Your biggest competition to achieving your goals are not external forces. They lie within you. The Greek philosopher, Plato, once said, “The first and greatest victory is over self.”

A lack of self-awareness and self-sabotaging behaviors hinder execution a great deal more then from forces outside of one’s internal control.

Based on my research in human well as reflecting on my athletic and business career, below is my list of the top 5 killers of peak performance.


The highest achievers from Kobe to Oprah have an insane inner-drive that is intrinsic, not extrinsic. If you are performing to please someone, receive validation, or are seeking external accolades...your journey toward excellence will be short lived.

External Expectations = Internal Stress

Ask yourself, “What do I want?” and “Why am I doing this?”

If those answers guide you down a path that doesn’t lead you to your deepest desires and passion from within, its time to reassess your internal motivation.


The best things in life do not happen in the past or future, but in the present moment. A big hindrance and block of accessing a flow state (being in the zone) is obsessing over outcomes. I believe anticipation is a huge element of high performance, but if the focus is outcome based versus process based (key habits and techniques), you will increase anxiety and stress. You will play the “What-if” game and run through made-up scenarios that you have no control over (ex: What will they think or how will I look?).


Also the number one killer of creativity is fear of failure. How can you shift your emotional state to be more in the now? If you can have the mental command to ask yourself: “What’s Important Now (WIN)?” You will be more likely to not only own the moment, but WIN the moment.


Have you identified specific habits that you must execute regularly during your preparation and execution phases? Developing rituals that aid your performance are a hallmark of consistent high achievement. I’m not talking about obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) type behaviors, I’m talking about mental and physical routines that are specific to your ability that activate focus and rhythm. 

If you do not have a specific process customized for yourself, and you just “wing it,” it will be very hard to duplicate or scale your success. Also, developing consistent  routines will help bring you a level of comfort leading up to and during moments when it’s time to perform. Finally, having systems in place helps avoid decision fatigue, where you avoid wasting mental energy making trivial decisions.

If you’ve done it right, you’ll focus on the process and not the pressure...and you’ll be able to perform as your true authentic self...and not a shell of yourself who is either overcome by fear or a lack of preparation.


Think about your most stressful moments during times of performance. You most likely were obsessing and over thinking about you. To access a flow state, there is an exit of self. Understanding your vision, core values, and objectives are one thing, but if you compete with the mentality that “all eyes are on me,” it will be very difficult to relax and perform free of tension and tightness. 


Listen, don’t flatter yourself, people are more caught up in their own image and outcomes versus worrying about every move you make or word you say. Practice stepping outside of yourself and put yourself in someone else’s shoes. It’s not all about you. A simple way to help lower stress is to train your brain and heart to deeply care about others...and think about your audience and say, “I love you, but I don’t care what you think.”

My other favorite strategy to exit self, is to serve others and be an exceptional teammate, coworker, or classmate (which ever performance field you are in). Service to others reduces stress and releases the happy chemicals dopamine and serotonin.


Have you identified common distractions that pull your focus or energy away from completing your objectives? I call this 3PD or the 3 P’s of Distraction:

People – What people in your life (friends, teammates, or family) knock you off your game with requests, negativity, or lack of support? Try to identify the people in your circle that either add unwanted stress or behave in ways that hinder your performance.

Phone – In today’s world, our smart phones are an extension of our selves. Apps, social media, texts, and emails constantly vie for our attention. Identify the main functions in your phone that slow down your production. How can you limit these performance detractors?

Procrastination – What do you hate doing or avoid? The chains of procrastination are slow to form, but develop a tight hold that impedes execution. These patterns of procrastination keep us from not only performing at our best, but stunt our ability to improve. If you can do what goal expert Brian Tracy calls, eat the frog early (as in, do what you don’t want to do first), you will free yourself up to completing more tasks and unlocking more creativity.

Do a self assessment. Grab a sheet of paper and draw a line down the middle. On the left side of the page, identify the biggest distractions that hinder your performance. On the right side, come up with a plan to counter or substitute more productive behaviors when these distractors pop-up.

If you know the answers to a test, your ability to study and come up with a plan to execute vastly increase. This list above is similar. Master your self-awareness and address these challenges. Grade yourself and share with a friend. If you can overcome these performance killers, you’ll be happier and more successful. Good luck!


Collin Henderson is a High Performance Consultant in the fields of business and athletics.

Collin Henderson