When you think back in your life to a significant event, chances are that event was a peak experience for you. The reason that moment stuck in your mind was because it was a seminal moment that brought a new realization or perspective on life; in tandem with peak experiences are peak performances, when all engines seemed to be firing in perfect harmony and nothing can go wrong. Often a peak experience elevates you to a new level of thinking and an increased positivity, something success-minded entrepreneurs and leaders thrive upon.
If you have the ability to create a peak experience that strengthens your growth mindset, would you? Of course you would! Then let’s explore how this can be accomplished.
Defining Peak Experiences
Abraham Maslow, the renowned American psychologist may be best remembered for his hierarchy of needs which established five levels of human needs, as follows:
- Physiological (basic needs) – refers to basic survival needs, such as food, water, sleep, shelter, clothing, and other minimum necessities of life
- Safety (basic needs) – includes resources such as gainful employment, personal security, health, and property, elevating a human beyond bare needs
- Love and belonging (psychological needs) – enters the realm of the emotional, where people seek connection with family, friends, acquaintances, and sometime even strangers
- Esteem (psychological needs) – comes in many forms, including freedom, strength, status, recognition, respect, and, yes, especially self-esteem
- Self-actualization (self-fulfillment needs) – exemplifies the desire to improve oneself, to become the best one can be; while these needs are unnecessary for daily living, those who experience it say it’s the real taste of life as compared to just getting by
This hierarchy of needs is structured as a pyramid; the first level (physiological needs) must be satisfied before climbing to the next stage (safety needs), on up to the ultimate realization of humanity, self-actualization. As is illustrated on the pyramid, self-actualization moves one past the stages of survival and existence, into the realm of truly living; this desirable attainment is only possible when the individual feels the lower four levels of need are fulfilled. Furthermore, it is the self-actualization stage where peak experiences have the greatest impact, both at the time of occurrence and on into the future; it can literally and positively change your life. (You can have a peak experience at one of the lower levels, but it will likely result in a good feeling or seem like an unusually lucky day, overshadowing the true benefits peak experiences can provide.)
Benefits of Peak Experiences
When a peak experience occurs, the person discovers the following benefits:
- A sense of union – those having a peak experience report feeling in communion with the world, nature, and other humans
- Connectivity – another common benefit is the experience of feeling as if all is right with the world along with a sense of belonging
- Epiphanies – it is not uncommon for the person to have an “aha!” moment, often finding the answer to a question or concern long plaguing them
- Serenity – even in the midst of chaos, a strong sense of stability and peace keeps one balanced, focused, and calm
- Control – the ability to perform flawlessly and effortlessly results in peak performances, where errors are minimal or nonexistent
- Fulfillment – instead of a vague feeling that things are okay, the individual feels fantastic and emanates that positive energy and satisfaction
- Timelessness – most people having a peak experience state that time seems to stop or at least lose its meaning and urgency
- Action – often, a person emerging from a peak experience discovers the strength and motivation to activate real change in their life, with little to no resistance
Once a person reaches these states, they find that establishing and starting new successful habits is not only easy, but fun and inspiring. It’s the difference between saying “One of these days…” versus “Now’s the time!” It also does wonders in encouraging and nurturing an ongoing successful mindset that bristles with new ideas and approaches to everyday problems.
Producing a Peak Experience
While some may argue that a peak experience cannot be created at will, others insist that certain factors can contribute to the likelihood of encountering a peak experience. Let’s take a quick look at some practices that can help induce a peak experience…
1. Crash the Comfort Zone
We may be creatures of comfort, but living in a permanent state of ease is not conducive to remaining motivated and excited by life’s opportunities and offerings. A relaxed mind is a soft mind, unmotivated to create excitement and thrill (the precise opposite of comfort!) Too often a state of relaxation can morph into a state of boredom and dullness, while a peak experience will produce excitement and motivation. To be comfortable is to be unprepared for the opportunities that pass before you; if too cozy and snug, you may not even see opportunities parading before you!
2. Stimulate the Mind
It has been said that what you practice becomes stronger; this also means what you do not practice grows weaker. Too often, people come home from a “long” day at work (how can one day be long and another day short when you work 8 hours on both days? Answer: it’s your state of mind) and decide they have had enough thinking for the day. On goes the television, radio, or other distractions meant to entertain but not to stimulate the mind. We have all had moments when we were convinced we were too beat to do anything but plop in front of the TV all night; then an old friend calls or stops by and before you know it, you are once again animated and energetic. Reading books, listening to lectures, watching documentaries, engrossing conversations all serve as excellent stimulants; develop this habit and you will find that all those “important” shows you can’t miss are easily skipped when your mind remains hungry for knowledge instead of titillation.
3. Practice Focus
Instead of running on automatic, learn to be more deliberate and aware of your actions and behaviors. We are great at training our minds to perform menial and simple tasks automatically, but unfortunately very few individuals understand how to turn off that internal robot when it’s not needed. The first stage is learning to become aware of your automated habits; it’s impossible to change habits you don’t even notice! Once you recognize a behavior pattern you realize no longer serves your needs, you can work to develop a new habit to replace the habits that keep you dull and asleep to the possibilities of life.
4. Skip the Status Quo
Unusual efforts produce extraordinary results. Too many people go through life with the attitude that “If it works, don’t fix it,” without ever analyzing if “it” really does work. Sometimes referred to as “thinking outside the box,” true devotees of a growth mindset are much more inclined to get rid of the box altogether. As Niccolo Machiavellli (author of ‘The Prince’) stated: “I’m not interested in preserving the status quo; I want to overthrow it.” Be a rebel, not an obedient servant to the same routines that produce mediocre results.
5. Always Expect More
There is no need to demand more of others; demand the maximum from yourself and others will be motivated to mimic such positive behavior. As a thought leader intent on encouraging others to develop their own successful habits, nothing works better than being the example you want emulated. Remember, each time you smash a goal, set up a newer and more challenging goal to retain your growth mindset and prove that there is always room for more improvement and experiences.
All of the above practices leaves the door of peak experiences wide open for success-minded individuals. The best thing is that, once you develop these positive attributes, you will discover that feeling of fire and excitement that drives the top performers to evermore successful experiences. And you will likely start having more peak experiences, thus regularly realizing positive growth!