Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, either way you’re right

familyAfter you built your plan to meet the enrollment goal this year, how did you feel?

Optimistic? Confident? Resentful? Frustrated?

Now apply the analogy to a tennis match, and consider how the athlete is going to perform if he or she is feeling each of the four emotions above.

Henry Ford’s terrific quote in the headline summarizes the second key element of becoming a clutch leader – emotional capacity

Click here for part 1

In their Harvard Business Review article, “The Making of a Corporate Athlete,” Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz explain that peak performance as a leader requires energy, and just as positive emotions ignite energy, negative emotions drain energy and can literally be toxic, elevating heart rate and blood pressure, increasing muscle tension, constricting vision and ultimately crippling performance.

Anger, impatience and fear are all negative emotions, and top performers create rituals to help offset feelings of stress and restore positive energy. Loehr and Schwartz point out it is no coincidence that many athletes wear headphones as they prepare for competition as music has powerful physiological and emotional effects. It can prompt a shift in mental activity from the rational left hemisphere of the brain to the more intuitive right hemisphere, and it provides relief from obsessive thinking and worrying.

Body language also influences emotions, and in one experiment, actors were asked to portray anger and then were subjected to numerous tests. Then, the actors were exposed to a situation that made them genuinely angry and the same measurements were taken. There were virtually no differences in the two profiles.

All great leaders understand this – if they carry themselves confidently, they will eventually start to feel confident, even in highly stressful situations. Loehr and Schwartz train their clients to “act as if,” consciously creating the look on the outside that they want to feel on the inside, and quote Aristotle, “You are what you repeatedly do.”

Finally, close relationships are the most powerful tool for prompting positive emotions, and anyone who has an enjoyed a fun weekend with the family or an evening with good friends knows the strong sense of safety and security these relationships can provide. Unfortunately, as Loehr and Schwartz point out, many leaders believe that in order to perform up to expectations, they have no choice but to cut back on their time with loved ones.  In reality, their research shows by devoting more time to their most important relationships and setting clearer boundaries between work and home, leaders will not only be happier but will also perform better at work.

Chris Wills About Chris Wills

Father Time, or Chris Wills, is passionate about helping other leaders learn and grow and free up time they didn’t think they had. He is the Founder of Student Paths, an organization that better prepares students for their future in college, career and life readiness. You can reach Chris at: cwills@studentpaths.com

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