What is your level of performance flexibility?

When it comes to performance, our mindset plays a critical role in determining our success. Imagine two professionals standing side by side, ready to showcase their skills. One of them possesses a trait that sets them apart from the other—their mind is like a spring, adaptable and resilient. This trait is known by psychologists as “psychological flexibility,” and it becomes the key that unlocks the door to emotional intelligence in performance.


A psychologically flexible performer is a highly aware person who, instead of judging their uncomfortable sensations and effortfully trying to get rid of them, accepts them with compassion, knowing that even in the presence of discomfort, they are willing to stay focused on their values, goals, and the task at hand.

Picture the psychologically flexible performer—an individual with heightened awareness. Instead of avoiding discomfort or striving to eliminate it, they embrace it and allow it to be there. They understand that even amidst the uneasy sensations, they can remain loyally focused on their performance values and what really matters to them. Their commitment allows them to navigate the complexities of their role.

The inflexible performer, on the other hand, gets stuck in the uncomfortable sensations and fuels the effort to no longer experience them. They “fuse” their identity with their painful experience, blurring the line between who they are and the challenges they face. As a result, they engage in a myriad of experiential avoidance behaviors that help them falsely cope with their suffering. Picture a leader on the defensive with their team members, a musician procrastinating on practice, or an athlete consumed by rage during a match. In more extreme cases, the inflexible performer may even abandon their job or profession entirely, seeking escape from their perceived limitations.


To visualize this concept more clearly, let’s explore the four levels of performance flexibility.

The following graphic goes from level 1, the level of highest rigidity and lowest flexibility, to level 4, the level of highest flexibility and acceptance.



At this level, performers are highly rigid and unconsciously fused (or attached) with their thoughts and beliefs about who they are, their capabilities, the people that surround them, and how the world should work. At this level, every uncomfortable sensation and performance slip-up confirms their narratives, and they continuously react to them, creating a vicious cycle. When people at this level make a mistake, they attribute it to their lack of talent and link it to their self-worth. Avoidance becomes their shield, so experiential avoidance at this level is high, as they prefer to dodge the discomfort that comes with vulnerability. The cycle of frustration repeats, bringing forth suffering, while actions remain stagnant.



At this level, people are moderately rigid and consciously fused. Here, you are self-aware and intentionally choose to observe the narratives that no longer serve you. Level 2 is the realm of conscious exploration; it’s like embarking on a thrilling journey of self-discovery, where you start challenging old ways of thinking and daring to view yourself, others, and life from fresh perspectives. However, you feel as though you don’t know how to change your stories. This is because your old views remain being your comfort zone, even though they are no longer useful for you.


At this level, you’re equipped with the power to make genuine efforts to stay present instead of engaging in experiential avoidance. However, there’s a catch– you remain fused and attached to those familiar narratives and habits, often finding yourself slipping back into their grasp. You’re hesitant to let go of unbeneficial beliefs, seeking comfort and protection in the familiar rather than embracing change.



Level 3, the realm of intentional defusion and moderate flexibility. Here, you possess the power to distance yourself from unsettling narratives and sensations that arise, including in high-stakes situations. It’s like donning a pair of objective glasses that allow you to observe and accept the discomfort without engaging with it. With this newfound distance, you can laser-focus on actions aligned with your core values, propelling you towards your ultimate goal. You become an active participant in the present, breaking free from old patterns that held you back. Your performance reaches remarkable heights as you tap into excellent levels of focus. Yet, there’s still a yearning within you, a desire to completely “let go” and unlock the gates to states of flow and boundless creativity. It’s an ongoing quest to push the boundaries and discover the untapped potential that lies within.



Level 4, the highest flexibility. Here, you possess a remarkable ability to defuse from both inner and outer discomfort, and what sets you apart is your unwavering acceptance of their presence while you perform, all for the sake of committing wholeheartedly to the actions aligned with your performance values. Your commitment to your values and the task at hand becomes your main priority, surpassing all distractions. As a result, you ascend to higher realms of excellence and experience the exhilarating state of flow. You become a force to be reckoned with, effortlessly navigating the peaks and valleys of your performance journey, as you unlock the door to your fullest potential.

In the intricate dance of performance, the mind emerges as the orchestrator of success. The four levels of performance flexibility are not judgments to determine what’s good or bad, but rather fragments of wisdom that help navigate the mind and unleash authentic high performances.

The Performance Flexibility Scale serves as a treasure map, guiding you to observe your flexibility levels in different situations and unlocking your true potential.

In the next article, I will explain what experiential avoidance really means and how to avoid it.




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