A champion Olympic diver fails to execute on the same dive that won her a medal during the previous games. An accomplished trumpeter who’s performed on stage alongside some of the world’s most notable musicians freezes up during an audition. A senior Wall Street broker constantly chastises himself at work, convinced he’s not really good enough for the senior position he’s earned.
Peak performance psychologist Dr. Don Greene has spent his career guiding and coaching people through high-pressure, trying moments just like these. And in his work, he’s discovered that when the human body is under pressure, it tends to react in a relatively predictable manner, no matter what the stressor is. So despite facing very different situations above, the people in these scenarios will react in a similar way physiologically, mentally, and emotionally.
Dr. Greene has found that the same causes are often the root of performance stress in everyone from Olympic athletes, professional symphony musicians, SWAT teams, to everyday professionals. And he says that one of the first steps in helping anyone experiencing moments like these overcome their anxieties is to identify their optimal performance energy level.
We spoke with Dr. Greene to learn more about how to find your Optimal Performance Energy Level.
What’s an Optimal Performance Energy Level and why is it important?
Identifying your specific Optimal Energy, the level at which you perform your best, is the first step toward having more frequent optimal performances. Your Optimal Energy is a combination of the physical and mental energy you experience when you are doing really well. Whether you are at work, playing sports, or taking an important test, there is an energy level (on a scale from 1- 100), where you perform your best.
How can someone identify their own Optimal Performance Energy Level?
Think of the times when you were really “on”, when you were in the groove, or in the zone. What did you feel like physically? Were you relatively calm or was your heart rate elevated? Were you more mentally relaxed or excited? If you combine what you experience physically and mentally when you are at your best, what would your number be? If you feel relatively relaxed when you are doing your best, your number would be less than 50. If you do well when you feel more up, it will be higher than 50.
What’s are the next steps for someone once they’ve calculated their Optimal Performance Energy Level?
Your next step after identifying your specific Optimal Energy number is to figure out what your energy level normally is right before you perform. Is it lower or higher than your Optimal Energy? Do you need to bring it up to your optimal level or bring it down in order to do your best?
The third step is to get your energy to your optimal level before you start. If you need to raise your energy, you can get your heart rate up (take a few flights of stairs) or think about the consequences involved in not doing your best. If you need to lower your energy, you can do slow deep breathing, or tighten and relax your muscles from head to toe, or do a brief meditation. My recommendation is to learn how to Center Down to lower your energy and then Center Up to raise it right before you perform.
How can someone learn more about the Centering technique?
There are many levels of Centering. I outline these in much greater detail in my book Fight Your Fear and Win. I also have a master class coming up this spring titled ‘Performance Mastery’ that goes into this in much more detail. You can find information about our products and courses on our website at www.PeakPerformanceTrainingSchool.com.