Peak Performance

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In a survey of ASU students reflecting on their experiences of the past 12 months:

  • 87.5% of ASU students feel they can succeed if they put their mind to it.
  • 53.7% indicate academics are difficult to handle.
  • 38.5% of ASU students find it difficult to stay focused on what is happening in the present.
  • ASU students reported the following barriers had a serious impact on their academic performance during the past 12 months. These challenges resulted in getting a lower grade, taking an incomplete or dropping a class, or caused a significant disruption in their graduate studies for varying proportions of ASU students:
    • - Being overcommitted – 15.6%
    • - Stress – 15.7%
    • - Sleep difficulties – 7.7%

Source: American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment : Arizona State University Spring 2019. Baltimore: American College Health Association, Spring 2019, (n=2,096).

Peak Performance Concepts

Utilize Peak Performance concepts to help build your best you. These practices contribute to optimal well-being and support your best academic performance.

A key factor to success is building the path to be at your best in the moments that truly count. Realistically, we cannot be our best at every moment of the day. As with most things, being our best when it matters takes practice. Examples of times when students want to be their best include when taking an exam, delivering a presentation, during an internship or a job interview, while playing a sport and when having a difficult conversation.

What is Peak Performance? Much of the research on Peak Performance comes from Sports Psychology. However, there are a few key concepts that we can take from this research that we can apply to all areas of our lives to help us be successful in our academic endeavors, work or in our personal lives. The six defining aspects we can utilize to help us be our best when it counts are motivation, visualization, self-talk, refocusing, emotional regulation and S.M.A.R.T. goals.

Motivation is the psychological push or force that activates or maintains a behavior. What determines our motivation can be broken down into three factors: our confidence in our abilities, our expectations about the outcome and finding value in what we do. When our motivation is lacking, we can address one of these factors to improve our motivation and increase the likelihood of success.

Tips to improve or maintain your motivation:

  • Write down everything that helps you get up in the morning.
  • Have goals that help you stay on track.
  • Have friends join in on the fun to keep you accountable.
  • Take cues from Recovery Rising.
  • Visit Career Services to learn what is needed for your dream job.
  • Consider finding a sense of higher purpose and meaning. Provided on all four campuses, the Council of Religious Advisors, features a variety of faith-based ministries that provide unique and distinct opportunities for student involvement and support.

Visualization means using all of your senses to create an experience in your mind. Before we achieve a goal, we have to have an idea of what it looks like. Visualization has been shown to improve athletic performance by enhancing motivation, coordination and concentration, as well as reducing fear and anxiety. These same skills can also be applied in your academic, work and personal life to help you succeed.

Visualization asks the question, “what percentage of your game is mental?” and forces you to answer, “how much do you practice the mental aspect?”

Visualization is an important part of achieving any kind of goal and will increase your success.  Practice visualization and your interview skills with virtual practice interviews provided by ASU Career Services.

Self-talk is the way you talk to yourself, either in your head or out loud. It is a powerful form of communication that can help you progress towards your goals or impede your success. Try using positive and realistic affirmations in your day-to-day life. Not everything will always be in our control, but we can control how we react.

Tips for enhancing self-talk:

Remind yourself that one does not lose focus, rather it is somewhere else. Time and energy are not infinite, so we must be mindful about how we use these resources. In order to manage your time effectively, maintain a calendar or system that works for you. In order to observe your energy and attentioneffectively, identify your strengths and weaknesses. When are you most alert and energized? Take advantage of those periods of time. How do you want to spend your time, energy and focus?

One way to effectively manage both time and energy is by practicing the Pomodoro Technique. By performing work and rest intervals, individuals using this technique have discovered a quick, easy and enjoyable way to increase productivity, focus and intelligence.

Pomodoro Technique Steps:

  1. Make a list on a sheet of paper of tasks to complete for a day, morning or afternoon.
  2. Choose a task to complete.
  3. Set a timer for 25 minutes.
  4. Work on the task until the timer rings.
  5. When the timer rings ,put a checkmark on the paper next to the task
  6. Take a short break.  For approximately 5 minutes, grab a drink of water, breathe deeply, meditate, stretch, use the restroom, check your phone, go for a short walk or do something else relaxing.
  7. Select another task from your list, complete steps three to six again.
  8. After completing four tasks, take a longer break for approximately fifteen to thirty minutes. 

Tips for refocusing and improving orchestration:

  • Increase your awareness of when your focus shifts.
  • Notice distractions and interruptions then determine how to prevent and reduce them.
  • Use cue words to get you back on track.
  • Create and maintain a routine.
  • Learn more about brain healthstaying focused and time management.


Emotional regulation signifies the ability to realize, readily accept and respond appropriately to situations. At some point in everyone’s life, emotions can spin out of control. Whether provoked by an argument, professional or personal failure, or concern for a loved one, unchecked emotions can lead to regret for things said and done in the heat of the moment. It’s important to recognize emotions and identify the problem, so that they can be effectively managed. Identify and reflect on emotions when they start to impede your ability to do your best work.

Tips for practicing emotional regulation:

  • Become aware of when you are overly stressed.
  • Adopt deep breathing.
  • Try to reframe negative feelings into a helpful experience.
  • Visit Live Well ASU to learn more about wellness, discover skills to build your best you and utilize wellness resources and services.
  • Breathe to lower your stress.
  • View Mental Health videos to learn more about stress management, emotional resilience and how to cope with anxiety.
  • Understand the biology of stress.

Challenge yourself by setting and pursuing goals. Goals serve as a guide to achieving success or something you desire, in your academic, work or personal life. S.M.A.R.T. goals are specific, measurable, actionable, relevant and time bound. When goals are designed using the S.M.A.R.T. method, you will be more likely to stay on track and achieve them.

For more information on S.M.A.R.T. goals, including sample goals, a detailed breakdown of each acronym and specific steps to setting S.M.A.R.T. wellness goals, visit the Set Wellness Goals page.