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Mindset #2: Outcomes or Performance?

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Mindset #2: Outcome Focused or Performance Focused? Think Big, Act Small

“Never let your memories be bigger than your dreams. There’s a reason the rearview mirror is so much smaller than the windshield.”

When it comes to mindset, what’s most challenging is actually building and employing some desired but intangible mindset. We often, and incorrectly, assume that mindset simply emerges. We believe we can just “turn it on” when necessary. We can’t. There are way too many “rabbit holes” on the topic of biased human intuition to bother with it here. For the sake of length, I’ll avoid them for now. However, “turning on” a mindset is not a foregone conclusion and humans are actually poor at doing so. How then do we attain a useful mindset for a given situation? When do we know we’ve arrived at a mindset? It sounds very Buddha, but it’s true that mindset is captured moment by moment. Choice by choice. Decision by decision. Tom Peters, author of In Search of Excellence and The Excellence Dividend, says it this way: “Excellence is the next five minutes!” In order to even start the process of building a mindset, we must first consider how we “set our minds.” “Setting our minds” is about where we’re looking (our focus) and at what things? It’s balancing an orientation between Outcome and Performance.

Outcome focused is orienting our thinking and actions primarily towards a defined result. Not necessarily a bad thing. However, an Outcome focus tends to pull us toward the result with little consideration for the micro actions that get us there. Being subject to all kinds of factors in a given situation, there’s much to navigate on the way to a desired outcome. An Outcome orientation turn us into takers. We striving for a thing. We’re focused on capturing something. And all the things that come with a result: trophies, attention, praise, accolades. It’s something to attain. Something to put on the mantle. Outcome thinking is narrow. It’s isolated and. Outcomes fade. They quickly end up in the rear-view mirror. A memory rather than a dream. Outcomes are typically something we want to finish.

Performance focus is less on the end result, and more on the process – the practice. Through a Performance perspective, we’re never finished. When we focus on Performance, we’re oriented to how we feel doing a thing. What experience do we want to generate? We forget the finish line for a second, and focus on what conditions we want to manifest! Performance orientation ensures we give something rather than get something. Our attention under Performance thinking is diffuse and broad. It’s peripheral. It’s visceral. We can feel it in the gut! It opens our view and our perspective. A Performance orientation is thinking big and acting small. We keep the mission top of mind but stay focused on key tasks in the process. The road to the end result passes through thousands of micro-moments. Performance focused asks: What behaviors are required along the way? What’s actually in my mind at the starting line? Which words? With what attitude do I face setbacks? What’s it look like to respond rather than react? Performance focused is looking at the windshield not the rear-view mirror. It’s focusing on dreams rather than memories.

In Laurence Gonzales’ book, Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why, we get a broad perspective on the “survivor’s mindset.” It’s another one of my favorite books (studies). In studying accidents and human behavior for thirty-five years Gonzales shows us that survivors do a couple of key things. They “accept the reality of their situation,” are simultaneously bold and cautious while taking decisive action, embrace dying as a possibility since a fear of reality restricts your thinking, are simply grateful to be alive in the current moment, believe they can survive, and “let nothing break their spirits.” The stories Gonzales presents in the book are extreme but they do well in highlighting a Performance orientation rather than an Outcome orientation. It’s “in the next five minutes” that survivor’s survive, not by hoping and praying they live! Of course they want to live (thinking big). It’s doing the stuff required to live (acting small) that makes all the difference!

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