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Career Success

8 Tips on Adopting a High-Performance Mindset

Written by Pat Sullivan
Pat Sullivan is a speaker and the author of two books "Attitude-The Cornerstone of Leadership" and "Team-Building: From the Bench to the Boardroom"
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The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a performance mindset as “the execution of an action.”

On the other hand, it defines a high-performance mindset as “better, faster, more efficient than others” and “producing results much higher than expected.”

A high-performance mindset is necessary for achieving peak performance and is something that most athletes try to achieve. Under each concept are examples from the world of athletics that can be applied to you as well.

Let’s take a look at the eight qualities you can do to achieve a high-performance mindset.

How to Adopt a High-Performance Mindset?

People with a high-performance mindset possess eight characteristics. These are developed through the years as these are not something people are born with.

They are achieved through hard work, effort, and consistency.

1. Setting Goals

People with high-performance mindsets create goals that are clear, specific, and realistic. [1]

When Hubie Brown took the head coaching position for the Atlanta Hawks NBA team, he knew he was in for a tough year. He had just coached the Kentucky Colonels to the championship of the American Basketball Association (ABA). Of the two leagues, the NBA had many more talented players than the ABA.

Hubie’s problem was that his Kentucky team was considerably more talented than his new Atlanta team. He knew that his Atlanta team would have difficulty winning in the tougher NBA.

He decided to see how many games Atlanta could lose under 10 points. This number was a clear, specific, and realistic goal. He knew they were not capable of winning, but if they could keep the games close, they would be showing the other, much more talented NBA teams just how competitive they were.


This initial attitude eventually led to 50-win seasons and the NBA playoffs.

2. Effort and Consistency

Effort alone is not enough. To develop a high-performance mindset, your effort must be consistent.

Bishop Kaffer, principal at Providence High School, led the school from near bankruptcy to solvency. He annually visited the homes of every freshman and every transfer who entered Providence. His consistent work ethic had him often working into the early morning hours at his desk and even attending a 7 am mass.

Dr. Orr, President of the University of St. Francis saved the institution from closure. He accomplished this in three ways.

  • First, he joined numerous community organizations. Prior presidents had little participation in community affairs, and therefore St. Francis had little local interest. Dr. Orr changed all that and made St. Francis an integral part of our community.
  • Second, he changed the enrollment from 500 full-time students to 4,000 students. St. Francis was asked to start a program where nurses with an RN degree from a nursing school could earn a BS degree by taking part-time hours while still working.
  • Third, he brought that St. Francis program into 19 states nationwide with over 3,000 part-time students.

High-performance men and women consistently bring great effort and energy to their work. [2]

3. The 5 P’s

“Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance” – James Baker, President George H. W. Bush’s former Chief of Staff

Gordie Gillespie was an extraordinary coach in football, basketball, and baseball. He was named the Baseball Coach of the Century in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics and was inducted into 18 Halls of Fame.

His practices were very organized and intense. One of his beliefs was “playing as you practice.” It was through his practices, with the emphasis on repetition, that he gave his players a high-performance mindset. He made his players believe that they were better than they thought they were!


Ed Spiezio, who played for Gordie, had a ten-year career in the Major Leagues. Ed devised an innovative way to practice batting. Whenever a cover was knocked off the ball in practices, Ed would take the cover, put socks in it, giving it the size of a baseball, then sew it back up.

His father and kids from the neighborhood would take those sock balls and pitch them to Ed from only 20 feet away. Through that practice, he became an outstanding hitter, especially against fastball pitchers. He carried this practice with his son, Scott, who played on two Major League World Series championship teams.

High-performance people know the value of the 5 P’s and practice them throughout their working years.[3]

4. Focus

A high school teacher once explained that to be focused, you can use a pen and summarize a paragraph or two in your own words when reading books. This method leads to laser-like focus while reading because it forces you to concentrate on the material.

When tested for studying for exams, you’ll realize that it doesn’t require much to reread the book. Instead, the summaries and interpretations will be enough.

In coaching, you will always look for concepts that can lead to laser-like focus for your players. You can use two techniques; one for mental focus and another for free throw shooting.


Saying the Expression “Give Me Your Eyes”

You only have seconds at time-outs during basketball games to get your points across. The idea is that when the coach has the players’ eyes, they very well may have the players’ brains.

Middle Ring Theory

When shooting free throws, most players look only at the rim. You can use the “Middle Ring Theory.” There are 7 ringlets on the rim that the net goes through. One of them is in the middle of the rim. The ball is 9 inches in diameter, and the rim is 18 inches in diameter. By focusing on the middle ring, the shooter can be slightly off to the right or left and still make the basket.

High-performance people eliminate distractions and give laser-like focus to the task at hand.[4]

5. Caring and Listening

People with a high-performance mindset give others more time, attention, and caring. They understand and execute that insightful maxim from John Maxwell that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

One of the best ways those with a high-performance mindset show they care is by developing the ability to listen. Listening is respect.

A survey of CEOs asked them how they spent their time. The results were:

how CEOs spend their time
    • 10% – Writing
    • 15% – Reading
    • 30% – Speaking
    • 45% – Listening

    Almost half their time was spent listening.

    An interesting take on listening is that it controls the conversation. Very few of us give that kind of credence to listening, but high-performance people do.


    In a room of 1,000 people, when talking to you, they listen so aggressively that they make you think you are the only person in the room!

    High-performance people show they care by listening.

    6. Failure Quotient (FQ)

    Most accomplishments have failure in their background. High-performance people work their way through failure. They turn obstacles into opportunities, and they do so because they have developed strong FQ.[5]

    • Thomas Edison failed in 10,000 experiments until he founded electricity.
    • Abraham Lincoln lost most of his elections until he was elected president of the United States.
    • Winston Churchill flunked 6th grade, and his teacher wrote that he was “dumb and hopeless.”
    • Mother Teresa often questioned her faith.

    High-performance people conquer setbacks because of their strong FQs.

    7. Think Differently – Courage

    High-performance people are not afraid to think differently and have the courage to follow through on their instincts.

    The gymnasium at Providence High School was not only exceptionally small but also had a tile floor! The gym was needed badly, so a position paper was written to start a fundraiser.

    Sixteen wealthy people from the community were gathered by Bishop Kaffer to hear the story of why the gym is important for Providence’s future. Unfortunately, no one voted for the gym, and Bishop Kaffer was very disappointed. However, he decided that he would build the gym, despite the financial times.


    He traded unions and got them to volunteer to build the gym. The ironworkers, pipe fitters, carpenters, plumbers, etc., all got behind the project. Everyone worked hand-in-hand with the tradesmen to make the gym a reality.

    Bishop Kaffer thought differently and, with courage, pursued the completion of the gym. He surely has a high-performance mindset.

    8. Have Fun and Humor

    Humor dissipates pressure.

    Most high-performance leaders are demanding. If the leader does not demand, nothing will get accomplished. However, the best leaders insert fun and humor into the workplace.

    Coaches must demand that their players work hard mentally and physically every night in practice. One of the most demanding coaches in our country’s history was the great Green Bay Packers coach, Vince Lombardi. His two players, Paul Hornung and Max McGee were always testing his rules. One night they both missed curfew.

    In front of the entire team, Lombardi gave them a substantial fine for the missed curfew. He then said if they missed again, he would give them an exorbitant fine. He thought for a minute after presenting the new fine, then told them, “if you could think of a place to go for that kind of money, take me with you!”

    The University of St. Francis football team initially practiced at a park district field that was right next to a graveyard. In one practice, the offensive team was running plays for timing purposes with no defense.

    The coach was Gordie Gillespie, a National Football Hall of Fame inductee. The players completely failed to run a certain play correctly and Gordie said nothing. They ran it incorrectly a second time with still no response from the Coach.


    The third failure sent Gordie to the fence that separated the field from the graves. The baffled players stood and watched Gordie go the fence, face the graveyard, and yell to the graves, “hey, fellas, make room for Gordie. These guys are killing me!”

    High-performance people do use humor to dissipate pressure.[6]

    8 Tips on Adopting a High-Performance Mindset

    Tips on Achieveing a High-performance Mindset

    5 Actions
    8 Tips on Adopting a High-Performance Mindset
    Set goals that are clear, specific, and realistic. Be consistent, as effort will not be enough if you keep doing things differently.
    8 Tips on Adopting a High-Performance Mindset
    Proper preparation prevents poor performance, or in short, keep practicing!
    8 Tips on Adopting a High-Performance Mindset
    Focus and do anything and everything to keep your mental awareness at top levels.
    8 Tips on Adopting a High-Performance Mindset
    Failure Quotient (FQ) can only be called a failure if you give up. Otherwise, they’re called experience.
    8 Tips on Adopting a High-Performance Mindset
    Think differently and outside the box even when you’re alone and have the courage to follow through!

    Final Thoughts

    To have a high-performance mindset, you have to perform higher than you already know. One can have all the gifts and resources in life. But only with making the effort, consistency, persistency, courage, and humor as part of your everyday life, can one reach that higher level of performance.

    In achieving peak performance, you have to take it one step at a time. The best mindset training starts by setting a goal. Then consistently following through and making every effort to complete a project. Mastering these values doesn’t have to happen overnight.

    Soon, you’ll see yourself inspiring others as you show how a high-performance mindset separates losers from winners. Then at the end of the day, no matter what happens, don’t forget to laugh and smile.

    Featured photo credit: John Aranoh via unsplash.com


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