Achieving peak performance in business and life

I’m on holiday in Cape Town and boy oh boy driving here is quite an experience. Pretty much anything goes. There is no points system but there are plenty of speed cameras and I hear, hefty fines. But this doesn’t seem to deter people. I often see cars flying past me in the fast lane — maybe I’m more aware as I drive a Smart car and keep having to pull over. My pint-sized-fun car doesn’t have the engine power to compete with the big boys even if I think I can.

We all know driving in the fast lane can be energising and exciting, but you also need the right energy and enough power to enjoy it and to stay there safely. Which if you think about it is very true for business and life.

Who doesn’t want to be in the fast lane? And once you’re there who really really really dislikes moving into the slower lane?

Well it is possible to achieve peak performance and enjoy the business fast lane and I’m going to share just how you can do it too.

If you think back to when you learnt to drive, my guess is that you spent a lot of time on back roads and in the slow lane. Then as you got more confident, you were ready and able to over-take the car in front of you — and you might even have continued in the fast lane because you were rocking it. And at some point, I’d hedge a bet that you might have even have kept on accelerating to see how fast you could actually go and even though you’d never admit it, you might’ve even freaked out a bit.

Let’s be honest you’ve tried this at least once.

Can you remember what happened at that point? At the point when you started to freak out a little? How did you respond?

Even though it feels like anything goes on the roads in Cape Town, there are still things in place to protect us and keep us safe on the roads. There are cat-eye reflectors to let us know if we move out of our lane, pull-over lanes if we need to stop in an emergency and safety barriers to protect us from oncoming traffic. And like you, we also have many warning lights in our cars telling us how fast we are driving, when it’s time to refuel, check your tyre pressure, fill up with water, recharge our batteries, turn on our lights and and and.

Your experience in the fast lane:

How you experienced the fast lane is a reflection of your awareness. Awareness of your driving skills, awareness of your car and awareness of others around you. But once you’ve sussed these things out, life in the fast lane is a doddle. Just like most things in life and business, so no surprise there.

The difference in how you perform is determined by your response to the stress.

Too much stress (moving too far, too fast, out of your comfort zone) can result in you crashing and burning. But did you know that too little stress can also stop you from reaching your potential. You will get bored and frustrated. Think back to driving — there was a point where you were itching to get out of the slow lane and past the cars that were slowing you down. You were ready to move. You knew you could do it …. [but you didn’t] or [and then you did it]. And then you [slowed down and went back to the slow lane] or [started to enjoy it. You were rocking it]. And then you [ kept testing the accelerator gently pushing your foot harder and then lifting it us, pressing and lifting] or [ went flat out as fast as you can]

Like you, I can remember my drive.

Did you slow down? Did you notice the warning signs? Did you hear the bump as you went over the cat eyes? Did you have a little speed wobble? Did you see lights flashing on your dashboard? Were you headed for a crash and burn?

If you don’t remember, it doesn’t matter too much now because you’re alive to tell the tale. A certain level of stress is healthy but when you start to miss and/or ignore the warning signs your body is sending, you can do some serious damage to your health. This is the crash and burn stuff. And then what good is amassing a great deal of success if you aren’t able to enjoy it because you ran yourself into the ground along the journey? Investing in yourself will yield big dividends now and in the future.

How would you score your stress levels at the moment?

1· Are you still in the slow lane? (too low — boredom, directionless, unfocussed)

2· Are you rocking your lane? (just right — energised, engaged, actively moving toward goals, learning and growing)

3· Are you staying the fast lane despite the warning signs? (stress is to high — anxious, stuck or numb, panicked)

The etiquette of the fast lane is to make way for the faster car — you either speed up or move over. You can’t stay in the fast lane for ever. But you can move in and out of it. Explore the edges of your comfort zone. Know your limits. Honour them but test them. That is how you will learn what you are capable of doing and grow. If you stay there, are you still in control? If you move over, you can always move back once you gather momentum again. If you need to stop and refuel, do so, and then make your way back to where you want to be.

You always have a choice about the lane you drive in.

If you want to succeed at life and win at work, which I’m sure you do, you’ll need to get smart at manoeuvring between lanes and the petrol station.

Fact: Stressors (the work deadlines, raising children, workouts) aren’t intrinsically good or bad.

Fact: Stressors evoke a response. Whether it’s positive or negative depends on how you respond.

Is stress crippling you or adding fuel to your engine at the moment?

Not sure?

It cripples you if you are left feeling weak, worried or distracted. If you can’t find time to rest and exercise. If your adrenalin and cortisol levels are sky-rocketing. You might not know if this is happening, but you’ll notice you are gaining fat and losing some of your muscle. You might be tossing and turning at night, getting all the colds and flu doing the rounds, lost interest in sex, struggling to concentrate and/ or having serious cravings all because your blood sugar levels, immunity, sleep and sex hormones are taking a beating.

And on the flip side, when you are “in the zone “, the stretch leaves you feeling energised and motivated. Focused and alert. Testing your boundaries. Expanding your limits. Learning, growing and getting stronger.

Which sounds more like you?

High achievers — and I know you’re a high achiever if you’re reading this — have found that they are more tolerant to stress when they

· spend more time outdoors or in nature

· spend time with loved ones

· have a strong support network

· have moderate levels of stress

· have an optimistic, go-with-the flow, proactive, flexible attitude.

Here are some top tips to help you get inot teh fast lane, stay in teh fast lane and enjoy the fast lane:

Before getting on the road:

1. Be intentional — know where you are going and have a plan to get there. And sometimes it’s ok if your intention is purely to enjoy the drive and explore, with no end point in mind.

2. Set yourself challenging but realistic goals which excite you and can be broken into small actions. This way you can chart your progress and learn en-route.

3. Commit to one new action each day and do it for 2 weeks.

Driving in the fast lane:

1. Make the decision to move when you’re ready and do it.

2. Track your progress.

3. Become more aware of your signs of stress and slow down.

4. Choose your co-pilots carefully. Spend time with a coach or mentor. This will keep you inspired and add an element of accountability which makes the change and growth process quicker and so much easier.

5. Schedule regular down time

Stopping at the petrol station:

1. Practice meditating — it will boost your immune system, improve your sleep and mood, lower your blood pressure, develop new brain cells and sharpen your focus and mental clarity.

2. Get outside, stretch your legs and feel the sunshine — this lowers your stress hormones and heart rate while improving your mood and immune systems and gives you the energy to deal with your next challenge.

3. Start exercising most days of the week — it helps your body reduce effects of stress, it helps you grown new brain cells and stimulates the feel-good-endorphins and creative juices.

4. Refuel with nourishing energising food and top up your water supply. Some essentials for your list — colourful fruit and veggies, oily fish, eggs or plant-based proteins, slow release carbs like sweet potato and wholegrains during the day to keep energy levels stable, and good fats like nuts, seeds, avo for example. Skip the processed foods, chocolates and pastries and go easy on the caffeine as they will cause cravings and give you the jitters. And drinking plenty of water aids better decision making, better skin and helps mobilise some of the unwanted kgs.

5. Practice self-compassion — unplug once a week, get coaching if you’re stuck, ask for help, explore your limits.

What are you waiting for? You’re armed with some practical tools to achieve peak performance and enjoy life in the fast lane as long as you’re intentional, focussed and recognise the signs that it’s time to rest and re-energise.

What one thing that you can do today that will get you into the fast lane? And if you’re there already, what can you do to stay there enjoyably?

About the author: Tracy Kelly is intensely curious about how we can lead and live better. She is passionate about helping leaders and entrepreneurs thrive in the modern world, unleashing their leadership inside, out. She combines the power of nutrition and wellbeing and the art of executive coaching to catapult leaders to new levels of success.

Like you, Tracy understands the challenges first-hand of thriving in high performance environments and the impact an engaged, motivated, healthy and fulfilled workforce has on performance. Tracy works with leaders, teams and businesses to raise their professional game, find their authentic leadership voice and successfully engage others to deliver results. Tracy transformed the clinical division at the largest diabetes charity in Europe and has coached senior execs in blue chip companies helping them turbo-boost their performance and build mental and physical resilience.

“We all need a winning strategy. I believe people can and should be intentional in building a professional life they love and one where they make a meaningful difference –and I’m committed to providing the resource and support to help them achieve that!” — Tracy Kelly

Email Tracy ([email protected]) to invest in a coach or enjoy a free chemistry session and see the world from a new perspective.

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  • Tracy Kelly

    Consultant/ Dietitian. Wellbeing Strategist. Dot Connector. Professional Smiler

    Tracy has a massive belief in people and possibilities and loves seeing them succeed professionally and personally.  She is passionate about great things done well and is committed to helping others build WELLthy lives.  She always has time to talk health, wellbeing, neuroscience, humaning better, techforgood