“If you want to achieve excellence, you can get there today. As of this second, quit doing less-than-excellent work.” —Thomas J. Watson
I sometimes catch myself analyzing my performance while I’m performing.
This could be as simple as giving a presentation or as complex as influencing a room of stakeholders.
I start to second guess myself. I’m no longer in the moment. I’m suddenly my worst critic at the wrong time.
This is the Training Mindset.
In Overachievement: The New Science of Working Less to Accomplish More, John Eliot, Ph. D. writes about the Training Mindset and the Trusting Mindset.
Here are my key takeaways:
- Training Mindset. The Training Mindset is where you analyze your performance as you go.
- Trusting Mindset. The Trusting Mindset is where you use your skills, not your head.
- Be fully engaged. Engage in a task so completely that there’s no room left for self-criticism, judgment.
- Don’t analyze yourself while you execute. Don’t think about the mechanics of what you’re doing while your performing.
- Do it until it’s automatic. Practice your skills until you can do them without thinking about them.
Training Mindset and Trusting Mindset
The Training Mindset is the right place to be when you’re practicing. It’s analytical, intentional, and calculating.
It’s exactly the wrong place to be when you’re performing.
Your best performance happens in the Trusting Mindset.
In the Trusting Mindset, you’re so engaged in the task that there’s no room for self-doubt or criticism. The Training Mindset serves you while you practice, but when its time to perform, your Trusting Mindset is where you perform your best.
Training Mindset and Trusting Mindset
Eliot identifies the different characteristics of the Training Mindset and Trusting Mindset. This table shows a summary of those differences:
|Training Mindset||Trusting Mindset|
|Active Mind||Empty Mind|
|Wanting It Now||Patient|
|Controlling||Letting It Happen|
Great Performers Focus on What They Are Doing and Nothing Else
Great performers just step up and do what they’re great at. They don’t focus on the results.
“Great performers focus on what they are doing, and nothing else. When Tiger Woods or Muhammad Ali cannot seem to make a false move, when Warren Buffet or Bill Gates is in the middle of a deal, when Yitzhak Perman or Al Pacino blows the critics away with a performance, they are not thinking about their technique, what their teachers told them, what their attorneys or accountants advised.
They are able to engage in a task so completely that there is no room left for self-criticism, judgment, or doubt; to stay loose and supremely, even irrationally, self-confident; to just step up and do what they’re good at, concentrating only on the simplest nature of their performance.
Superstars perform so naturally and so instinctively that they seem to be able to enter a pressure-packed situation that would terrify or freeze most people as if nothing matters. They let it happen, let it go. They couldn’t care less about the results.”
Exceptional Thinking is Within Everyone’s Reach
Exceptional thinking is within everyone’s reach.
“The good news: Research and experimentation have proven that this kind of exceptional thinking is within everyone’s reach. But before you can master this superstar’s mindset, you first must understand why, when people ask great performers like Franz Klammer, “What was going on in your mind?” they are inclined to answer, ‘Nothing.’”
Don’t Question Your Abilities
Great performers trust their skills.
“To be sure, great performers are well trained, experienced, smart, and, in some cases, divinely talented. But the way their brains work during a performance is a lot more like a squirrel’s than like Einstein’s.
Like squirrels, the best in every business do what they have learned to do without questioning their abilities — they flat out trust their skills, which is why we call this high-performance state of mind the ‘Trusting Mindset.’
Routine access to the Trusting Mindset is what separates great performers from the rest of the pack.”
Don’t Think About the Mechanics of What You’re Doing
The Training Mindset is when you analyze your performance. Exceptional performance is about simply performing.
“To perform exceptionally — whether it’s hitting an audience with a violin concerto, or even transplanting a heart — requires you to be in that same state of mind, empty of all doubt, without any thought about the mechanics of what you’re doing. You cannot pull up all those years of education, training, and experience in your memory as you perform — that’s the “Training” Mindset.”
Let your Skills Do the Work, Not Your Head
The Trusting Mindset is about using your skills, not your head.
“In the Trusting Mindset, you have to let all that expertise be there instinctively. Our ability is maximized when we let our skills do the work, not our heads. As professional golfers like to say, you have to trust your swing. You just have to toss the keys — pure Trusting Mindset.”
The Trusting Mindset is the Holy Grail of High-Stakes Performance
People spend too much time thinking critically and evaluating themselves.
“The results of putting the Trusting Mindset into play are never disappointing. Anyone who has experienced its astonishing benefits is eager to figure out how to tap back into it, making it the Holy Grail of high-stakes performance.
Unfortunately, people tend to devote too much time to thinking critically and evaluating themselves. In my teaching and consulting, I have found that people get it better once they understand more about how their brains actually work under different circumstances.”
Embrace Your Trusting Mindset
It’s the difference between being in the moment and thinking about the moment. One of the things that’s helped me a lot is distinguishing between when I’m practicing and when I’m performing.
When I’m learning the mechanics, I analyze my performance.
When I’m performing, the key is for me to stop analyzing my performance.
Instead, I need to trust my ability. If I haven’t practiced enough, I won’t have the ability. Critiquing myself along the way won’t make up for the lack of skills and will only get in the way of my performance.
If you want to perform better, embrace your Trusting Mindset.
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