Relaxation Spurs Effective Performance

Suppose that you have a major presentation coming up that might enable you to land a big client for your company. Are you relaxed enough to be at your best? Let me offer a story and some observations that drive home a crucial point.

Years back, I accompanied my good buddies Don and Dennis to a three-day camping event in West Virginia. We made the two-hour drive to West Virginia, and there met dozens of others who were also taking part in this festive weekend.

When Don met Ann

While we were there, I discovered that Ann, a woman I had met weeks earlier, was part of the event. Ann was a comer. Jet black hair, slender, smart (a Ph.D. in education), a great personality: the whole package. Alas, she was five years my senior.

Don had been divorced for a few years. I knew he was seeking the right woman, and I thought that Ann and Don might hit it off. Within the first hour at the campsite, after everyone was assembled, I introduced them. They appeared to take to each other immediately. Interestingly, Don took everything in stride. He did not try to impress Ann, hog the time with her, or do anything that guys typically do to impress a woman. Rather, Don had an almost relaxed attitude about their encounter.

Throughout the weekend, during those times that I saw Don and Ann converse, he seemed to maintain the same relaxed posture. When I asked him about it privately, he said he didn’t notice he was doing anything differently from when he meets others. Yes, he was attracted to Ann, and yes, he would like to know more about her, but there was no need to get overly-excited. Until then, I had not witnessed such behavior. Don was comfortable with himself, was interested in getting to know Ann, and had no need to come on strong.

Relaxing at High Speed

Years later, while watching the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan during an NBA basketball game, I noticed something in Jordan that I hadn’t seen in other players. During the game’s particularly tense moments, he seemed to maintain a relaxed posture. When the other team had the ball, he was ready to pounce. Yet, even during critical moments within the game, while maintaining his ready position, he had an air of relaxation. I recalled Don and his approach in getting to know Ann.

Don and Ann started dating after that weekend, and within the year were married. Thirty years and many children later, they are still happy together. What did Michael Jordan on the basketball court and Don in meeting Ann know about effective performance that could benefit us all?

Maintaining one’s bearings, even in situations that would make most people tense or anxious, gives one a decided advantage, especially in a competitive situation.

During several Summer Olympics, I saw gold medalist Michael Phelps take a similar approach each time he stood on the starting block before a race. Phelps had every anatomical advantage a swimmer could have, plus he was relentless in his pursuit of swimming mastery. He knew he was good, and he knew he had the ability to draw upon the best of himself in race after race.

As he awaited for the starter’s gun, compared to the other swimmers, he had an air of relaxation. Like Michael Jordan, basketball’s greatest wizard, and like Don in meeting the woman who turned out to be the love of his life, Michael Phelps remained relatively calm and collected at an otherwise intense moment, and made it work to his supreme advantage.

Apply the Lessons

I have learned from these masters. When I am about to speak to a group at a conference or convention, whether there are 20, 200, or 2,000 people in attendance, I draw upon what I have observed, namely the importance of remaining relaxed. I know that the speech is going to go well, not out of overconfidence or arrogance, but because I have done my homework and am prepared. I have performed well so many times before, and the odds are incredibly in my favor that I will perform well again. So, why not be relaxed?

After I am announced, I come up to the stage, and rather than launching into my presentation, I pause for a few moments. I scan the crowd and drink in the moment. I appreciate my surroundings and the opportunity that lies before me. Then, when I’m ready, and not a nanosecond before, I begin to speak. So too, when you face an important prospect, slow down, relax, smile, and give’m your best pitch.

Jeff Davidson
The Work-Life Balance Expert® and the premier thought leader on work-life balance issues. He works with organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the work-life balance of their people.

He wrote Breathing Space, Simpler Living, and Dial it Down, Live it Up. Visit or call 919-932-1996 for more information on Jeff’s keynote speeches and seminars, including:

- Managing the Pace with Grace®,
- Achieving Work-Life Balance™,
- Managing Information and Communication Overload®