I begin in the name of Allah.
(Note: I will be interchangeably using “peak performance”, excellence, and ihsan.)
There are many ayaat of the Quran and ahadeeth of the Prophet (SAW) that refer to ihsan. I chose the following hadeeth, because it is the most explicit.
As narrated by Abu Ya’la Shaddad bin Aws (RA): He narrates the Messenger of Allah (SAW) as saying “Verily, Allah prescribed excellence in all things.”
Usually when excellence, or ihsan, is referred to, we assume that it is in regards to how we stand in salah, or some other religious act. However, the excellence that is required of us goes beyond the typical devotional acts that we do on a daily basis. In fact, excellence goes beyond any physical act, because an act that is considered to be excellent for one person may be a simple, or even lazy, effort for someone else. Rather, excellence is a mindset to be achieved as often as possible.
“Peak performances are those magic moments [when] it all [comes] together- both physically and mentally. The performance is exceptional, seemingly transcending ordinary levels… They are the ultimate high, the thrilling moment that [people] work for in their pursuit of excellence.” - Viki Crane and Jean Williams, sports psychologists
“Trying to articulate the zone is not easy because it’s such an indescribable feeling. That moment doesn’t happen often, and when it does happen, you feel like you’re playing out of your head! You aren’t feeling any tension or any pressure and physically your strokes are just flowing, every ball you hit is going in. Emotionally you’re really calm. There’s no strain involved. It’s a euphoric feeling. The feeling that whatever you touch turns to gold. Whatever you do, whatever decision you make on the court, whatever stroke or shot you try, you know it’s going to work.“- Chris Evert, Tennis Champion
In no way am I saying that these non-Muslims realized what ihsan is or achieved it. What I want you to recognize, however, is that they understood what it means to perform at the highest level.
In this series, I will be discussing the psychological aspects of building and retaining an attitude of excellence, by discussing the following topics:
- the importance of doing everything with ihsan
- high self-confidence
- total commitment
- strong performance focus
- coping well with stress
- coping well with distractions
- optimistic, positive attitude
- high personal standards
- well developed competitive plans
- control emotions and remaining appropriately activated
- viewing anxiety as beneficial
- setting performance goals
Something to act upon: Describe in detail one instance where you achieved peak performance. (Please, post your responses below so that others may benefit.)