How Peak Performers Prepare for Success

Sorry to have to break it to you folks, but true peak performance is usually the result of many, many hours of study, preparation and practice. Dr Robert Schuller put it this way: “Spectacular achievement is always preceded by unspectacular preparation.” How true it is.

Many people shy away at this point. They don’t like to acknowledge that to achieve their ultimate goals they might have to work at it. In fact, achieving any significant goal will take many hours of preparation.

Studies of peak performance by K. Anders Ericcson have shown that it takes about 10 000 hours of study, practice, and preparation to become an expert. This has now been shown across multiple fields of performance. My mentor Frank Farrelly, a world-famous therapist once replied when I asked him how to get there faster, “The first 10 000 interviews are the hardest!” Now years later with the benefit of well over 10 000 coaching, counselling and consulting hours behind me I realise how true his words were.

Most of the peak performers I have met succeeded because they persisted where others with superior ability gave up. They kept on practicing and learning and applying their skills, typically putting in much more practice time than anyone else, and their efforts ultimately paid off.

Famous basketball player Larry Bird was renowned for getting to the court early and staying back late after the game to practice. This was the same guy they said “can’t shoot can’t jump.” He didn’t get to be able to shoot and jump so well and prove them all wrong without a great deal of practice.

When you practice it is essential to do so in a way that will produce maximum results – i.e. always practice with the “game” in mind, whether that “game” is a business meeting, a sales presentation, a speech, a sporting event, a musical performance, or some other performance situation. In all of these areas you’ll need to learn new and better ways to get the results you want. Doing the same things that aren’t working won’t cut it.

As far as possible, practice should simulate the conditions you will face in the “game”.

Michael Jordan, arguably the best basketball player who ever lived, was renowned for training with the same intensity with which he played the game, something which was a surprise to many who hit the training court with him. However, he knew that unless the intensity was dialed up during training sessions he would be no more able to cope with the intensity of game situations following training than before them.

There is a process called state-dependent learning (Ernest Rossi) which says that the emotional state you learn something in becomes connected to what you have learned, the location you learned it in, and anything else that is present at the time. This is why if you can practice the skill in the place where you are going to perform you will likely do better. It isn’t always essential to actually go there physically however because you can go there in your mind. Many Olympic champions do this extensively. If it works for them, it can work for you too.

On the other side, I’ve seen athletes and business achievers who made it to the top with a lot of effort and hard work but when they arrived at the big time they became over-awed by all the hype and spectacle and failed to star. This is why it is important not just to do the work in physical preparation, but also prepare yourself for success mentally and emotionally.

You must get yourself familiar with – and comfortable in – the environment within which you wish to achieve, especially if that environment is currently way outside your comfort zone. The way to do this is with mental / emotional practice – imagine yourself succeeding and allow yourself to feel the positive feelings which will come with your success.

Researchers have found mental practice to be every bit as effective as physical practice, and combining physical practice and mental practice brings even better results. Studies have even shown that muscle strength can be increased using mental practice alone, with a 35% increase reported in one study – just from imagining working out! (Ranganathan, Siemionow, Liu, Sahgal, & Yue, 2004:

It’s been said that your subconscious mind can’t tell the difference between something you vividly imagine and something you actually do (Maxwell Maltz). These studies show that the results of mental practice don’t just translate into your beliefs, they also translate into real physical differences in your muscular system! We can infer that the same process might work with whatever type of “muscles” and skills you would like to develop.

Whether you do so physically or mentally or a combination of both, the right practice and preparation will take you where you want to go.

So start right now and imagine yourself doing well. It isn’t even essential to be able to get a mental image in order for this to work, just get a sense of how it will feel when you achieve your goal. Set up a routine and do this consistently until the result is programmed into your subconscious mind.

When you are willing to practice and prepare consistently you will join the ranks of the high achievers and you can look forward to enjoying the success that is rightly yours.

Here’s some guidelines to accelerate your progress:

  1. Make every training session count.
  2. Where possible study, prepare or train in the place where you want to produce the result
  3. Multiply your practice opportunities to compress time.
  4. Be prepared to do that little bit extra. Remember successful people do the things that unsuccessful people don’t do, or won’t do; they get ahead in the time that others waste.
  5. To accelerate your progress, combine your practice with techniques from the new field of Energy Psychology. This emerging field is producing results that are exciting experts all over the world. For an overview of some of the most popular of the EP techniques see:

When you are willing to practice and prepare consistently you will join the ranks of the high achievers and you can look forward to enjoying the success that is rightly yours.

Related Quotes:

“A journey of a thousand miles starts from beneath one’s feet.” – Lao Tzu

“Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety nine percent perspiration.” – Thomas Edison

“You get sick of training, but that’s the time you stick to it. That’s when one runner proves himself better than the others. Anyone can do well when he’s enthusiastic. Its when you stick to it that you show you’re the superior man. Speed is a gift but endurance is an achievement.” – Herb Elliott, Olympic gold-medal winning runner.

“The greatest composers did not set to work because they were inspired, but became inspired because they were working. Beethoven, Wagner, Bach and Mozart settled down day after day to the job at hand with as much regularity as an accountant settling down each day to their figures. They didn’t waste time waiting for inspiration.” – Ernest Newan