Intrigued by the incredible productivity and cohesion of the team of scientists working on the Apollo 11 mission to reach the moon, Charles Garfield came up with a mission of his own: The young mathematician devoted the next 20 years to studying peak performers. What separates them from everyone else? Based on his research, Garfield isolated six qualities that peak performers share:
1. They Give Themselves a Motivating Mission: Once the Apollo 11 team achieved its goal, its mission was over and most of its members lapsed back into normal productivity levels. In contrast, for peak performers, their sense of mission is an internal motivator that remains consistently focused and never goes away. They are filled with purpose and want to achieve something bigger than themselves. This motivates them through good times and bad — and inspires them to achieve more and excel.
2. They Take Results-Oriented Action: Peak performers don’t wait for favorable external circumstances to act: They don’t wait for the perfect time or situation. Instead, they took purposeful action every day to get the results they wanted.
3. They Use Self-Management to Achieve Self-Mastery: Peak performers achieve their goals by managing their own process: They look at what’s working and what’s not working and make changes necessary to achieve better results. They are self motivated and manage their own progress.
4. They Are Team Builders: Although peak performers are adept at mastering their own processes and don’t depend on external motivation, they also have the ability to surround themselves with the right team in order to achieve the results they want.
5. They Are Course Correctors: Like everyone else, peak performers make mistakes and encounter obstacles. However, when they begin seeing negative results, setbacks, and other indicators that suggest they’re on the wrong path, they use that information to shift gears and take corrective action. They learn from failure and use it to fuel their success.
6. They Manage Change Productively: No one has a perfect strategy — or operates in a vacuum. Peak performers have the ability to anticipate changes, adapt to them, and then take purposeful action. They know their plans will change due to circumstance, so they focus on intelligent adaptations to whatever changes may come.
What’s most encouraging about Garfield’s findings on peak performers is how normal they are. They don’t have exceptional talent or advantages. What sets them apart? A powerful, motivating mission, a willingness to act, and an ability to adapt to setbacks. We can bring all of these to the page every day as we write on.