Peaks and Valleys. I use this coaching exercise to get clients in tune with their personal narrative. It’s also useful for highlighting the best path to peak performance through identifying your values. Here’s why and how.
When you consider your life story, what peak moments come to mind? Graduations, weddings, births, and landing a great job are often cited as key experiences demarcated by “before” and “after.”
As you remember your peak moments, which emotions get stirred up?
- Joy / Appreciation / Empowerment / Freedom / Love
- Enthusiasm / Eagerness / Happiness
- Positive Expectation / Belief
The positive emotions listed above, which come from the Emotional Guidance Scale, function like a ladder with joy / appreciation / empowered / freedom / love as the top rung.
By distinguishing the emotion behind your peak moment, you can determine which peak moment(s) had the greatest impact on you.
Using graduation as an illustration, one person may associate that event with announcing to the world they have their degree. For another, it was having family present to witness it. A third might say it was a crowning achievement to be personally celebrated. 1
Notice it’s the same peak moment but with three potential values represented: external recognition, family, and personal accomplishment.
Peak moments typically reflect core values.
Emotions and Values
Observe the relationship between emotions and your values.
When you feel strongly, either positively or negatively, it’s because you’ve identified a core value.
Peak moments demonstrate positive emotions, like you read in Scale above.
In contrast, valleys reveal negative emotions. When you feel strongly in a negative way (jealousy, hatred, blame – located near the Scale’s bottom), it’s likely due to a core value getting trampled upon.
Values are unique to you. Whether you value external recognition, family, or personal accomplishment, your core values are what motivate you intrinsically. The bond between emotions and core values means emotions drive your actions, whether you’re aware of it or not.
Humans love to think. As a result, in many ways, humans have become entirely disconnected from body, heart (emotions), and spirit.
Descartes said, I think therefore I am. The modern world has assimilated this philosophy so completely that when I start talking about emotions and the body, clients get uncomfortable.
The truth is, your body tells you how you feel. Think of the word I just used: feel. We feel in our bodies. Feelings = Body.
In those moments when you can’t pinpoint your emotion, take a moment and ask yourself, Where do I feel this in my body?
When you feel stressed (negative emotion), you often experience contraction in the body, for instance, in the shoulders, chest, head. During times of elation (positive emotion), you often feel open and expansive in those same regions.
As I’ve said before, the vagus nerve runs through the stomach to the brain not the other way around. This is why you feel a gut reaction before your brain processes a thought or experience. It’s the best example of how the body informs the mind.
Use your body to access your emotions, which in turn inform your core values and thus what motivates you intrinsically.
Achieving Peak Form
Peak moments make you feel whole by combining mind, body, heart, and spirit.
Uncover your peak moments to find your values so you understand your internal motivation. Know your core values and you can figure out what you want and what you don’t want.
That’s how you achieve peak form.
1 I’m directly quoting advice I gave to a sociology grad last year in The Globe and Mail.