I just read a blog entry on CanOWorms that discusses the concept of 95% perfection. The general idea is that in sports, we achieve optimal performance when we put 95% effort into what we do. My own experiences — personal and professional — support this premise.
A few years ago, I worked with a Formula One team (auto racing). Their pit crews have long been admired for their ability to fuel a car, change the tires (back before rule changes that disallowed tire changes during refueling), and do the required maintenance in a matter of seconds. There are 19 people in a pit crew. To find the optimal configuration of the team, they move each of the crew members around until they get the best combination. And then they practice more. All of this is under while being measured with a stop watch. Eventually the team can go no faster; they hit a performance plateau no matter how hard they try. Once, as an experiment, the pit crew members were told that they were NOT going to be timed; that they should just go as fast as possible without going full out (95%?). The result? The pit crew shaved several tenths of a second off their best time – although pit crew members “felt” that they went slower.
When we remove the time pressures of traditional goals and the mental pressure to go full out (100%), our efforts flow more effortlessly and we perform at optimum levels. Whether it be in sports or in life, when we play, have fun, and allow life to unfold naturally – rather than forcing it – we operate at a higher level of performance AND do it with greater ease.