work colleagues

    You might have experienced some or all of these above, at different times. High performers take time to review their own unique paradigms, belief systems, and behavior patterns when events and situations like these arise. They take time to predict how they might experience their reactions and contributions.

    It’s far easier to read a book or sit through a course. Your keep your emotional and mental states safe in these situations. However, the knowledge you want has no true value unless you apply it.

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    Expect your attempts at practicing skills and experiencing a change to be messy and fragmented. Expect to feel negative emotions if your practice doesn’t prove effective. This is a necessary part of growth, especially when it comes to interpersonal skills, because we are dealing with relational skills where other people behave, think, and respond in ways we have no control over.

    7. Identify and Remove Distractions

    Becoming a high performer requires focus on achieving results. However, you must learn to identify two main things:

    • Whether or not some distractions are opportunities to experience healthy rest and reprieve
    • Whether or not we engage in distractions to avoid and delay experiencing something else

    Here’s where we need to exercise true honesty with ourselves. Where you choose to spend your time and energy speaks volumes about your priorities and what is truly important to you.

    Do you spend more time making sure others’ needs are met before your own? Do you chase perfection in place of getting things completed? Do you allow yourself to get lost in busywork activities as opposed to challenging tasks that would move you directly toward achieving your goals?

    High performers embrace responsibilities, selectively say no, and exercise confidence to accommodate what primarily works best with their timetable.

    Do you feel bad about suggesting another time to reconnect with a friend instead of immediately saying yes? Do you always accept nominations where you are required to lead, manage, and coordinate? Do you feel you say yes more often than you say no?

    If your answer to these three questions was yes, it’s time to take a hard look at your true priorities and values before setting goals to achieve excellence. All high performers know their pathway to excellence starts here.

    The Bottom Line

    By choosing to try out a few of the tips above, you, too, can become a high performer in any area of your life. Through focus and determination, you can set and achieve goals that will get you closer to a life you can enjoy living.

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    More on Achieving Success

    Featured photo credit: Charlotte Karlsen via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Dr. Malachi Thompson III

    High-Performance Consultant

    How To Overcome Laziness in 7 Steps What Is Mentally Tired? 11 Ways to Combat Brain Exhaustion 5 Proven Risk-Taking Tips To Take More Chances In Life How to Be a High Performer and Achieve Excellence How to Handle Rejection and Overcome the Fear of Being Rejected

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    Last Updated on June 4, 2021

    10 Famous Failures to Success Stories That Will Inspire You to Carry On

    10 Famous Failures to Success Stories That Will Inspire You to Carry On

    Failure occurs everyday, in school, jobs, housework, and within families. It is unavoidable, irritating and causes pessimism.

    While the thought of flinging your hands in the air and walking away is all too appealing, take a second to connect with the people who have been there and survived.

    Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently. — Henry Ford

    Here are 10 famous failures to success stories around the world that will inspire you to keep going and achieve greatness:

      1. J.K. Rowling

        During a Harvard commencement speech, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling outlined the importance and value of failure.[1]

        Why? Simply because she was once a failure too.

        A few short years after her graduation from college, her worst nightmares were realized. In her words,

        “I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless. The fears that my parents had had for me, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew.”

        Coming out of this failure stronger and more determined was the key to her success.

        2. Steve Jobs

          The now revolutionary Apple started off with two men in a garage. Years later we all know it as a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees.

          Yet, almost unbelievably, Steve Jobs was fired from the very company he began.

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          The dismissal made him realize that his passion for his work exceeded the disappointment of failure. Further ventures such as NeXT and Pixar eventually led Jobs back to the CEO position at AppleJobs said in 2005:

          “I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me.”

          Lost your job today? Keep kicking and you could be just like this guy!

          3. Bill Gates
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            Bill Gates was a Harvard dropout. He co-owned a business called Traf-O-Data, which was a true failure.[2]

            However, skill and a passion for computer programming turned this failure into the pioneer of famous software company Microsoft, and the then 31-year-old into the world’s youngest self-made billionaire.

            In his own words:

            “It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”

            This isn’t to say that dropping out of Harvard will make you into a billionaire, but maybe that shiny degree isn’t worth as much as the drive and passion to succeed.

            If you haven’t found your passion like Bill Gates, this will help you:

            How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up

            4. Albert Einstein

              The word ‘Einstein’ is associated with intelligence and synonymous with genius. Yet it is a famous fact that the pioneer of the theory of general relativity, Albert Einstein himself, could not speak fluently until the age of nine. His rebellious nature led to expulsion from school, and he was refused admittance to the Zurich Polytechnic School.

              His earlier setbacks did not stop him from winning the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921. After all, he believed that:

              “Success is failure in progress.”

              To this day, his research has influenced various aspects of life including culture, religion, art, and even late night TV.

              Just because you haven’t achieved anything great yet, doesn’t mean you can’t be an Einstein yourself.

              5. Abraham Lincoln

                Failing in business in 1831, suffering a nervous breakdown in 1836, defeated in his run for president in 1856, Abraham Lincoln was no stranger to rejection and failure. Rather than taking these signs as a motivation for surrender, he refused to stop trying his best.

                In this great man’s words:

                “My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.”

                Lincoln was elected in 1861 as the 16th President of the United States of America.

                The amount of rejection you receive is not a defining factor. Success is still within your reach.

                6. Michael Jordan

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                  “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

                  This quote by retired basketball legend Michael Jordan in a Nike advertisement speaks for itself.

                  It would be an easy misconception that Jordan’s basketball skills revolve around natural talent. In fact, in his earlier years,  basketball coaches had trouble looking past the fact that Jordan didn’t reach the minimum height. It was years of effort, practice, and failure that made the star we know today.

                  Michael Jordan’s success all came down to his Intrinsic Motivation, one of the most invincible types of motivation that drives people to succeed.

                  7. Steven Spielberg

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                    Regarded as one of the most influential filmmakers of all time, Steven Spielberg is a familiar household name. It is surprising to realize therefore that the genius behind Jaws and E.T. had poor grades in high school, getting him rejected from the University of Southern California three times.

                    While he was in college, he caught the eye of executives at Universal, who signed him as a television director in 1969. This meant that he would not finish his college degree for another 33 years.

                    Perseverance and acceptance of failure is the key to success, after all.

                    “Even though I get older, what I do never gets old, and that’s what I think keeps me hungry.”

                    Bad grades in high school aside, there is no questioning the genius involved.

                    To date, Spielberg has directed 51 films and has been awarded three Oscars.

                    8. Walt Disney

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                      Mickey Mouse creator Walt Disney dropped out of school at a young age in a failed attempt at joining the army.[3] One of his earlier ventures, Laugh-o-Gram Studios, went bankrupt due to his lack of ability to run a successful business. He was once fired from a Missouri newspaper for “not being creative enough.”

                      Yet today, The genius behind Disney studios is responsible for generations of childhood memories and dreams. From Snow White to Frozen, Disney will continue to entertain the world for generations to come.

                      The logic behind this is simple:

                      “We don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious… and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

                      9. Vincent Van Gogh

                        During his lifetime, Vincent Van Gogh suffered mental illness, failed relationships, and committed suicide at the age of 37.

                        He only ever sold one painting in his life, pinning him a failure as an artist. However that did not put a damper on his enthusiasm and passion for art.

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                        He would never know that years and years after his death he would become known as a key figure in the world of post-impressionism, and ultimately, one of the greatest artist that ever lived.

                        He would never know that he became a hot topic in art classes and his image was going to be used in TV, books and other forms of popular culture.

                        In the words of this great, but tragic man:

                        “If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.”

                        10. Stephen King

                        01-Stephen-King-Rags-to-Riches-Celebs-1

                          As a paranoid, troubled child, tormented by nightmares and raised in poverty, it is no surprise that Stephen King grew up to the title: “Master of Horror”.[4]

                          An addiction to drugs and alcohol were his mechanisms to cope with the unhappiness he felt with his life. The frustration he felt towards multiple rejections by publishers in combination with illicit substances caused him to mentally contemplate violence towards his own children.

                          These intense emotions were those that he focused onto his writing. And that’s why he said:

                          “We make up horros to help us cope with the real ones.”

                          Writing became his new coping mechanism, and this is how the master author we know today grew to success.

                          Fail More Often in Order to Succeed

                          Like Albert Einstein said, failure really is just success in progress. If you’d rather not to fail, you will probably never succeed.

                          Success comes from moments of frustrations when you’ll be most uncomfortable with. But after you’ve gone through all those bitter times, you’ll become stronger and you’ll get closer to success.

                          If you feel like a failure and think that you’ve failed all too many times, it’s not too late to change things up! Here’s how to turn your limitations into your opportunities:

                          Don’t be afraid to fail. In fact, start failing, and start failing often; that’s how you will succeed.

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                          Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

                          Reference

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