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The Paradox of High Performance

Who are you today and who do you want to become to make your ambition a reality? This question is about your identity and whether it is of your own choosing or has it been defined by others for you? In other words, is your heart¹ ‘really’ in what you do?

If you are ‘out of position’ you may still be capable of doing a good job, efficient, reliable and professional but are you able to fulfill your true potential, go beyond expectations and really start becoming who you ought to become? In other words, are you engaged?

We do well, when we do what we do well and stay away from what we do poorly. This applies to livelihood as much as it does to sport, in that finding your right ‘position’ is the difference between staying as you are or becoming who ought to become. But this takes ‘moral’ courage not physical courage, a higher and rarer foundation of conduct and ‘the’ virtue of five, in great leadership, that the most courageous army in the world at the time, the Japanese armed forces, lacked, costing them victory in the second world war.

High Performance Teams

I enjoyed many sports at various levels playing senior club rugby with Lansdowne for five years, provincial rugby with Leinster for two years and International rugby with Ireland on two tours to France and North America. Before playing at these levels, I was ‘out of position’ in the earlier days and played to a reasonable standard but had not found my place and filled it. I was not full-filled. When I did find it, I was lucky enough to be involved at the beginning of high performance rugby at senior club level and at International level when Jimmy Davidson took over as Irish coach from Mick Doyle in 1987.IMG_1674

high performanceArmed with a post graduate qualification in physical education from Loughborough College, Davidson also taught PE and sports psychology at Belfast’s Stranmillis College which made him a progressive and radical rugby coach, ahead of his time in high performance and brimful of ideas, particularly in the areas of conditioning, diet and strength training, so he did much to improve the athletic ability of Ireland’s top-level players.

I played with good teams and great teams at every level, with the exception of 1987 where I was fortunate to be part of a high performance team who set all sorts of new club records in points, tries and margin of victory against opponents. Of all the causes and conditions that impacted our results, I learnt that ‘tenseness’ was the arch enemy of superior performance.

I also learnt over time, that some things elude direct intention and can only happen as a side effect of intending something else. In some games this manifested itself if we did not go out to win, rather tried to give our best and ended up winning, compared to turning up to win and ending up losing, because that made us tense, rather than relaxed. At peak performance planning gave us confidence, confidence gave us power and power helped us relax, to the point where we were effortless in our play. Tenseness arose when there was an over emphasis on winning, as opposed to giving our best on the day. If we hyper intended to beat another team, as we did in one cup final, or individually outdo an opponent, we could get distracted momentarily and the result became the means, rather than the end.

In hindsight, we became tense when we aimed to ‘beat’, rather than relaxed when we tried to compete.

Tenseness distracted us to those we were competing with and away from concentrating on achieving personal and team performance, to maximize the result.

engineering career development leapBy becoming our own biggest competitor we don’t give away advantage to those we are competing with, as we remain focused on what to do for the sake of maximizing the result. Distraction can manifest itself in being overly concerned with how others are doing, watching, glancing over to  compare oneself to others on the team and measuring efforts for power and control, rather than self or team improvement, towards higher performance and successful outcomes.

High performance is attained and more importantly, maintained, when you compete with yourself, when you become your own biggest competitor, never self satisfied, always striving for growth. Depending on ones motivation, striving for personal best, can yield very high performance in achieving ones desired goal.

The Business Context

The question I ask business teams, leaders and athletes today, is not ‘what’ is high performance and how do you achieve it, but ‘where’ is high performance? Where does the capacity to perform at a very high level reside in a person or team and when discovered, ‘how’ is it unblocked, accessed and transcended for maximum team based results?

In other words, in what dimension do these qualities exist and how do you tap in to this rich resource of personal power to build morale and the other foundations of conduct.

I offer one to one mentoring, team based workshops and key note speeches for Logotherapy in high performance, to maximize your results and help you on the way to becoming who you ought to become. This can help you individually and as a leader, to successfully:

  1. Understand how to use ‘desire’ that is not compatible with anxiety, to prevent tenseness.
  2. Learn how to manage pressure situations, pregame/presentation anxiety, fighting/working slumps, lack of confidence, sacrifice and dedication and problem athletes/coworkers.
  3. Find the moral courage that is spiritual, to meet the demands of reality.
  4. Identify ‘how’ to tap in to your personal power and your best traits.
  5. Gain the trust of the people you are leading, so as to take them in to your confidence.
  6. See the multiplicity of realities in front of you and re-shape relevant identities for you.
  7. Work in a way and a manner that increases personal values and outcomes.
  8. Deal with problem people, negative situations,obstacles, failures, setbacks and losses.
  9. Create growth and value in the organization by challenging your assumptions resulting from personal beliefs and values.
  10. Understand that self transcendence is the key, unlocking access to your view ‘outwards’, not towards self centredness.


¹ Blaise Pascal said “Le cœur a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît point” meaning in English that “The heart has reasons that the heart knows nothing of” (June 19, 1623,  August 19, 1662).

Blaise Pascal was a French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and Christian philosopher.


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