The #1 Secret to Sustained High Performance

It’s a Friday morning in the office.  I’m walking from the kitchen with a fresh cup of coffee when, out of the corner of my eye, I see one of my team members hobbling on one leg; he’s practically stumbling down the corridor of offices.  I imagine that the pain on his face looks worse than the pain he’s feeling in his leg.  This is not the case.

He’s injured himself playing sports late the night before and when he woke up this morning the pain was even worse.  Yet, here he stands (not very gracefully I’ll add) in the office at 7am.  He hasn’t taken any steps to determine a diagnosis or treatment.  When I ask why he’s at work, he says he feels obligated to be here. After several minutes of convincing, he finally leaves to take care of himself.

I can confidently assure you that his feelings of obligation did not have anything to do with me as his leader.  This behavior was a direct result of the fact he’s a high performer.

I applaud high performers.  They want results.  They put in the work.  They rise to the toughest challenges.  They take on more without being asked. But there’s one thing that nobody likes to admit or share when it comes to high performance.

The secret to sustained high performance is to first take care of yourself. 

Why is it that high performers can achieve so many unbelievable results yet can’t seem to take care of their personal health and well-being?

Is it a belief they’re being selfish or they may be disappointing others?  Maybe they have a fear of not getting results within the expected time.  Or possibly they don’t want to “sacrifice” time away from their professional responsibilities to focus on themselves.

Whatever the reason, it’s vital to overcome that which prohibits the high performer from taking care of self because if they’re not healthy and present with optimal energy, they will not be able to achieve results for the long-term.

I’m offering a few areas of health for you to seriously consider should you desire sustained high performance.

Exercise & Nutrition

The importance of regular exercise and the right nutrition plan should not be new to you.  But did you know the benefits not only include weight control, but also reduced risks to certain diseases, energy boosts, and improved mood?  Even more reason to dust off your treadmill or finally use that gym membership you’ve been paying for.


Sleep is another focus area and one that tends to be sacrificed quite often by high performers.  It’s recommended to have 7-9 hours each night and with a loss of just 1–2 hours, your ability to function suffers as if you haven't slept at all for a day or two.  And ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke and obesity.  Not a great condition to sustain high performance.

Mental Health

And finally, with the extreme demands high performers place on themselves, it’s important to incorporate strategies to support your mental health.  Set aside 10-15 minutes each day to listen to music, talk a walk outside, meditate, read a book or enjoy a cup of coffee in silence.  These activities help reduce stress and gain clarity which allow you to attack your projects more efficiently and effectively.

Final Thoughts

In my opinion, the number one reason high performers ignore their personal well-being is because they believe they’re too busy and won’t create the time.  But as you become increasingly tired and energy deficient, so does the amount of time it takes to complete your professional goals.  It’s proven that when you are living a healthy lifestyle and your mental focus increases, you’ll accomplish more in less time and with increased quality.

You can certainly ignore the facts and you will continue to achieve high performance, but only in the short-term.  If your goal is to sustain your ‘high performer’ status and achieve greatness in the long-term, then remember that YOU matter most.

Schedule at least one healthy activity for yourself in today’s calendar that’s outside your typical high performing tasks.  Please share how you’re taking care of YOU in the comments below.