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Pursuing Peak Performance

By Michael J. Zappa, MD FACEP

Ask yourself the question: could you be doing better? Use whatever frame of reference you would like, and I bet in at least one area or another you would answer yes. Undoubtedly everyone has enjoyed a period, whether long or short, when they felt like they have hit their stride, accomplished a goal, and reveled in some personal pride.  What did you do that was so right? In the stressful world of today it’s easy to get caught in a rut, focusing on just surviving instead of thriving. If you’re not at one of those peaks sailing along successfully, or if you are, and you want to keep it going, remember the three “Ps”: positivity, persistence, and priorities. 

Positivity –  no, I’m not suggesting that everyone needs to be a “Pollyanna”: someone that thinks all is beautiful no matter what is happening . There is, however, the opportunity to find a better perspective even in the most challenging of times. On a personal level or as a team leader, finding the positivity may be as simple as counting your blessings, recognizing those whose challenges may be much more serious than yours, or in extreme situations simply starting on the road out of the current dismal dilemma.  

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Look at the challenges the pandemic has placed on everyone, especially those in health care: demand for care outstripping the supply of beds and staff. Individuals and leaders must focus on the steps that will help us rise up from this state of crisis. This driving towards a solution(s) even if it is not achieved today, keeps the glass half full and exemplifies another fundamental element to attaining and sustaining peak performance:  persistence.

A narrow myopic lens will frequently project the image that someone who is successful had extraordinary luck or just executed that one perfect move and quickly achieved their goal  – rarely the case. The majority of goals are achieved little by little, applying the same dedication day after day. Illustrations of this abound in our world : the successful athlete who trained every day before dawn since high school, the stellar university students staying late in the library instead of socializing or sleeping comfortably in their beds, the person who looks stunning in that new outfit who actually has worked tirelessly for over a year to lose 50 pounds, or that couple able to travel and finally slow down after years of working 80 hours per week. 

Persistence clearly produces results over the long term, but one must truly believe it  – persistence needs positivity, without it, willpower alone will leave you short of your goal.

Do you think you’re ready now? You’ve adjusted your attitude and become positive: fixed your  focus on the solution and are grateful for what you have; found your persistence mode: made the conscious decision of what you must do each day to slowly bring you to your long term goal; you only need a final system check: your priorities.

Achieving peak performance requires positivity and persistence, but results cannot be sustained unless they align with your priorities. Priorities apply not only to each of us as individuals but to the organizations that rely on us: the priorities that are expressed verbally or on paper must be consistent with the actions taken. For example, someone may say their personal fitness is a priority, yet they only find time to exercise once a week.  Another may say being there for their children is important, but they work three jobs and are rarely present when their children are awake. These statements are not judging what is right or wrong, simply pointing out that performance over the long haul will be limited if one’s actions don’t support their sincere beliefs. Naturally, outsiders will ultimately deem your priorities by your actions, not your words.

The same applies to the organizations that we lead; it is essential to foster a culture of positivity and persistence while remembering that our priorities are visible to every guest, client, customer, consumer, or patient we serve. If an entity is performing optimally, then every outside individual who interacts with the organization should be  able to accurately describe its mission and values without ever having read them. 

In brief, make sure you start each day grounded on a foundation of positivity  – always look for the silver lining; believe in the power of persistence –  do what you know to be right every day, even if you don’t see a difference yet; and finally, be sure your actions align with your priorities. Slowly but surely, integrating the three “Ps” consistently into your life will help you achieve and maintain consistent peak performance.

About Michael J. Zappa, MD FACEP

Dr. Michael J. Zappa is the president of Highsmith-Rainey Specialty Hospital, and Cape Fear Valley Health System Chief Clinical Officer. He balances business acumen with clinical expertise, and shares his thoughts on leadership and the healthcare industry at mikezappa.com.

Healthcare Business Today is a leading online publication that covers the business of healthcare. Our stories are written from those who are entrenched in this field and helping to shape the future of this industry. Healthcare Business Today offers readers access to fresh developments in health, medicine, science, and technology as well as the latest in patient news, with an emphasis on how these developments affect our lives.

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