The most effective people and teams go through life deliberately alternating between two zones: the learning zone and the performance zone.
The performance zone maximizes our immediate performance, while the learning zone maximizes our growth and our future performance. The reason many of us don't improve much despite our hard work is that we tend to spend almost all of our time in the performance zone. This hinders our growth, and ironically, over the long term, also our performance.
The learning zone is when our goal is to improve. Then we do activities designed for improvement, concentrating on what we haven't mastered yet, which means we have to expect to make mistakes, knowing that we will learn from them.
That is very different from what we do when we're in our performance zone, which is when our goal is to do something as best as we can, to execute. Then we concentrate on what we have already mastered and we try to minimize mistakes.
Demosthenes, the greatest orator in ancient Greece, did activities designed for improvement.
This involves breaking down abilities into component skills, being clear about what subskill we're working to improve, giving full concentration to a high level of challenge outside our comfort zone, just beyond what we can currently do, using frequent feedback with repetition and adjustments, and ideally engaging the guidance of a skilled coach, because activities designed for improvement are domain-specific, and great teachers and coaches know what those activities are and can also give us expert feedback.
We spend so much time in the performance zone because most of the time our environments often are, unnecessarily, high stakes. But there are still things we can do about it:
"Real confidence is about modeling ongoing learning."
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