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From The Survival Zone to The Performance Zone
How we feel profoundly influences how well we perform.
Think for a moment about how you feel when you’re performing at your best. What words come to mind? In all likelihood, they’re positive ones: confident, engaged, happy, invigorated, effortless, alive. We call that the Performance Zone, and it’s where you have to be to perform at your best.
Many of our clients tell us they spend considerable time each day feeling a very different set of emotions: anxiety, irritation, defensiveness, anger frustration and fear. We call this the Survival Zone and it’s where we move reactively – in fight or flight -- when we perceive a sense of threat or danger. That’s especially common in difficult economic times like these.
This hard-wired response to danger served us well thousands of years ago when we regularly faced life-or-death threats from predators. That’s rarely the case today. Instead, the cause may range from a conflict that arises with a colleague or a boss, to getting stuck in traffic, to not getting a response to an email you’ve sent.
The cost of the negative emotions that characterize the Survival Zone is that they make us less effective. They interfere with clear thinking, antagonize others and drain our own energy. Because we rarely intentionally choose to work from the Survival Zone, most of us assume we don’t have much power to influence negative feelings when they descend on us.
In fact, we have vastly more control over how we feel than we imagine. The first step is awareness – recognizing what you’re feeling at any given moment, and consciously choosing not to take action when you’re in the Survival Zone. The second step is learning to more intentionally cultivate the positive emotions that serve high performance, not least by more regularly renewing yourself and building your emotional reservoir for times when demand gets especially high.