Understanding the Achievement Formula

Golden Nugget: Clarifies what limits individual achievement and how potential is blocked

About a decade ago I began looking for a way to help my son improve his tennis game. I was in the middle of a book bender – consuming everything I could find on tennis – when a formula shared in The Inner Game of Tennis by author Tim Gallwey stopped me in my tracks.

Success in tennis, says Gallwey, can be shown in the formula Performance = Potential – Interference (P=P-I). Immediately I saw the possibilities offered by this formula outside of the game of tennis. Gallwey’s formula had identified the method for finding the hidden possibilities within, and, based on my 20 years of research in the field of human potential, Gallwey’s formula is the most effective way I have found to explain what limits human performance.

The P=P-I formula shows us the factors that impact performance: potential and interference. To increase performance, we must tap into more potential. To tap into more potential, we must decrease interference in the system. 

Performance is defined as your current operating level in the system. Potential is what is possible for you. Interference is background noise, stories, hurts and wounds that limit or mask our ability to tap into our potential; it is what locks us in place in some way. The more we reduce the background noise, the more potential we can access, increasing our performance. Increasing our performance moves us closer to wholeness and to full integration as a human – that place were greater achievement is possible.

As the world’s foremost Jungian psychologist Dr. James Hollis proposed, most of us respond to life’s summons at the level of our limitations, not at the level of our potential. I often say we can only rise to the level our stories allow. For this reason, it is important to focus on interference. It can be a lot of things. You might have been bullied as a child and that took away some of your self-confidence. You could be like me and experienced a catastrophic illness as an infant that changed your life trajectory. We all arrive in adulthood with some wounds or stories from childhood. However, in our 20s, 30s, 40s or even in our 70s, the story of a 6-year-old no longer serves us and shouldn’t be driving our behavior.

The tapestry of our lives is rich with many messages from many sources. There are so many ways noise and interference develop in the background. As children, we are not equipped to manage the experiences that happen to us. That is simply life. No one gets out of childhood unscathed. Let me repeat that – no one gets out of childhood unscathed. Sometimes, in our youth, our parents take away our power and then we struggle our whole lives to regain it. Losing our power in childhood is easy because we haven't been taught the tools that allow us to hold onto it.

Mix in the fact that our parents, bosses, friends and leaders probably don't know how to hold their power either and we have a nice recipe for holding power in all the wrong ways.  We all grow up leaving important pieces of ourselves in the past because it was what we thought we needed to do to survive or to fit in. In Beyond the Winning Streak, author Lynda Madden Dahl best describes how to manage our childhood wounds:

Poet Robert Bly, an influential leader of the men’s movement, gets my vote on how to deal with childhood wounds. He says you can only nurture the inner child for so long, then you have to heal the little sucker and kill it off or you’ll end up pandering to it for the rest of your life. (p. 72)

Are you still pandering to childhood wounds that took your power? Are you allowing the future to be dictated by the past, locked in repeating patterns that keep you from the true you? If yes, and most of us are, it is time to stop.

Where do we begin look to unravel interference? Next week's post starts the beautiful journey into the background noise. I look forward to being your guide so you can enter the “I” with grace and ease.

Until next week, may you be surrounded by all the llama llove you can handle.

Tomi Llama