How to Be at Your Best More of the Time
Do you consistently bring your “A-Game” – your best self – to everything you do?
That’s something I strive for, but the truth is I often fall short.
For me, a more realistic goal is to find ways to operate at my best more of the time. As they say, it’s about “progress, not perfection”.
The question is how do you get and stay in that “best self” zone?
You Get What You Measure
One of the sayings that got drummed into my mind back in the day is “you get what you measure”. While that was in the context of running the business, it also holds true for so much of life.
Now, I was the first one to say, “wait a minute – some of the most precious things in life can’t be measured, like love, freedom and peace.” And there will always be a part of me that rails against measuring everything.
However, I’ve found it is true that measuring progress is essential to knowing where you stand, feeling good about how far you’ve come, and staying focused on what’s important.
In this case, bringing your best self to work – and the world.
When It’s Hard to Measure
When it comes to measurement, it would be easy if we were machines. After all, machines are designed to operate at a certain speed and within certain tolerances, so optimal performance is measurable.
But we humans are different. It’s more subjective. The tasks we’re capable of change over time because we learn and grow. The expectations of us change too as we gain experience and expertise. So, delivering our best can look and feel different at different times in our lives.
Layered on top of that, it’s people – others as well as ourselves – who are doing the assessing. With all our differences in perception, it’s even less straightforward.
So, how do you know when you’re in your best zone? How can you keep track of how you’re doing?
Measure What’s in Your Control
I believe that peak performance and being at your best is a very personal measure. For some of us, it’s good enough to just know it when we see or feel it. Like the US Supreme Court’s ruling on pornography: “I know it when I see it.”
But to make it more repeatable and more likely that you’ll spend more time in that optimal “best self” zone, it’s useful to have a way to measure and track, even if it’s qualitative.
To get an accurate measure, you’ll want to come up with the metrics that make sense for you and then a tracking system to record them.
The key thing about the metrics is to choose things that you can control.
Put another way, if you require bright sunshine to be at your best and you live in London, then you’re going to have a hard time with your performance!
One way to get at your own set of metrics is to start by thinking of what you’re like at your worst. You can use that to generate your list of what to keep an eye on to stay in your best self zone.
For me, my worst self is:
- Morose – getting down on myself, letting that color everything else, seeing the glass as pretty nearly empty
- Grumpy – snapping at people who are trying to make helpful suggestions, being disagreeable and hard to console
- Fearful – having my “what if” factory on overload, allowing that to stop me from taking action, being anxious and worried, seeing multiple worst case scenarios and imagining my way through each of them
- Indecisive – stuck in analysis paralysis
- Procrastinating – not getting things done
Then, it’s pretty easy to look at the flipside of that. For example, I need to monitor the extent to which I am:
- Being compassionate with myself, bouncing back from setbacks, and looking for ways to move forward
- Treating others with kindness and gratitude
- Being fearless and unstoppable
- Making decisions and moving on
- Taking action
Or, you could look at some broader universal categories and identify your own specific metrics within each. Here’s an example that works for me:
- Mindset: Am I being fearless? Positive? Energized? Am I coming from a place of abundance? Have I been compassionate with myself and others?
- Social interactions: How have I treated people and built relationships? How have I communicated – am I listening closely and speaking confidently? Who have I empowered? What have I shared? How have I collaborated?
- Priorities: Have I set the right priorities? Have I met them? Have I remained focused on what matters most?
- Results: Was I clear on the definition of success and how to measure it? Did I set realistic targets? Did I deliver what I agreed? Have I persisted?
- Resilience: Did I bounce back from setbacks?
As for tracking systems, you could create a spreadsheet, use a journal or put it into Evernote and go through these categories at the end of each day.
If you ask yourself “to what extent have I [insert metric]…”, then you can rate yourself on a scale of 1 (lowest) to 10 (highest) and enter numbers into the spreadsheet.
If you ask open ended questions like “who have I empowered?”, then it lends itself to a text answer that may be easier in a journal format.
Either way works. Just choose one that’s most natural for you.
While we’re talking about this as a way to enable you to operate at your best more of the time, renowned CEO Coach Marshall Goldsmith’s research shows that tracking your answers to these types of questions is likely to increase your happiness too. In particular, he recommends 6 questions to ask yourself and track every day.
A Challenge For You
What do you need to measure in order to bring your best self to work more of the time?
Leave a comment and let me know.
For more actionable tips and tools for being your best, most productive self, check out Ron Friedman’s Peak Work Performance Summit which runs through Thursday April 27th.
The Peak Work Performance Summit is a FREE online conference featuring over 40 New York Times bestselling authors in the fields of health, happiness, and productivity.