The Dance of Mind: The Key to Superior Performance
Success. To each of us it means something different, but we all want it. We want more out of life; more money, more success and more happiness. We want to find the partner of our dreams, transform our relationships and live surrounded by love. We want to be the best we can be, unleash our potential for greatness and live in joy and peace. We want to excel, prosper and live life to the fullest.
In the quest for health, wealth and happiness, there seem to be a few obstacles. Some of us make it and enjoy abundance, love and success... while others don't. What's the deal? What is it that causes one to produce mediocre results while another achieves massive success? What is it that lies behind excellence? What is the key to making it? Is it due to luck and chance? Being born into the right family? Having the right genes? The economy?
If you don't subscribe to the belief that success is the result of chance, it seems evident that the results you produce in life arise from your behaviour: if you make the right decisions and do the right things, you get the results you want. Logically we can then deduce that if you want the right results, all you have to do is do the right things.
Many approaches to coaching and mentoring rely on this principle. A mentor is someone who has done what you have done and can tell you what to do to achieve the same. In the past, coaching in businesses was performance-based, meaning that organizations tried to squeeze more performance out of employees by getting them to engage in the right behaviours. In essence, according to this approach, to produce superior results, people simply need to be told what to do. Hopefully they will be able to do what they are told and with a bit of luck they actually will do what they have been told to do.
The results with such approaches are often mediocre. If someone told you exactly what to do to make a million dollars, how easy do you think it would be to make it? It's not always easy to make the right choices and engage in the right behaviours. How often has it occurred that you knew exactly what to do but you didn't do it? How often do you know exactly what not to do, but you do it anyway? We want to boost our income, but we put important things off until later and enjoy the temporary relief of watching TV. We want to lose weight but we just can't resist the chocolate cake. And I am sure you have countless personal examples you can add.
It's common knowledge that it's tough to change behaviour. Ever tried to kick a habit or change your emotions? It's hard because emotions and behaviour don't just come out of nowhere. They are the effect of some cause. To change emotions and behaviour you have to get to the source.
But what is that source? What is it that lies behind behaviour? What lies behind superior performance and success? What makes the difference between star performers and the rest?
The answer is in the mind. Performance is the behavioural manifestation of aspects of cognitive functioning. Your behaviour and the quality of your life are a result of what's going on in your mind, the factors underlying behaviour: drives, thinking, attitudes, emotions, values, beliefs, assumptions and perceptions.
If you plant a tree and are not happy with the fruit it is producing, do you climb up the tree to see what's going on and try to change the fruit, or do you go down to the roots? Most of us spend our lives climbing up the tree, pulling on the fruit, yelling at it and wondering why nothing changes. This is not exactly a strategy for success.
Our thoughts, values, perceptions, beliefs and drives lead to emotions and behaviours. It is what is behind the scenes, those aspects of who we are that are out of awareness, that lead to feelings and actions. For you to experience any emotion or produce any behaviour, what is going on behind the scenes must be perfectly aligned with that result. Take a moment to imagine what was going on in the back of Bill Gates' mind that enabled him to produce one of the largest and most influential companies in the world? What beliefs, assumptions, values and perceptions were hiding in the background? What mindset and attitude were driving him? What emotions did he experience most that led him to do what he did? Now compare that to the inner world of Mother Theresa. What was in the back of her mind that led her to accomplish what she did? These are two very different people with different minds who produced very different results. If the difference is not in the mind, where is it?
The mind is a system, each aspect influencing the others. Change your thoughts and you change your emotions. Change your values, beliefs and perceptions and your feelings and behaviours change. Alter just one aspect of the system and the entire system changes; different beliefs, thoughts, perceptions and drives lead to different emotions and behaviours. Different behaviours lead to different results.
The key to superior performance is in the mind, but what is the mind? Although it sounds like a "thing," the word "mind" really refers to a dynamic process of thinking, experiencing and feeling. The mind is never static. It is a constant flow of thoughts, images, words, ideas, perceptions and emotions. Mind is an unending dance of information. The question is, is it an expertly choreographed dance in which the dancers move in perfect harmony, or is it a mess of utter chaos and disorder?
The secret to producing results is to have the right things in your mind so you produce the behaviours and results you want effortlessly. Since performance is the behavioural manifestation of a person's drives, values, beliefs, mindset, and emotions, by optimizing and aligning elements of cognitive functioning, we can program our mind for desired behaviour and results. When what's in the mind is optimized and aligned, desired behaviours and results come naturally.
Trying to change behaviours and emotions without determining what is causing them is like trying to fill a leaky bucket. You can put in all the effort you want, but you won't accomplish much until you get to the root of the problem.
When we know what behaviours or results we want to produce, we can backtrack. If you have a certain objective, we can ask: What beliefs would you need to have to produce that result? What drives and intentions would you need? What attitude or mindset would enable you to produce that behaviour? What would you need to value or hold as important to attain that objective? Since mind is in a state of constant flux, it's easy to make changes to the dance of information. The first step is to take on your role as choreographer.
In addition to backtracking, when we take someone who is producing extraordinary results in a certain domain we can find out what is going on in their mind. Through a process called modelling we can determine their beliefs, values and drives. We can find what perceptual filters they are using and what mental strategies are playing out behind the scenes. We can literally tease out the mental structure behind excellence. I recently was hired by a pharmaceutical company to find out what was going on in the mind of one of their top managers, an individual who has radically transformed the company in one year, so it could be taught to the rest of the senior managers across the organization. What emerged was an explicit model of leadership and organizational transformation that can be taught and learned. When you find out what is going on behind the scenes in someone's mind, you can put it in yours or into the minds of your employees.
More and more, companies are realizing that performance-based coaching is not producing the desired results. The newest approaches to coaching facilitate the development of the mindset, attitudes, beliefs and practices for superior results and performance. More and more individuals are realizing that if they want to live the lives they want, they need to change their minds, literally.
What have you got in your mind?