Since I coach so many individuals and teams on performance, a common misconception is that optimal state and optimism are the same. They are not the same. Now, it might mean that part of an optimal state would include optimism, but not for every “performance”.
Optimism can be beneficial when dealing with adversity; however, when looking toward the future and goal attainment, there has to be a level reality check. This is not playing devil’s advocate, but a certain awareness of what the present reality is and what it would take to move toward a future outcome and succeed. Just being optimistic could cloud over the work that is needed to achieve the goal. Now, if your attitude toward working hard is one of optimism, then great, but most have no clue of the constant dedication required toward improvement that is needed. Being too optimistic can lead to denial and entitlement.
Having true belief is different than being optimistic. Some use optimism as a crutch that whatever happens, happens – just have a good attitude about it. The issue is to be able to debrief and evaluate what is causing a result. Some don’t get the result they intended and just think, “Oh well, it will get better.” This is not a performance strategy. This is when optimism clouds the performance state.
“A common misconception is that optimal state and optimism are the same”
What your optimal state is will be determined by the situation. Your “state” encompasses your mental, emotional, and physical state that makes up your performance state. Your mental state is affected by what you are thinking, your focus, decision making, ability to process the environment, and being clear headed, among other things. Your emotional state is both how you react to a situation, the intensity of emotions felt, how long the emotions stay with you, and if you can shift to a more resourceful emotion. You could call this emotional management. Ask yourself, what emotional state do I want to be in to give me the best opportunity for success in this next situation? When I get negatively triggered, how can I get back to a more neutral state?
Finally, there is a physical state that contributes to performance. This revolves around energy. What energy are you bringing to the performance? Are you tired, just want to get through the next meeting? Your energy is related to your emotional state, but it is also affected by your health. Taking care of your health and getting enough quality sleep, eating nutritious foods, staying hydrated throughout the day, and taking recovery breaks throughout the day will help you maintain a high energy level to be able to take on the next important task.
The ultimate goal is to align your mental, emotional, and physical together to match the intention of the present performance.
Begin by asking-
- What is the most important thing I need to focus on right now?
- What is the most resourceful emotion I need to be right now?
- What level of energy do I need to bring to this moment?
These are just the starting questions to begin the process of finding your optimal performance state. Most likely you have been in this state before, so you can access that past event to help you make the necessary shift. Knowing what to do is the first step, and now you have to execute it during the moment. Understanding and maintaining the optimal performance state are two different skills. Life throws at us distractions, challenges, and stresses. Can you maintain your “state”? If you are negatively triggered and it gets you out of state, you will have to recover quickly.
The best ways to recover are:
- Take a smooth, rhythmic breath- inhale to the count of three, exhale at the count of three.
- Step back- this could mean literally stepping away from the present situation or taking a moment to recalibrate what is going on.
- Refocus on the intention for the next block of time. Get clear on what you want to accomplish.
- Evoke the optimal state for that intention.
As you become more aware of the state you want to be in, you will perform better. Being optimistic is not necessarily the best attitude for all performances. Your state will determine your behavior, which will determine your results. When you are not in an optimal state, it is important to recover and reboot your performance state.