Raise Your Game – The 5 Pillars of Peak Performance


Steven Burns

Hi! I’m Steven. I’m a professional therapist, coach, trainer & author with over 20 years experience. I teach the latest psychological tools and techniques to help you transform and make a difference.

Being able to elevate your performance isn’t just for athletes: it’s for everyone.

We can all benefit from raising our game and, in fact, it’s often essential just to avoid being left behind.

Albert Einstein knew this when he was asked – allegedly – by a local university to design a set of questions for an up-and-coming exam.

After designing the questions, Einstein handed them over to the head of the department with a smug look on his face.

The head took one look at them and said, “Erm, Mr Einstein these questions…they are exactly the same as they were last year.

To which Einstein replied, “Yes, you are correct…but…the answers have changed!”

We live in a world where the answers are changing faster than they ever have before.

What we use to do no longer cuts it, and what we currently do will most likely not cut it in the no-so-distant future.

That’s why we have to continually look to develop – to work on improving our performance over time, adding additional talents and strings to our bow, or developing the ones we currently specialise in.

Plus, improving your performance makes us more valuable, opens up all kinds of new & exciting opportunities, keeps us mentally young, and just makes us feel amazing.

So maybe it’s time to make it one of your more important concerns?

If you’d like to improve your own performance, whether it be personally or professionally, and also do it in a way that avoids burnout, then I recommend this 5-step method.

Having been involved in performance, in some capacity, for most of my adult life – through coaching, speaking, acting & dancing – I’ve done quite a bit of research into the subject, both academic and experiential.

And for me I keep coming back to these 5 steps – or what I call The 5 pillars of peak performance.

When you internalise this model, and make it part of your life, you’ll find that your own performance, skills, abilities & levels of confidence, will improve dramatically.

You’ll find the rate that you learn will increase, the results you get will be of a higher quality, and all in a way that minimises the chance of burnout.

I go into these in great depth on my 8-hour programme ‘The Edge: the Secrets to getting the best out of yourself’ but this overview will give you a quick taste.

Pillar 1: Clarity

Whenever you’re looking to elevate your performance and accelerate your development, clarity is essential.

A Higher level of performance rarely happens by chance: it’s the consequence of a careful sequence of events that starts with gaining clarity.

In my model, clarity consists of the following two elements:

→ Creating an ambitious goal that is both challenging and meaningful.

→ Learning how to motivate yourself.

If you’re looking to develop beyond your current capabilities and become a more resourceful person, you have to set a goal that challenges you, one that will cause you to struggle a little.

No struggle, no development.

It should also be meaningfulIf it’s a goal that’s going to involve putting in a significant amount of effort then it’s important that it means something.

As human beings, we can handle not feeling good all the time, but we struggle badly when something has little or no meaning.

So the more meaningful you can make your goal, the more desire, strength and resilience you’ll have by default.

Secondly, it’s important to learn how you motivate yourself. Go on a journey of self-exploration and notice the times and places where you possess the strongest and highest quality of motivation.

Ask yourself, “What’s present in those times that’s not present on other times?”

By discovering how you naturally motivate yourself you can become your own internal motivator, pushing you to levels you never thought possible, and achievements you previously thought were just pipe-dreams.

{Note: If you’d like to learn more about this, I go into it in-depth in my programme, The Edge: The secrets to getting the best out of yourself.}

{Also, If you’d like some additional advice on motivation, then check out this detailed blog post on the subject: Healthy Motivation Tips – that make a big difference}

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Pillar 2: Preparation & Practice

Once you gain clarity, it’s time to get working.

In order to learn, develop, and elevate your performance, so you can bring more to the table, you need to put the hours in: you need to practice and prepare.

Rapid personal or professional development doesn’t happen all by itself. It’s not enough to buy The Secret by Rhona Byrne, think about success, and then sit back and let the universe deliver.

It’s a great start to think about your goal and how amazing it will be when you achieve it, but, to make it a reality, you have to invest a substantial amount of energy. And the more ambitious the goal, the more energy you’ll most likely need to invest.

During the preparation phase, it’s important to figure out the key elements you’ll need to practice in order to take your abilities to the next level.

So many people spend their time poorly. They don’t properly identify the crucial areas to develop that will best assist them in achieving their goal.

By analysing your goal and identifying the key elements you’ll need to work on, it allows you to make the best use of your practice time.

You’ll get the biggest bang for your buck and your rate of growth will accelerate.

It’s also vital that you learn how to practice. In his excellent book ‘Peak: How all of us can achieve extraordinary things’, Anders Ericsson states that one of the main things that separates elite performers from average ones is that they approach practice sessions in a very different way.

Drawing from over 2 decades of research, Ericsson points out that average performers often take a ‘random’ approach to practice – he calls this naive practice. They believe that all they need to do is to put the hours in and they’ll magically improve.

Elite performers – and also very good ones – though, think strategically about each practice session.

They know precisely which area of their skillset they’re working on and why, and they have an appreciation of how the individual practice sessions fit into their overall purpose.

There’s obviously a lot more to it than this, but if you work on these two elements prior to a performance, it’ll make a substantial difference to your development:

→ 1.  Identify crucial elements for development:

What do you need to prepare?

What are the key areas you need to practice & develop, the ones that will make the biggest difference?

→ 2. Practice Strategically:

Make sure you get the most out of your preparation & practice sessions by setting mini-targets and goals for each session.

Work on the areas that will make the biggest difference to your performance, and appreciate how each prep/practice sessions fits in with your overall goal.

Pillar 4: The Performance itself...

So, you’ve created a challenging and meaningful goal, you’ve out the practice in, and you’ve worked on your psychology. Now it’s time to deliver.

Perhaps it’s an exam, an interview, a presentation, or maybe even a first date!

Whatever the goal is, the ‘performance’ is where the rubber meets the road.

But if you’ve worked purposefully on the key developmental areas, and imagined what it would be like if you performed to a high standard, then your levels of confidence should be pretty high.

That being said, you might still be nervous, but that’s natural. You’ve put a lot of work in after all. Plus ‘nerves’ can be useful for helping you focus & concentrate.

When it comes to the performance itself, you have to take a slightly different approach than you did when you were preparing.

When you’re clarifying your goal and putting in the preparation & practice, it’s vital to access lots energy.

It can take a lot of effort to consistently practice, and this can sometimes be a bit of a grind, so during it, it’s important to tap into lots of motivation and desire to fuel your actions.

But on the day, when you’re looking to perform, you have to reverse this: you have to let it all go. 

Instead of accessing wanton amounts of energy and motivation, whipping yourself into a frenzy, you want to release all of that expectation bring your attention to the present moment.

‘Expectation’ is wonderful when you’re setting goals and putting the dog-work in, but when it comes to the actual performance, it’s just wasted energy.

It’s vital that you temporarily let all of that go – you can bring it back after the performance – and focus on the here-and-now.

By doing so, you allocate all your resources to dealing with the challenge that’s in front of you rather than wasting energy.

To paraphrase the world-class sprinter Michael Johnson (taken from a T.V interview on the BBC):

“If you’re looking to win the college championships you shouldn’t be thinking about winning an Olympic gold. Your attention should be on the moment, dealing with the challenges of the present.”

There are other elements that can help with your performance, like managing your inner critic, the ability to improvise, learning to trust yourself, and creating a pre-performance routine, but, ultimately, your aim is to let go into the moment and be as present as you possibly can be.

Pillar 5: Get Quality Feedback

Feedback, as the old cliche goes, the breakfast of champions.

It’s the special ingredient that turns performance and hard work into a cycle of continuous growth.

One of the big challenges during this phase is to get good, clean, objective feedback.

Your aim is to extract quality information that can be used to create future developments, but often it’s quite difficult to remain objective.

It’s your performance after all so it can be difficult, at times, to de-personalise it.

Plus, we’re often too close to see the areas that we really need to develop.

Certain elements of our performance can only be spotted by ‘looking on’ from a neutral observer’s position.

I noticed this when I was learning golf. Because I couldn’t see myself swing the club, I was unable to pick up on the obvious mistakes I was making.

When I got some lessons from a skilled coach though, he spotted 3 obvious errors I was making in the first half an hour.

As soon as I corrected them, it made an immediate difference and my game improved.

There are many methods you can use to gain high quality feedback, but here are 3 you can try out:

→ 1. Get a skilled coach:

This is easily the best way to get high quality feedback. They can watch you perform and notice things that you won’t be able to see.

→ 2. Film yourself performing – if possible:

If it’s appropriate for you to do so, you can film yourself performing. That way you can watch back and see things that you wouldn’t normally spot. 

(I hope it goes without saying that if your goal is something like, ‘to come across better on a first date’ then you don’t want to film that!)

→ 3. The Development Accelerator Technique:

If you don’t want to get a coach – or you can’t currently afford one – then this psychological technique can be an excellent substitute.

I teach this technique on my programme, The Edge: The secrets to getting the best out of yourself.

One final thing I’d like to say about feedback is that it’s important that you do actually feed it back into your future practice sessions.

Feedback is pointless if you don’t add it into your future practice sessions/preparations and use it to develop further.

Ideally, after extracting high quality feedback, you’ll want to have a practice sessions as soon as possible, even if it’s just a small one.

Research into educational psychology has shown that the sooner we act on feedback, the quicker the new earning will integrate into our on-going behaviour (otherwise known as The Law of Recency).

So if you get the chance, do a quick practice session as close to the extraction of feedback as you possibly can.

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Closing Comments

So that’s the 5 steps – or pillars – that I’d recommend you follow and internalise.

It’ll take work and practice to make them part of your life, but the benefits will greatly outweigh the effort.

Like to learn more?

If you want to learn The 5 pillars of Peak Performance in-depth then check out my full programme, The Edge: The Secrets to Getting the best out of yourself.

It contains 8 hours worth of HD video, a tonne of exercises, and eyes closed audio download processes to help you with the techniques.

The Edge: The Secrets to getting the Best out of Yourself.

All the best,


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