26 Achieving High Performance
are self-motivated choose to actively pursue an objective (complete
a task), persist toward achieving that objective despite adversities
and obstacles, and are willing to expand the physical and mental
effort necessary to accomplish their task.
This is why it is so
important to pay attention to the messy middle and how it affects
performance consequences.
The ABCs of Motivation and High Performance
A person’s attitude toward a goal, objective, or task is either positive
or negative. Optimism leads to significant performance improve-
ments, while pessimism leads to performance decrements.
Furthermore, optimistic people tend to persist longer at a task, over-
come more obstacles, and achieve at higher levels. Consider the
story about the two boys who were asked to enter a room full of
horse manure. The first boy went into the room, stepped into the
horse manure, smelled the awful odor, and ran out of the room
screaming. The second boy entered the room and dove head first
into the pile of horse manure. He was flailing around in it and looked
like he was digging through it. When he came out of the room, he
was asked why he behaved like that. In the true style of an optimist,
he said that with all that horse manure, there had to be a horse in
there somewhere. Do you have the same type of positive attitude
as this child? Is your glass always half empty or half full? Is it partly
cloudy in your world or always sunny? Do you wake up every day
and read the obituaries first, and figure that if your name is not
there, it’s going to be a good day? You choose your attitude, and by
extension, you choose your performance results and their conse-
quences. Understand that an optimistic, positive attitude breeds
self-confidence, which then energizes a person’s belief system.
This then energizes them to achieve high performance.
Beliefs are critical to successful performances. If we go into a situa-
tion believing we can do well, we will invariably do well. If we go into
it questioning our ability or believing that a competitor is far supe-
rior, we will definitely under-perform. Our beliefs affect our confi-
dence, which then affects our performance. In fact, a positive belief

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