On Peak Performance

Fragment from imaginary dialogues

“What was the most impactful TED talk you’ve ever watched?”

“This one:

As you know, I’m very interested in peak performance. This talk delivered an essential piece of the puzzle. It was a paradigm shift for me.”

“What were the biggest ideas you got out of it?”

“We all have our moments of brilliance, some more often than others. The video brought into focus the idea of performance-consistency, ‘being brilliant every single day‘, and shows a model of how to achieve that.

The model looks like this:


Think of it as a pyramid, with Physiology at the bottom.

Feeling profoundly affects Thinking, and Physiology profoundly affects Feeling.

“Why the distinction between Feeling and Emotion?”

“In this model, Emotion is raw physiological-data constantly being transmitted by our body, whereas Feeling is our receptivity to that data, our capacity to notice, interpret, and process it.

It made me realize I was focusing too much on the top of the pyramid (Thinking), not enough on the bottom (Physiology), and hardly at all on the middle (Feeling/Emotion). The problem is, while under stress, you become ‘lobotomized’, to use Alan’s vivid metaphor. You lose access to your mental-resources. As the saying goes, ‘a chain is as strong as its weakest link’.

It made me realize:

Thinking Mastery requires Physiological Mastery and Emotional Mastery.

This opened a new path for me in an instant.

Another big idea I got out of it is that of coherence.”

“What is coherence?”

“Looking at the heart through the quality/quantity model, the heart-rate – that is, the number of contractions per minute – is the quantity aspect. 

However the heart-rate does not tell the whole story. An essential piece of information is the distribution of the heart-beats within that time-frame, what’s called the Heart Rate Variability (HRV). Representing the heart-beats as an oscillation, you can have an unstable erratic oscillation, or a smooth stable oscillation independently of the heart-rate.” 

“So you can have a stable oscillation with both a high heart-rate and a low heart-rate.”

“Yes. This is the quality aspect. This stable oscillation of the beating of your heart is called coherence. Coherence correlates with all the positive emotions and the experience of Flow.

You can alter HRV and achieve coherence through breathing.

This insight led me to another realization:

Physiological Mastery requires Breathing Mastery.

The video offers a beautiful practical insight on how to achieve coherence through breathing.”

“What’s the insight?”

“Breathing has 12 aspects you can regulate, such as speed, pattern, volume, depth, etc. According to Alan, the most important are three: 
Rhythmicity: fixed in-breath/out-breath ratio (alters HRV)
Smoothness: even flow (alters HRV)
Focus on the Heart (promotes positive emotion)

Alan has an acronym for it:


Through the

As concerns rhythmicity, the actual ratio doesn’t matter. It can be 5/5 (5 seconds breathing in, 5 seconds breathing out), 6/6, 6/7, or any other ratio as long as it stays the same.

I love the idea of focusing on the Heart with every breath. I’m working on turning every breath into a beautiful centering-moment.



About Dani Trusca

Playfully seeking wisdom

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