Most of us learned from an early age that “performance” is often a requirement in life. We had to perform at school. We have to perform at work. We have to perform our roles in relationships as friends, lovers, parents, bosses, relatives, citizens, and all the rest.
Performance usually implies some kind of judgment or evaluation. Most people are taught to strive for excellence in performance. The elements of excellence in performance, however, are usually tied to ends, results, and achievements like receiving an A on exam, winning a tennis match, or being promoted at work. When standards of performance are clear and specific, as in the Olympics, bettering performance can become much more focused and effective. Developing and perfecting skills (usually through repetition and practice) becomes the means to better performance.
In the realm of our performance in our life roles, there is usually much more ambiguity. Very often standards are not specified and can vary dramatically from person to person. In love relationships, for example, the “standards of performance” can be drastically different for different individuals. In most cases, we tend to internalize models for these kinds of standards based on what we observe growing up and during our life experience.
All too often, we put little thought into developing a detailed and specific understanding of what excellence in performance means when it comes to our roles in relationships. Even more often, little thought and consideration is invested into whether or not our internalized models for standards of performance in relationships are actually consistent with our true values and beliefs, not merely the values and beliefs we were raised with or exposed to in our place in society and culture.
A simple but powerful way to better our “performance” in our relationships is to really ponder what excellence means to us in all of these roles. What does it mean to perform at the highest level as a friend? A lover? A parent? An employee? If the answers are clear and easy to identify, it’s likely that you will be able to easily tie your reasons to elements of your values and belief system. If this is difficult, it might be necessary to consider more deeply what your true values and beliefs are, and how fully you are enacting them in your daily life.
The second step is to open a dialogue with significant others in your relationships and find out what excellence in performance in those roles means to them. When disparities and differences of values and beliefs are clearly identified, a path to greater satisfaction, deeper connection, and comfortable compromise is also revealed. As complex and complicated as our roles and relationships may be, sometimes relatively simple awareness and communication about these things can create drastic changes. You can try it out by simply asking a friend what it means to them to be the best friend you can be or perform with excellence in friendship. Their answers might surprise you.