I’d like to tell you a little story. Some years ago, I went to a show on London’s South Bank called Circa. It’s an acrobatic show and these athletes were doing the most extraordinary things. Balancing on one arm, doing jumps on stilts. I mean, incredible stuff. 

Sitting there in the audience close to the front row, I had a really clear view of the action. What stood out for me was that despite these people doing the most extraordinary things, their bodies varied quite a bit. Some were tall, some were short, some are incredibly cut. There was lots of muscular definition and others less so, but they were all incredibly strong. 

All of them were able to do all the stunts and all the tricks. Literally carrying the bodyweight of another, perhaps larger athlete on their shoulders whilst they were standing on one leg. 

Performance Over Perfection 

What stood out for me was what these guys valued was performance over perfection. None of them were striving to get cut abdominals or bulging quadricep muscles. They were only focused on whether they could perform those stunts safely and with some degree of longevity, twice a day, 10 times a week. 

I wonder how much we, as agile business athletes, value performance over perfection? Are we chasing this notion of perfection and that we need to do everything, we need to appear a certain way, we need to perform a certain way? Or are we just focused on doing what we can achieve, for example, on delivering something that is good enough? On making ourselves happy and not worrying so much about external validation. 

Seeking Internal Validation, Not External 

If we were able to make that mind shift into really focusing on performance, not perfection life could be significantly better for ourselves. 

I invite you to look at that in your own life. If you like, take the Circa analogy, are you looking for a chiselled appearance or are you just focusing on where that body can take you? The journey it can take you on. The experiences you can have with it, the connection you can form. Or are you focused on maybe the aesthetics? 

You can apply that to any aspect of life, to physical training, to your work, to the connection you have in your social environments, to the hobbies that you do. You can apply it to absolutely everything. 

High-Achieving People and Burnout 

One thing I do know about high-achieving people, we do tend to get very caught up in this notion of perfectionism. And I think it can be a bit of a hiding to nothing and take you down that route to burnout. 

One of the commonalities of people who have burnout is that they very often described themselves as perfectionists. Let’s call ourselves performance-ists, if you like, I’m focused on what we can do with our minds and our bodies and not so much what they look like.