Sometimes the world does align to support your performance and you get a personal best result. But that's probably not what came to mind first. Research shows that we usually attribute our best performances to our own skills, strengths and effort. We believe that we have more influence over our outcomes than is probably the case. What came to mind first was probably your own skill, attitude or effort.
Before you rush in to correct this error, consider its usefulness. Whether or not it is true that our efforts determine our results, it is a useful belief that motivates us to change the only things we can change: the factors within our own control. To get a personal best, we believe that we need to be our personal best.
We use a different version of this logic when we are managing the performance of others. We attribute much of their success to circumstances outside their control and blame their less-than-stellar performance on their lack of skills or knowledge or effort. This, too, is useful. As managers or coaches, it motivates us to create the conditions and motivation to bring out the best in our people.
There are three essential steps in bringing out the best in ourselves or others:
- Be clear about what we want. The desired result provides a yardstick for measuring achievement. Without it, we do not know if we've hit a best performance.
- Create congruence. Set up external and internal conditions to support the same focus.
- Identify a leverage point. Micromanaging of yourself or others is exhausting. Find just one change to make that will have a disproportionate influence on the attitudes and efforts necessary to a best performance.
At its best, NLP (neurolinguistic programming) is a set of techniques for observing the alignment of internal and external conditions that supports a personal best. It provides processes for defining desired results, creating congruence, and testing for leverage points that will allow one to make the biggest change with the smallest effort. This means, in part, that NLP observes the mind/body/brain system when it achieves its best results, and reverse engineers the process to make it replicable more often.
Your personal best depends on the way that your attitudes and actions line up with your circumstances. Some of that is out of your control. But working with your best self to make your best choices makes your personal best more likely in every situation.