Performance vs. Progress

Twice a year I have the privilege of gathering for a few days with some of the greatest leaders in the world. There is so much information and wisdom available, but it is not just about hearing others tell you how to be a great leader. There are always things to do. For example: lesson one, day one……everybody gives a speech. Not everyone there is or wants to be a public speaker, including me. As a matter of fact, studies reveal that most people report their number one fear to be public speaking, second on the list is death. As Jerry Seinfeld once pointed out, this means that at a funeral, the average person would rather be in the coffin than giving the eulogy.  Okay, okay…I digressed.

Nevertheless, the point is, there is no getting out of this speech. When your time is up, all eyes are on you. In that moment, you can choose to focus on looking good or you can choose to focus on making progress.

Honestly, my default approach usually doesn’t push me towards progress. Instinctively, I am engulfed by thoughts like, ‘I’ve never done this before. What if I am not very good? and I don’t want to look like a fool in front of these people!’ All of which are focused on the performance and the outcome.  While performance and outcomes are important parts of life, they should never be allowed to sit in the driver’s seat of our mind.

The natural tendency when driven by performance and outcome focused thoughts is to either give up or succumb to whatever means necessary to achieve the desired outcomes. Unfortunately, outcomes achieved through shortcuts are rarely, if ever, sustainable.

You can lose a few pounds to reach a weight goal by not eating for a few days, but you compromise your health and eventually you must eat again.

You might win your high school volleyball game if you always set your 6’4” middle hitter, but the development of your team will suffer and eventually that player will graduate.

The tactics that lead to quick results and outcomes are usually not the best approach to progress, growth, and development. To achieve positive and sustainable outcomes, we must set aside the thoughts and questions that focus on outcomes and shift our focus to the progress and growth that will ultimately result in the performance and outcomes we desire.

The lesson to learn by giving the speech was never about being a great public speaker. It was always about teaching us how to embrace the progress and growth that happens when you lean into the struggle, make the hard choice, and face the unknown. A lesson that can be and should be applied to everything in life we choose to pursue.

Stephanie Willis

All rights reserved 2014


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