There are watershed moments in everyone’s life. Those moments when something happens that changes our whole perspective on life or work or a particular relationship. These are peak experiences, and we can tap into them when we find ourselves stuck in a rut, looking for motivation.
As a manager or coach, you can tap into your own peak experiences, or the peak experiences of your employees, as a tool to improve performance in a big way.
Peak experiences are known as joyful and energizing moments which involve sudden feelings of intense joy, happiness, awe, and wonder. Psychologist, Abraham Maslow, spoke of peak experiences as being uplifting and transcending the ego; giving one a sense of value and meaning; they trigger creative energies; providing a feeling of purpose; and it has the power to permanently change the individual for the better.
Peak experiences can influence significant change in a person's perspectives of life and can increase an individual's awareness, determination, drive, free will, creativity, and empathy. It's a feeling of being more powerful than ever before.
My Own Peak Experience
As humans we love stories, especially those that are inspiring. I have found that by sharing my own stories about peak experiences (when the moment is fitting), they can be motivating for others. It provides hope, optimism and a different way of looking at a situation. I have had many peak experiences that have been very transformative and altered my whole perspective on life. These experiences changed who I am forever moving forward. One of those peak experiences was a sense of miraculous transformation that was unexplainable in scientific terms.
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At the age of 17, on a hot summer night, I was with three friends, hanging out at a man-made lake. We decided to get cooled off in the water and as my girlfriend jumped in feet first, I dove right after her off a four foot bank only for it to be too late to find out how shallow the water was. I hit rock bottom only a few feet below the water, shattered my C7 vertebrae and was instantly paralyzed. I was diagnosed a quadriplegic and the neurosurgeon advised me and my family that is was highly unlikely I would ever walk again. That point of diagnosis was one peak experience, as was the first day I was able to get up and walk again, which was followed by many smaller peak experiences along the path to full recovery. It was a journey of self-discovery where I suddenly awakened aspects of myself that I had not realized were within me, including my own willpower, determination, tenacity, rebelliousness, inner knowing, and the drive to win. This experience is a great reminder when I am in need of transformation, awakening, creativity, and motivation. I take myself back to those moments to lift my energy, open my imagination, and create an action plan for whatever it is I may be focused on succeeding with.
Using Peak Experiences in Coaching
One way to use this tool in coaching is through the sharing of your own peak experiences. They need not be as dramatic as the one I shared here, but if you’ve had an experience that altered your perspective in some way, it may serve as a motivation to others who are not meeting their potential.
Another way is in coaching an employee to recall a peak experience of their own. A time when they felt, saw, and sensed intense transformation and awe which rippled out into the other areas of their life in positive ways. As their coach, you will guide the employee to recall an experience where they felt energized, motivated, creative, and excited about life. Once they have recalled that peak experience, have them identify what positive aspects of them self were present - their strengths, awareness, determination, emotions, values, attitudes, beliefs, intuition - and how that resulted from or was influenced by that peak experience.
This will assist them in tapping into their own creativity, motivation, courage, and abilities and allow them to see their current environment or situation from a different perspective. They can identify what they can carry forward and apply to their current situation at work that can positively impact their performance and the company's ROI.
By coaching an employee to recall peak experiences, it will assist in self-actualization and influence the choices they make, which will ripple out into the actions they take with their work and life.
So, any time I feel challenged, set back, lack of motivation, I take myself back to my own peak experiences and in a moment it can change everything. And any time I see another who is challenged, experiencing a set back or lacking motivation, I coach them by using this tool in identifying peak experiences.