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High Performance Habits for Professionals
Attitude is Everything High Performance Habits
Justin Coulson

High Performance Habits for Professionals

When you hear “I need a volunteer!” how do you feel? In a room of people, this statement will cause most to suddenly stare at their shoes or the ceiling. Add the statement “And they need to be the fittest and healthiest human specimen in the room” and then most people feel immediately safe. “I’m off the hook,” they think as they immediately scan the room for someone to nominate that isn’t them.

Invariably a health nut is volunteered by his or her colleagues, and reluctantly they walk to the front of the room, climb the stairs to the stage, and await what they assume is going to be the most embarrassing part of their day.

I sometimes ask this in my keynotes across Australia. When the person comes up, I ask their name, highlight their obvious fitness and physical capacity, and then ask if they’ll assist with an exercise. I usually get an uncertain nod, which I take as enthusiastic consent! And then… I hold out a broom handle.


“Fit person”, I say to them. “I’m going to hold this broom handle horizontally. I want you to back up over there, take a run-up, and show this entire crowd that you have the physical capacity to jump over the bar. Will you do that?”

They look at me hesitatingly.

I smile, crouch down, and hold out the broom handle about 10-15cm off the ground.

“Do you think you can clear this?” I ask.

The crowd starts getting excited, there’s clapping. The “volunteer” takes a few steps before stepping nonchalantly over the bar. The crowd claps politely. The volunteer looks embarrassed. And I quiz them on the experience.

“How do you feel?” is my first question. They shrug. They do this every time. It seems pointless, embarrassing.

My next question is more pointed.

“Every time I do this activity, my volunteer essentially steps over the bar. It’s only 10cm high. But you only cleared it by a couple of centimetres. I know, and you know, that you could have jumped much higher. MUCH HIGHER. Why did you only just get over it?”

The response is always the same. Every time. I’ve done this with CEOs, Sales Managers, random people in an audience, teachers, parents, medical practitioners. Every single time they say the same thing:

“It’s all you asked me to do.”

I pause when they say this. I let it sink in. I repeat it back to them. “It’s all I asked you to do.”

Isn’t that how so many people live their lives? We do the bare minimum. We just skate along. We clear the bar that someone else has put in our way, but only to the level that they ask. Why do more?


I ask the volunteer my final question; “How did you feel when you cleared the bar?”

They always shrug their shoulders. They didn’t feel anything. There was nothing aspirational or motivational about clearing the bar when it was placed below their knees.

“Let’s do it once more. This time, though, I want you to tell me where we should set the bar. Let’s see how high you can really jump.”

Usually, my volunteer asks me to hold the broom handle around waist height. They go to one end of the stage to get a running start. The crowd starts to cheer with a level of excitement we definitely didn’t see the first time. And then…

They run. They leap. They clear the bar. The crowd goes wild!


And you can see, simply by watching the body language, that this fabulous fit person feels like they achieved something. They puff their chest out. They’re grinning from ear-to-ear. This time, it feels like a real accomplishment.

In previous articles, I’ve been sharing what I teach about the psychology of habits. This article, I offer one simple idea:

Don’t just clear the bar that someone else sets for you. Set your own bar. Push your limits. Make that your high performance habit this year – it’s never too late.

And feel the difference it makes in your life!

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About the Author

Justin Coulson

Dr Justin Coulson is one of Australia's most trusted parenting experts and authors and holds a PhD in Psychology. He is the founder of Happy Families (a website of parenting resources and advice) as well as the co-host and parenting expert on Channel Nine's Parental Guidance.

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