Defining Peak Performance

What is Peak Performance?


Here at The Center, we define “peak performance” as follows:

is a level of exceptional functioning in which a person effortlessly performs an activity to the maximum of their ability while fully focused and immersed in feelings of confidence, engagement and enjoyment.




is not just a level of performance in athletics, it is also a level of performance in school and business.  A student may reach a level of peak performance when presenting a topic to their peers.  They are confident and focused on the content while fully engaged with the audience as they effortlessly present the material.  Likewise, an employee may be fully engaged with a customer while confidently and effortlessly addressing all the customer’s questions and concerns. 


Peak Experience

Many people only associate with athletics.  While often used to describe a person’s performance in an athletic event, it can also describes a person’s performance in any activity.  The term that more accurately describes what athletes are feeling or achieving is “peak experience.”  

Peak experience is similar to peak performance, but peak experience centers on what the athlete is feeling and experiencing.  It is often referred to as “being in the zone” or “flow.”  Although, does involve feelings, including those of confidence and joy, it does not center on it.  Basically, peak experience describes the ultimate feelings of joy and positive emotions, whereas peak performance involves optimal functioning.


Focus on Actions

Another important element of is that it is focused on actions and behaviors (tasks or activities), and not the outcome.  The positive results will eventually come if the focus is on mastering the actions and behaviors. 


  • A person can have an excellent sales presentation, put the potential customer does not make the purchase.
  • A baseball player can have a great at bat where they contact the ball perfectly, but it goes right to a fielder who makes the out.


The focus of a peak performer is on their own actions and behaviors.  This is because they have much more control over those than they do on the final results. 



Four Levels of Performance

There are four main levels of performance:

  1. Unacceptable
  2. Acceptable
  3. Desired
  4. Peak

Most people and organizations focus only on the first two; acceptable and unacceptable.  They are mostly concerned about either meeting or not meeting the required performance levels. 

Unacceptable – The individual is not meeting the set minimum level of performance

Acceptable – The individual is meeting the set minimum level of performance, but not the desired level

Desired – The individual is exceeding acceptable level and is meeting the set desired level

Peak – The individual is exceeding the desired level of performance and is achieving the optimum level of performance




A baseball player may have an acceptable level of 230 for a batting average.  If the player does not consistently reach that level, their position on the team may be in jeopardy.  The player probably would be placed on a performance improvement plan.  If they continue to fall short of that acceptable level, the player may be forced to leave the team.  If they exceed the acceptable level of 230, but do not reach the desired level of 275, they probably would still be placed on an improvement plan until they reach the desired level.  If they consistently reach the desired performance level, their position on the team would probably be secure.  Often, this is the ultimate goal for many players (meeting the desired level).  However, what individuals should strive for is not simply the desired level, but the peak level. 




The Peak Level

is the level above all others.  It is when an individual effortlessly performs tasks to the maximum level of their ability with confidence and focus.  It is when everything seems to be in sync.  Characteristics of this exceptional functioning level include clearly focused attention, lack of concern with the outcome, effortless performance, and a feeling of extreme confidence.



There is a tremendous amount of preparation and dedication that goes into performing at this high level.  The desire and ability to push oneself beyond their level of comfort often becomes the defining factor in achieving peak performance.  The person has to want to perform at this level. 






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