The Performance Equation

The Performance Equation

I am delighted to share this guest post from Jefferson Cann. I met Jefferson through a shared client in London. Later I participated in his online programme, The Fearless Culture which was a great learning experience and which I highly recommend. If you have any questions about the post, please add them in the comments section. Enjoy the post!

Purpose and Performance

It may seem strange to relate a concept from performance psychology to self-development, meditation and spiritual growth.  Doing so, however, can help us focus our energies on what can bring the most positive value to ourselves and those around us …

As soon as we express a Purpose for ourselves we create a Vision of what the fulfilment of that purpose would be like.  This vision of our desired future or state – which is not necessarily ‘visual’, bit can be a relatively vague concept or a feeling or intuition – creates and/or becomes a Goal that we wish to achieve.  We then compare this goal to our Current Situation – “Where am I now?” – and we can then see what needs to be done to move from where we are now to where we want to be.  At this point we perceive or create the journey and the milestones that we will pass as evidence that we are ‘on track’.

Purpose   >    Vision   >   Goal    >    Current Situation   >     Route + milestones

In my experience, many people become disheartened at the point of comparing their desired future/state with their current situation – “Oh, it’s too hard!”, “I couldn’t possible do that …”, “It’s too difficult/expensive/time-consuming/disruptive/inconvenient for others …” and so on.  Such thoughts can come at points during our journey or even before our journey starts!

The Value of the Performance Equation

This is where the application of the Performance Equation from one of the greatest performance coaches – Timothy Gallwey – can help: Performance equals potential minus interference.  Looking more closely …

  • As with all equations, each component is dependent on the others – adjustments to one cause changes in the others
  • Performance is an output, so you cannot affect that directly
  • Our potential is an unknown – what we think is our potential is only part of the story we tell ourselves about who we are, which is itself a function of conditioning, our interpretation of past experiences and our current ‘mood’.  Who we might be as a human being and what we might do is unknowable in many ways within the obvious, given constraints of our circumstances
  • Interference is the only things we can directly affect – just as we talked about

This means that we do not have to worry about our performance itself, however we may define it.  Nor do we need to let conditioned fears or limiting beliefs about our potential take any time or energy.  All we have to do is identify what interferes with our achieving our goal.  Once we can see this, we can deal with those ‘interferences’ one by one, knowing that doing so will improve our ‘performance’ and help us explore and fulfil more of our potential.

‘Interference’ and the Neurophysiology of Fear

The biggest interference to our personal performance in achieving our goal, in being who we wish to be and living how we wish to live, lies not in the external circumstances and events that we face day-to-day.

The biggest interference to success lies within – within individual psychologies that determine our relationshipto the external circumstance. 

And that interference is fear in one of its many manifestations – stress, tension, avoidance, worry, anxiety, anger, defensiveness, impatience, hopelessness, lack of clear and focused communications, dependency, the need to control – all these are aspects of our fear response. 

Like an overbearing, over-anxious, over-controlling authority figure, our hind brain or ‘reptilian’ brain (the oldest part of our brain, where our fear response is rooted) panics at the first sign of challenge, of change, of a falsely perceived threat and it totally locks us down or causes us to react with defensive/aggressive behaviours. It hijacks all our resources and traps them in the prison of its own primitive, crude perceptions. Creativity, engagement, connection, resilience, initiative, motivation, aspiration, belief … all these and more high-performance behaviours are undermined when fear is triggered …

Our fear response – mediated by the amygdala – lies within our ‘reptilian brain’.  It has no awareness or understanding of our emotional (mid or mammalian brain) or our conceptual (fore or human) brains or the capacities they give us as human beings. Its only job is to protect our physical selves from an perceived threat – and when it is triggered it ‘hijacks’ all of our resources to ‘neutralise’ the threat it perceives.  When it does this, it cuts us off from access to our emotional and conceptual selves.  

So, when we act through fear, we are acting from our ‘reptilian’ selves – we are less than human!  This is why any decision made through fear is the wrong decision!

Does this sound familiar? Can you think of an instance recently when your behaviour has been less than favourable, and maybe – just maybe – you might have frustrated those around you? Or a time when your anger or frustration led you to shout or be aggressive to someone and then immediately regret it – when the release of your ‘reptilian’ fear meant that you were once again able to access your emotional and conceptual resources and understand the damage you had just done to the relationship and conceive of the longer-term consequences of your actions?  Or has your mind ever gone blank under pressure of an interview, an exam or a presentation?

Once we can free ourselves from the prisons of our fears, however we may experience them, we automatically release our potential and improve our performance in achieving our goals – being who we wish to be, doing what we wish to do.

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About Jefferson

Prior to becoming a leadership and organisational performance coach, facilitator, speaker and consultant, Jefferson enjoyed a successful 25-year career in industry.  Since 2004, he has been delivering Leadership Performance Coaching internationally at senior levels – Chairman, CEO, Managing Director, Vice President and Director functions – throughout the world across all business sectors at the individual, team and organisational levels.  

Jefferson (  is co-founder of Extraordinary Leadership (for organisational work) and LeadNow! (leadership development for young adults).  He also co-founded the “Extraordinary Leadership Journey”, which takes clients to work in Kenya, South Africa and India, and “WellBoring”, a charity which provides sustainable water solutions for African communities.  He recently founded the on-line programme ‘The Fearless Culture’ ( .

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