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The Art & Science of Performance… On & Off the Field
The Art & Science of Performance by Dana Sparks

The Art & Science of Performance… On & Off the Field



We all perform in myriad aspects of our lives. Our performance lies in one or more of many areas: athletics, academics, social, professional and personal. Within this scope of “performance,” in actuality we are all truly in “sales” regardless of what we say we do or for what we get paid! We are all in sales! We are always selling one of four things: a product, a service, an idea or ourselves! Actually, we are always selling ourselves in the form of our thoughts, our point of view, our disdain or our concern and solicitation. Therefore, the more we learn about the art and science of performance and of sales, the better off we will be!

There are four foundations to self-presentation, that is, “sales.” These areas are:

  • Communication
  • Mindset – The Inner Game
  • Success Systems
  • The Arena of Play

Communication: The meaning of your communication is the message that is received regardless of what you intended to convey! It is paramount to utilize powerful “words that work” and influential word patterns (i.e. level shifts, double binds, single binds, future pacing, direct cause and effect, etc.) in order to convey meaning to create shared understanding. When you are presenting yourself, it is imperative to persuade your listener and direct the stream of thoughts, feelings and ideas to those of your choosing.

The influential direction of communication is achieved through the power of questions. By asking questions, you can guide the conversation towards the topics that you choose to discuss. There are five types of questions (tie-downs, “why,” open-ended, selling and permission questions) which when used appropriately, will enable you to out-perform your competition whenever you want… and isn’t that your ultimate goal in a competitive situation?

Another critical skill to master is your own self-talk – what you say to yourself. Have you noticed all the chatter that continually rattles around in your head? Is most of that positive, performance-enhancing ideas or detracting and negative babble? The skill of controlling and directing that self-talk at best and learning how to ignore it at least is critical to your confidence when performing and selling yourself to others and to yourself!

There are many other skills (how to elicit criteria motivation, closing theory, conversational selling and story-selling to name a few) in the area of communication which comprise this quarter of your performance foundation. The stronger and deeper your communication skills, the more powerfully you will be able to present yourself and sell yourself, your ideas, your products or your services.

MindsetThe Inner Game: With a Ph.D. in sport psychology, I could expound endlessly on the role your mind plays in any performance. When you ask any athlete what percentage of their performance can be attributed to their mindset, you will get answers upwards of 85%. Now, ask those same athletes what percent of their practice time they put into preparing for that inner game, and the discrepancy in that percentage will be astounding! When it is “show time,” most people will prepare their minds and get “psyched up” immediately before the game, the sales call, the presentation, the interview, etc.. Imagine the positive effect on your salesmanship and on your stress-level when you have put as much time and effort into systematically preparing your inner game as you have your outer game!

Confidence-building comprises an enormous part of your psychology when presenting yourself to others and in front of others. Your tenacity and determination and assurance go a long way in determining the outcome on and off the field that you wish to achieve.

Your sense of value is another key element in this aspect of the psychology of performance. Do you know your own value, the unique value that you bring to the situation? How are you able to differentiate yourself among your competitors? Are you able to convincingly convey your value and this differentiation to those whom you are trying to influence? This value canvas is a skill which can readily be learned, practiced and honed!

Focus and Trust are two areas which can keep an expected champion performing at the top of his game or prod an underdog to beat all the apparent odds and come from behind to win it all! Where is your focus when you are having to perform at an elite level? Have you practiced the skill of being able to control your focus and pull it back on task when your mind wanders? When you are at work are you truly working? When you are at play are you truly in the moment? Do you trust yourself at that critical moment when it is now or never?

There are many additional components relating to the psychology of sport and performance: rebounding from a loss or from an injury or from the unexpected, blueprinting your intentions for success and high performance results, visualization, identity and psychological rehabilitation following injury, attitude and faith, motivation, energy, commitment and determination, to name a few!

Success Systems: When you create systems in which to streamline your skills, your chances of winning greatly increase. All systems for success should possess an element of accountability and discipline. You should create systems around every element of your practice and preparation time as well as your time in front of others. Some of these areas include: pre-“game” routines, superstitions, core schedules for all the areas of your life, injury schedule, practice time, momentum technology, work-outs, health and diet, re-purposing the stress you encounter in the myriad areas of your life and responding to competitive pressure!

The Arena of Action: It’s showtime! You must bring it to action! You can prepare and practice and hone your skills, yet the true test comes on the field of play! This is where the excitement begins! This is where the elements intermingle and the performance becomes the “thing!” You perform and are “on the field” in many many areas daily! You must perform in athletics, academics, in your career, in your community, in your social environment and in your personal life! Most people do not give themselves credit for the qualities and values they already possess! Skill-transfer and the flexibility to change are vital to your ongoing success in achieving the results you want!

In conclusion, there most definitely is an art and science of performance and sales. At the very least, you must sell yourself on yourself daily; and so often you must sell yourself to others in terms of ideas and thoughts and products and services. Without sales, nothing around you would be in your environment! The computer with which you are reading this blog was sold to you by someone (as was the chair on which your sitting and the clothes you are wearing!) Sales and performance are, in essence, one in the same! The stronger your skills in these four foundations, the greater and more plentiful the results you will achieve in your life!

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