What is Peak Performance?

Definition: Peak Performance – To fulfill one’s potential biologically and in social, familial and business interactions.

Q. Is there one best approach to achieving this goal?

LEWIS: No. There are many approaches including stress management. In fact I have seen increased productivity from chair massage at corporate meetings and trade shows. One of my favorites is called Learned Industriousness. This approach was developed by Robert Eisenberger.

Q. What is the basic idea behind this idea?

LEWIS:  To explain on a behavioral level the differences in general work effort among people of equivalent ability.

Q. What are Eisenberge’s beliefs?

LEWIS: individuals who are reinforced for exerting high effort on a task are also secondarily reinforced by the sensation of high effort.

Q. What effect does this pattern create?

LEWIS: Individuals with a history of this high effort reinforcement are more likely to generalize high effort to other behaviors.

Q. Is there any research to support this point of view?

LEWIS: It is supported in the literature across a variety of different experimental settings.

Q. Does a person need to be intensely driven to achieve a state of peak performance?

LEWIS: No, however for most of us peak performance does not come about with a clear intention to function at that level. What is needed is “Industriousness”.

Q. How would you define industriousness?

LEWIS:  It is a work ethic, the sense that working effectively, efficiently and with competence leads to peak performance. I have spoken to a number of peak performance experts over the years and they have for the most part agreed that what makes one industrious is a sense of perseverance and determination in completing a task. To this might be added that once one is performing at a high level one must know how to maintain that rhythm or momentum. in performing a task.

Q, Is industriousness a natural quality or is it something that must be learned?

LEWIS: Usually one learns it over time and with positive reinforcement.

Q. How much is learned industriousness tied to one’s attitude?

LEWIS: It is greatly influenced by attitude. Like industriousness a positive attitude can be learned.

Q. Discuss this in greater depth?

LEWIS: Learned optimism is a concept in positive psychology that a talent for joy, like any other, can be developed. It is done by consciously challenging any negative self talk.

Q. Much of what I know about self help is based on having an optimistic attitude. Does this really work or is it some new age mumbo jumbo?

LEWIS: Studies have shown that a those with an optimistic outlook  are higher achievers and have better overall health. Pessimists, on the other hand  are more likely to give up in the face of adversity or to suffer from depression.

Q. How can one change their outlook from pessimist to optimist?

LEWIS: It requires some introspection. To begin with a person with a pessimistic outlook must be willing to make a shift. Without intention most action is simply reaction to negative motivations.  To learn to be optimistic one must  by think about his or  reactions to adversity or events that are perceived to be negative in a new way. This is the ssense of learned optimism.

Ultimately the optimist’s does not see life as success or failure but only as process.  As is often said what is the point of reaching a destination if one does not enjoy the journey. In short the optimist recognizes that whatever happens may unlucky or unfortunate (not personal), and is nothing more than a short-term setback (not permanent). This is one factor or event in many and does not reflect the potential outcome of any other related facor or event.

Q. Is there a way to explore the differences in how pessimists and optimists view events that happen to them?

LEWIS:  Many of the differences between the two are espressed by how people explain events. This is known as  explanatory style. Here some examples:

  • Permanence: Optimistic people believe bad events to be more temporary than permanent and bounce back quickly from failure, whereas others may take longer periods to recover or may never recover. They also believe good things happen for reasons that are permanent, rather than seeing the transient nature of positive events. Optimists point to specific temporary causes for negative events; pessimists point to permanent causes.
  • Pervasiveness: Optimistic people compartmentalize helplessness, whereas pessimistic people assume that failure in one area of life means failure in life as a whole. Optimistic people also allow good events to brighten every area of their lives rather than just the particular area in which the event occurred.
  • Personalization: Optimists blame bad events on causes outside of themselves, whereas pessimists blame themselves for events that occur. Optimists are therefore generally more confident. Optimists also quickly internalize positive events while pessimists externalize them.

Q. Is learned optimism


Lewis Harrison is a radio talk show host, speaker, consultant, practical philosopher and Lewis is a pioneer in the personal development stress management movement The author of nine self help books on human potential he offers a monthly retreat/seminar “How to Solve Any Problem”. He also and phone based coaching. He is the owner of www.eventschairmassage.com a stress management consulting company

Lewis’ new book on corporate massage and stress management is Hands-On-Healing

Lewis offers phone-based and on-line life coaching services and a monthly workshop/Retreat – a simple program for decision making based on Game Theory, the idea expanded on by John Nash, the Nobel Prize winning subject of the biopick “A Beautiful Mind”.