The Relaxed Relentlessness Approach

Great athletes sometimes follow these steps when performing at their best. The approach can also be adapted by other people who want to deliver peak performances.

Bearing in mind what they can control, a person starts by clarifying the results they want to achieve. They then go through the following steps.


They rehearse how they can follow their chosen strategies. This includes how they will manage both successes and setbacks on the road to delivering the desired results.

Relaxed Relentlessness

They move into action and follow their chosen rhythm. This sometimes involves being both relaxed and relentless when translating their strategies into action.


They perform superb work and aim to deliver the desired results. They also rise to the occasion when it matters. This sometimes includes delivering peak performances.

Looking back, can you think of a situation when you demonstrated relaxed relentlessness? One writer described how they took this approach when doing a long project.

“I began by sketching the schedule I wanted to follow on the way towards reaching the goal. It was important to pace myself properly.  

“Bearing this in mind, I scheduled three kinds of time: a) preparation time; b) performing time; c) pottering around time.  

“The preparation part involved going through certain rituals and planning what I wanted to accomplish in the next block of time.

“The performing time involved making the best use of my prime times – the times of the day when I had most energy. During this time I was able to relax and follow a certain rhythm. This enabled me to do my best work.  

“The pottering around times were also useful. I just let my mind wander. Sometimes these times resulted in making creative breakthroughs.” 

You will have your own approach to following relaxed relentlessness approach. If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to complete the following sentences.

How can you follow some of these principles in the future? You may want to do this when pursuing a specific project, leading a team or doing another activity. Let’s consider how you can take these steps, starting with what you want to achieve.


Imagine that you lost your job during Covid. Applying for various full-time roles proved unsuccessful and sapped your confidence.

After several months, however, one of your old managers offered you the opportunity to do a project in their organisation. This would initially be for three months but it could lead to further work in the future.

Talking with your partner, you decided to take the role. It meant working from home and managing some aspects of home schooling, but the pluses of taking this route far outweighed the minuses.

Looking ahead at the project, you begin to define the results you want to deliver for the organisation. Bearing in mind the research you have done already, you aim:

To clarify your key stakeholders – such as both your internal and external customers – and the results they want delivered; 

To clarify the specific strategies you can follow to deliver these results; 

To clarify the specific things that will be happening that will show you have delivered the desired results. 

There are many models for clarifying the desired results. Some focus on the three Ps – profits, product quality and people.

Imagine that you have clarified the targets to be achieved under the relevant headings. You may then want to add another dimension to the goal setting. 

Clarifying the actual words you would
like to hear the stakeholders saying

This an old but useful exercise. Start by brainstorming all the key stakeholders that it will be important to satisfy. Looking at each of these people in turn, clarify the results they would like delivered.

Describe the actual words you would like them to be saying about the work you do and deliver. For example, you may want one of your external customers to say the following things.

“They deliver great service … They proactively keep us informed about the progress being made … They act as real partners and trusted advisors … They help us to achieve success.”

When doing this exercise, it is important to focus on certain themes. These are:

To see the world from the stakeholder’s point of view … To clarify the real results they want delivered … To clarify how they want to feel about the way you relate to them and how you help them to achieve success.

Imagine that you have described the actual words you want the stakeholders to be saying. You can then ask yourself:

“How can I do my best to ensure they are saying these things?”

Focus on what you can control. You are not in control of the stakeholder’s personality, changing priorities or the words they use. But you can do your best and hope this leads to them saying some of these things.

Here is the exercise on this theme. This invites a person to focus on each of their stakeholders. Sometimes this can involve describing many different stakeholders and the words they want to hear each of them saying.


Imagine that you are clear on the results to achieve. Before moving into action, however, it can be useful to prepare properly.

Charles Garfield, the author of Peak Performers, described how many great workers rehearse before going into their version of the arena. The National Business Association produced a summary of his views on mental rehearsal in one of their newsletters. Here is an excerpt from that piece.

Peak performers practice mental rehearsal. They rehearse, in their mind’s eye, any incident or event that is important to them.

Business executives can benefit by rehearsing specific events in the mind’s eye, including all those possible outcomes and possible surprises that can materialise. This mental practice can build familiarity and boost confidence and self-esteem. 

Great workers in many fields take this approach. Wayne Rooney, the footballer, explained what he did before his team had an away fixture and needed to change the colours of their kit. Speaking in an interview with ESPN, he said:

“Part of my preparation is I go and ask the kit man what colour we’re wearing – if it’s red top, white shorts, white socks or black socks.

“Then I lie in bed the night before the game and visualise myself scoring goals or doing well. You’re trying to put yourself in that moment and trying to prepare yourself, to have a ‘memory’ before the game.

“I don’t know if you’d call it visualising or dreaming, but I’ve always done it, my whole life.”

There are many approaches to mental rehearsal. One model involves people relaxing and working through the following steps.

Relaxed Relentlessness

Imagine that you have prepared properly and want to translate your strategies into action. It is useful to create a structure that works for you. One approach is to, as far as possible, organise your time in blocks. This will call for transitioning between the two various of your life.

Personal Life

You may aim to get enough rest, follow a routine to manage the daily tasks and nurture your relationships.

Professional Life

You can then aim to rehearse, follow the pattern of relaxed relentlessness and do your best to deliver the desired results.

Let’s assume that you are following your chosen rhythm your way. It will then be time to focus on the final step.


Imagine that you are doing the freelance work in the organisation. Like many people in today’s world, it will be vital:

To keep producing short and medium-term successes on the road towards the longer-term picture of success;  

To keep connecting with your key stakeholders to keep up-to-date with their challenges and any changes in the results they want delivered; 

To keep improving your work and delivering the desired results to the stakeholders.

Sometimes this may involve dealing with certain challenges – such as working with difficult customers, dealing with dramas and managing crises. Different people choose different ways to deal with such issues. Some people take the follow steps.

Great workers sometimes follow these steps when finishing properly. As one person said:

“When you have done 80% of the work it can still feel like there is 80% left.”

Such people rehearse properly before going into their version of the arena. They then go through the following steps.


They relax physically and psychologically. They breathe deeply, relax their body and follow their ritual for preparing to do their best.

They also see things in perspective. They recognise that, whilst what they are about to do may be important, there are many more important things in life. Paradoxically, this approach helps them to relax and give their best.


They follow their chosen rhythm. They are also resourceful when dealing with interruptions, setbacks or other events. Buying time, they relax and rehearse their next step. They then follow their chosen ritual for regaining their rhythm.

Rising To The Occasion

They sometimes rise to the occasion by doing something that sounds paradoxical. They keep following their chosen principles rather than see the occasion as something special. They then aim to deliver peak performances.

Let’s return to your own life and work. Looking ahead can you think of a situation where you may want to follow some elements of the relaxed relentlessness approach?

You may want to do this when doing a creative project, contributing to an organisation or leading a team. You may want to do it when aiming to achieve a good blend between your personal and professional life.

How can you clarify the results to achieve? How can you rehearse what you are going to do? How can you follow some elements of the relaxed relentlessness approach? What may happen as a result of taking these steps?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to complete the following sentences.

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