John Wooden, the famous – and most successful ever – basketball coach once said:

“the true test of a person’s character is what they do when no one is watching.”

Having been watching the England Cricket team play their latest test series in front of very small crowds in the UAE, we started thinking about this… and we came to the conclusion that like lots of quotes like this, it’s both true and untrue!

Our reality, as performance experts, is that “the true test of a person’s character comes when they have to be their brilliant best, regardless of how many people are watching.”

Case in point with the England cricket team. Whether in front of a partisan crowd of 28,000 people at Lord’s Cricket ground, or 28 (dis?!)interested onlookers in Abu Dhabi, the England players are required to perform to their peak. It got us thinking about the importance of context and how great performers are never dependent on it, but they’re ready to exploit it.

Never Dependent

Great performers work really hard to identify their Peak Performance Ingredients (it’s PPI but not as you know it). These ingredients have to be focused on personal thoughts and actions – they can never have external factors as an essential ingredient. So, a player would never think to themselves, “I only ever play well in front of big crowds, so that’s part of my recipe.”

If you think your peak performances only happen on the third day of the month, in a year ending in even numbered years, when it’s sunny and there’s lots of people watching, then you’re never going to fulfill your potential, be in control of your performance or find out how good you can be. It’s important checking that you haven’t got any of this kind of thinking about your rules for being your brilliant best.

Ready to exploit

Rather than being dependent on the stars aligning to perform well, great performers think about the different situations they’re going to be in. They then think about how they can use those different situations to strengthen important thoughts and feelings. They also think about how that situation might bring in unhelpful thoughts and feelings that needs to become a reminder to get back to what matters for them.

So, if they’re alone, they think about how the quiet reminds them of quality of focus. When they’re surround by the energy of thousands, they know this will remind them of the importance of excitement and passion.

The discipline of thinking ahead and deciding how you want the situation to add to your natural ingredients of success is the key.

Get better at the right stuff

Rather than getting better at performing in front of crowds or performing alone, great performers challenge themselves to constantly get better at making sure they exploit the situation they’re in. They work hard to make sure that the situation is never in control of them and stopping them from focusing on their recipe for success.

Sounds simple? It is. It’s not easy though, but absolutely worth the effort. So think about the environments you have to perform in and get better at being your brilliant best whatever the backdrop!