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  • Writer's pictureJayaram Krishnan

Setting opposite goals for training and real life performance is the key to growth

Updated: Jun 2, 2023


When we are building a skill, either as individuals or as a team, it may appear that our approach should be the same while training, as while actually performing in real life situations. However, in reality, there is a huge difference between the two. In training, we try to challenge ourselves to the maximum, while in a real life performance situation we try to reduce the level of challenge to the minimum. Recognizing and implementing this subtle change in approach is critical to not only building our own skill level, but also improving the skill and teamwork of the teams we lead. Over time, this forms a clear path to achieving excellence.


A hallmark of a top performing individual or team is the reliability with which they produce excellent results in real situations. These excellent performers could be soldiers, surgeons, scientists, business leaders, lawyers, sports persons, emergency workers or professionals in any other area. What makes them reliable at a high performance level is their skill level, which also includes their mental skills to deal with difficult situations. Therefore, to perform with excellence and reliability, armies, sports teams, disaster rescue teams like fire services or flood rescue teams and so on – all have to train consistently to improve their skills both at the individual level, as well as while working together.

This is all well known and pretty obvious. However, the crux of this article is to point out that the approach, outcomes and mindset while training for skills, are quite different from those that we employ while actually performing in real time situations. In fact, they are quite the opposite.

While performing in a real time situation our goal is to get a positive result with the least amount of risk, effort, stress and cost. This is true in business, in competitive sports, in situations like war and natural disaster and so on. On the other hand, while training our skills to perform in real time situations, we are creating a simulated situation, in which we want to maximize the amount of load, stress, effort required, risk (perhaps) and uncertainty (perhaps) to test and challenge ourselves in a safe and controlled manner. It is this high-stress, high-load skill training which leads to improvement of specific skill, capacity, competence and confidence (see blog # 4 ) and helps us to prepare for real time challenges.

Now this second part is also well known, which is why students preparing for challenging exams often do mock tests tougher than the actual exam itself, athletes prepare with higher loads then in actual competition etc. It is also of course an absolutely critical method of training in the military, in flood and earthquake relief, in bomb disposal, hostage and terrorist negotiation situations etc. But our point here is that the dual approach (minimize challenge in real time, maximize it in training) can be applied to build pretty much any skill. Also, it is as valuable as pure gold when training a team to prepare for difficult situations in which they may have to perform together.

Let us look at the two curves in the diagram above to illustrate this dual opposite approach.

The maroon curve (Training) rises steeply in the early stages when basic skills are getting built, but it could still lag behind the blue curve (Real Situations) as skills are still getting built at the novice stage, to meet the requirements of real situations.

By applying higher levels of imposed demand (stress) in training, the maroon curve rises with successive stages of growth and plateaus. On the other hand, the requirement of real time situations (the blue curve) starts flattening out.

As we progress our training and also accumulate more real time performance experience, the blue curve starts falling (in normal situations) as the relative difficulty level in fact becomes less. Also, as the maroon curve consistently meets or exceeds the blue curve, we can be said to have reached pro-level, i.e. we are consistently able to perform at the required skill level (or better) in real time situations.

Eventually, we get to a stage where we are either setting higher real-time goals for greater growth, or preparing for unprecedented challenges with tougher than normal real-time situations. So, we continue to train and the maroon curve continues to go up far above the existing blue curve.

Unlike in real-time situations, we can increase the load to overload in a planned and controlled manner in training, so that we cross high stress situations (common in military training, disaster relief training, police and fire service training etc) to fatigue situations (common in strength training, athletics etc) and even close to failure (common in endurance training, strength training and body building). Our point is, the same method can and must be applied in ALL domains where high growth of skill and competence is desired, including in team training in business organizations and management work.

The risk and cost of NOT recognizing the dual and opposite approaches to real-time performance and training, is that we may therefore miss huge opportunities to train skills and competencies (our own as well as those of our teams) to levels we had not imagined earlier. And we can do this in a planned, controlled and methodical way to ensure success and growth!

If you would like to explore the dual and opposite approach to high load training in any domain of activity for yourself or your team, do get in touch!

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2 comentários

30 de mai. de 2023

Absolutely true..Some people have knowledge but no experience ...some people experience without knowledge..some people have both knowledge and experience...but experience is not fades ....WHY????..we are in a constantly changing environment..

Jayaram Krishnan
Jayaram Krishnan
30 de mai. de 2023
Respondendo a

Great point! If we do not have opportunities to renew and refresh experience, like an army in peace time, or a rescue service facing no disasters (both of which are wonderful, by the way!) then we can continue to hone our skills by (and only by) consistent skill training with progressive overload to keep improving our capability!

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