Thursday, December 24, 2009

Human Performance as a Lifestyle

The best performers in any field of endeavor approach their work from a performance vantage point: they are mindful of their development and direct efforts to learn from experience and take charge of their growth. The boxer who conditions in the gym and spars between bouts under the watchful eye of a trainer; the actress who rehearses lines and works with a director to perfect a script; the artist who sketches and refines a vision before committing it to canvas: all have transformed ordinary work into a platform for self-development.

Why, however, limit such development to career activity? If we think of performance as a lifestyle, then almost any activity can become a platform for growth. If we're developing ourselves physically, how we eat, how we exercise--even how we rest--become performance activities. If we are approaching trading or parenting or a recreational sport as a performance activity, then we are reflecting on our actions in each of these areas, refining what we do and how we do it, and making ourselves ever better as a result.

This is not a new idea: prayer for the truly religious is a vehicle for transforming consciousness; tea ceremonies and martial arts training are vehicles for developing self-control; the very act of breathing can be a performance activity if it cultivates mindfulness. We can prepare and eat a meal in haste, or we can create a gourmet experience that captures all the senses. I can interact with people casually, or I can use my interactions to ever improve myself as a psychologist.

When performance becomes a lifestyle, we create massive synergies, as the progress in one domain fuels growth in others. What I do to achieve self-control and forethought as a trader helps me in managing risk and reward in a career. My physical development provides the energy to spark extra efforts at work and home. Working at becoming a better parent and spouse has made me more sensitive to the challenges of others as a psychologist--and vice versa.

Life is too fleeting and precious to be lived on autopilot. In refining ourselves, we inevitably extract the most from our experience, enriching others and the world. I can think of no nobler way to live a life.