The Difference between High Stakes Performance and High Stakes Jobs

Current research suggests that first responders and protective service personnel are under more distress and suffering from higher rates of potential trauma, PTSD, and secondary trauma than ever before. If we want to continue to be able to rely on them to rescue us when we need them, we should be providing them with the latest research-based training and support available.

Disasters, both man-made and natural, are a worldwide and increasing phenomenon (Federal Emergency Management Act [FEMA], 2011; Johnson, Ronan, Johnston, & Peace, 2014; Saul, 2013), and more of the population will become vulnerable to natural disasters over the next several decades (Johnson et al., 2014). As stated in an executive summary report to Congress by FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security (2013), “we are facing increasing risks and mounting costs from disasters in the near- and long-term future” (p. iii), and “the worldwide loss of life and economic disruption caused by disasters is an increasing focus of attention” (p. 2). While there are calls for an increase in the focus of attention on disasters which, are driven by the increase in the frequency, intensity of, and human vulnerability to natural disasters (FEMA, 2011; Johnson, and Ronan, 2014; Saul, 2013), there does not seem to be an equal focus on an increase in training and support for first responders.

Current research suggests that first responders and protective service personnel are under more distress and suffering from higher rates of potential trauma, PTSD, and secondary trauma than ever before. If we want to continue to be able to rely on them to rescue us when we need them, we should be providing them with the latest research-based training and support available.


Federal Emergency Management Agency (2011). A whole community approach to emergency management: Principles, themes, and pathways for action. Retrieved from

Johnson, V. A., & Ronan, K. R. (2014). Classroom responses of New Zealand school teachers following the 2011 Christchurch earthquake. Natural Hazards72(2), 1075-1092.

Johnson, V. A., Ronan, K. R., Johnston, D. M., & Peace, R. (2014). Evaluations of disaster education programs for children: A methodological review. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction9, 107-123.

Saul, J. (2013). Collective trauma, collective healing: Promoting community resilience in the aftermath of disaster (Vol. 48). London, UK: Routledge.

Thapa, A., Cohen, J., Guffey, S., & Higgins-D’Alessandro, A. (2013). A review of school climate research. Review of Educational Research83(3), 357-385.

Increasing First Responder Suicide Rates Spark Concern. Retrieved from:

“Smiling doesn’t win you gold medals”


What Simone Biles can teach us about High Stakes Performance

– Lorie Hood

“Smiling doesn’t win you gold medals” was a shot heard round the world. And it’s about time.

As a High-Stakes Performance expert, I read people for a living. As a former gymnast and professional dancer, I understand a thing or two about performance and dance. As a woman and mother of two children, I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face after hearing Simone Biles respond to the host on “Dancing with The Stars” Monday night.

The Question  The question really wasn’t a question, it was a statement posed as a pseudo-question, and it demanded a response. Well, that and the microphone host Tom Bergeron shoved in Biles’ face while allowing the silence to hang in the air. “I was waiting for you to smile at some of the compliments, you didn’t” said Bergeron. Translation: “What’s wrong with you? Why aren’t appropriately fawning over the judges? They gave you some compliments and you should be grateful and smiling to have gotten their compliments.”

The Pause  Biles was uncomfortable and understandably so. Bergeron’s statement placed her in a tough position; she could choose to conform and play along with him or say what she was really thinking. Make no mistake, Simone Biles didn’t get where she is by always smiling and conforming however, she didn’t do it by blurting out every thought that crossed her mind, either.

The Mind and Body of a High Stakes Performer  As a researcher of High Stakes Performers, I was fascinated by watching how quickly Biles cycled through her emotions, thoughts, and choices. Her face and body language revealed everything from confusion and frustration to fear and anger, yet she managed all the external and internal stimuli and calmly came to a place of resolution.

The long-hand version was (consciously and unconsciously) likely the product of the following: Ms. Biles has gotten the message most girls do growing up in American Society. If she smiles and conforms with social norms, she will be rewarded. Yes, this is still the case in 2017. Even search engines support these biases. A recent study showed that Bing more often retrieved photos of women when searching for “warm traits” such as “emotional” and retrieved photos of men when terms like “rational” were used. The researchers even observed a backlash effect, where individuals who did not fit socially accepted norms were penalized.

Because of this conditioning, Ms. Biles experienced all the pressure placed upon her just like any other young American woman. However, she is different. Very different.

The Resistance of the Pressure to Conform  As an athlete with a High Stakes Performance mindset, I saw a young woman carefully assessing her response. Indeed, her response may have been to smile and go along with what was expected of her prior to her “four gold medals” stage of life. The point is that she is consciously aware of herself, her feelings and how what she says and does will affect her and those around her. This is the ability of a High Stakes Performer – to be “conscious self-evaluators who are consistently present for themselves and their work” (Hood, 2015). For the opposite of this, read about, Choking Under Pressure.

The Response  Bergeron (and most of those watching) fully expected Mes. Biles to smile, be “polite” and self-deprecating which is what he wanted or he wouldn’t have presented her with a question/statement that placed her in a (nearly) no win situation. Faced with the choice to give him what is expected or allow her true self to come through, she chose the latter because “Smiling doesn’t win you gold medals.”

Ahhh…can I just write that again? “Smiling doesn’t win you gold medals.”

Thank you Ms. Biles.

And now it’s up to the rest of us. Do we, as a society, put her back into the good girl box or do we applaud her for allowing us to see how a true High Stakes Performer responds to pressure?


Why “Like-minded” People are Killing Your Growth

I tend to like people who agree with me. They are make me feel heard and often validate my self-perception. When I surround myself with “like minded” people my world feels safe, predictable and under control. However, if I never hear an idea or opinion that differs from mine, how will I deepen my thinking or broaden my worldview?

Scientists call this tendency to surround ourselves with people who agree with us Confirmation Bias and our brains are hard-wired for it. It is part of what makes us social beings and has helped us survive as a species for millennia. It also means that we often ignore or are unconsciously threatened by things that contradict our world view (Knoblauch-Westerwick and Meng, 2009). Confirmation bias accounts for our tendency to make choices based on information that supports our biases and assumptive worldview. Information from things like religion, political affiliations, and social groups. Not only do we make choices to belong to groups comprised of individuals who confirm our views, we are also influenced by individuals who belong to those same groups, institutions, affiliations.

Behavioral economist Dan Ariely has found that our decisions are strongly influenced by our environment in what he calls the everybody else is doing it effect (Ariely, 2014). He found, through his studies on lying and unethical behavior, that when individuals identified a person as part of their social group (read: “like minded”) they were more likely to adopt the other person’s behavior. In Ariely’s research, students who saw a participant who was a fellow student (in this case Princeton) cheat and get by with it, they were more likely to cheat as well.

If we tend to surround ourselves with people who confirm our worldview and if we are influenced by those same individuals, how much more powerful are these influences with the addition of social media?

Social Media

Social media is defined as social communities that use forms of electronic communication for users to share information, photos, videos, personal messages and other online content (Merriam Webster, 2016).

Social media has also taken the “everybody else is doing it” effect to a whole new level. Given that it has only been around since 2009, and only increasing, the true effects of social media are yet to be determined. What we do know is that social media transmits messages rapidly and exponentially, and is a natural conduit for, and likely amplifies confirmation bias. In addition, most social media is, at best, a disconnected (non-face to face) form of communication and, at worst, completely anonymous.

How our Communication has Changed Since the Birth of our Nation

Unlike the myriad options to communicate and form social groups today, in the early part of our nation’s development, there were only a few; and they were, by today’s standards, grindingly slow. One could speak to others face to face, read a newspaper or other written publication, disseminate flyers or other written material or communicate through public debate, forum or other physical gathering. Through these types of communication, one was often face to face with the person or persons with whom they were communicating, which would provide a natural and very human way to debate and discuss ideas, morals, values and opinions.

Another natural important difference between communication during the early years of our nation and communication today is time. Precisely because written transmissions of communication were so slow, they allowed time for people not only to talk face to face and to absorb and process their own thoughts and feelings, but time to reflect upon the ideas of those around them. Thus, the process of confirming one’s world view was a slow, deep, ongoing and bounded. There were only a limited number of individuals within one’s social circle because there was limited access to those outside one’s physical proximity. This bounded social grouping was important. If one disagreed with another, there was a certain amount of interaction that one was forced to have with that person-like it or not. Today, one has access, through the internet, to anyone else who has a computer in the entire world. And through social media, one can select those who confirm their world view with the click of a mouse or a quick change of settings, thus, narrowing and refining one’s world view and confirming one’s biases.

So the next time someone disagrees with you, take the time to consider their opinion, and perhaps respond with a thoughtful question. If you change your “settings” instead of the settings on your computer, you might be surprised at how much you can grow.

Exploring Dance and Movement Through Intuition – Lorie Hood


Through a review of the literature on the subtle senses – specifically the intersection between intuition and the behavioral sciences – and dance, this paper explores the logical connection between the intuition and dance. The author further explores, through a phenomenological approach, the nature and use of insight and how they inform movement and create dance, as well as how dance in turn may inform the self through the channel of intuition.

               Keywords: intuition, movement, dance, intuitive dance



The purpose of this paper is to explore the potential healing benefits of dance and movement through the experience of intuition. While dance has been used therapeutically for decades by professional dance therapists, and dancers have throughout recorded history tacitly acknowledged using intuition in their dancing, there has been very little scholarly attention given to a direct connection between intuition and therapeutic dance.

Many artists acknowledge unconscious, intuitive and spiritual processes in their creative work. Also, intuition is often mentioned in the literature on the arts, health, education and management. However, the subject of intuition has not been established as a clearly delineated line of inquiry (Hodgkinson, Langan-Fox & Sadler-Smith, 2008). This disconnect between literature and practice is problematic for those seeking to further explore intuitive processes and emotional integration through dance, or those who wish to use their intuitive abilities and dance to help others.

This issue extends to dancers and dance therapists who often acknowledge intuition as part of their experience. Because there is so little research on the nature and role of how intuition may inform movement, it appears that intuition is being used therapeutically without scientific evidence to support it. Explicit exploration is needed to help begin to ground the professional practice of movement and dance in evidence-based research.

Definition of Terms

            Merriam Webster defines movement as “a physical motion between points in space” (Movement, 2017), and dance as “a sequence of rhythmic steps or movements usually performed to music, for pleasure or as a form of social interaction” (Dance, 2017). Intuitive Dance is “an extension of interpretive dance, is experienced primarily through the subtle senses and holds the potential for self-healing for the dancer” (Hood, 2017).

Intuition and Insight

Although intuition is colloquially discussed and generally acknowledged as an important aspect of being human, historically there has been very little research on intuition, especially as it applies to the psychological sciences. As a group, psychologists have been “reluctant to acknowledge intuition as a viable construct, often consigning it to the ‘fringes’ of the field of psychology, within the realm of parapsychology, telepathy and premonition (see e.g. Claxton, 2000; Klein, 2003) and to esoteric and ‘New Age thinking” (Boucouvalas, 1997).

However, as noted by one prominent researcher on intuition, over the past two decades, “The number of experimental studies of phenomena described as ‘intuition’ has increased.” (Osbeck, 1999, p. 232). Given that Osbeck’s statement was made nearly two decades ago, there is currently four decades of research on intuition. In addition, both lay and academic interest in the intuitive processes seems to be growing across divergent domains with books like Blink (Gladwell, 2005), The Upside of Irrationality (Ariely, 2010), The Invisible Gorilla (Chabris & Simons, 2010), and Gut Feelings (Gigerenzer, 2007).

It is important to separate the term intuition from other constructs that have historically overlapped in the research literature. The term intuition was used to describe a process, the product of which was called an intuitive judgment (Dane & Pratt, 2007). It was further described as an impulse to act, a sense of knowing, or a judgment that was not the product of a rational, conscious thought process. Insight was defined as a new and conscious thought that appeared suddenly, especially when conscious attendance to creating the insight had been absent (Dane & Pratt, 2007; Hodgkinson et al.). Insight was commonly referred to as an ah-ha or light bulb moment because of its sudden appearance from seemingly nowhere (Dane & Pratt, 2007).

Another perspective came from Hodgkinson, Langan-Fox, and Sadler-Smith (2008), who published a review of the literature across several domains within the behavioral sciences. In their book, Intuition, A Fundamental Bridging Construct in the Behavioral Sciences, they adopted a definition provided by Dane and Pratt (2007). Intuition is a “non-conscious process involving holistic associations that are produced rapidly which result in affectively charged judgments” (Hodgkinson, Langan-Fox, & Sadler-Smith, 2008, p. 36). In addition, several authors they reviewed described intuition as part of a dual-process system of cognition and specified it as automatic, non-rational, unconscious, affect-laden, experiential, associative, holistic system of processing.

Osbeck (1999) conceptualized intuition by dividing it into three attributes: (a) an unconscious process, (b) an inferential process akin to conscious processes, and, (c) irrational rather than rational. Osbeck also placed these attributes within the context of two distinct but parallel systems of processing which supported the findings of Hodgkinson, Langan-Fox, and Sadler-Smith. Based on Osbeck, and the many authors that were reviewed, a consensual dual-process conception is a “highly plausible framework for understanding the dynamics of intuitive and analytic processing” (Hodgkinson et al., p. 12).


Movement is not dance (Movement, 2017). Movement is simply moving from one point in space to another. While it can be deduced from this that dance is movement, based on this definition, movement is not necessarily dance. What then makes movement dance? What makes movement into dance is the human part of a human being. It is not music, not professional dance training nor even the intention to dance. What makes movements become a dance is the life infused into it by the dancing human. As John Blacking (1977) put it in his book, The Anthropology of the Body, “All that is known about the minds of non-human animals is derived from observation of their movements, gestures and non-verbal communication: much can be learnt about the human animal when it is studied in the same way” (p. 16). While every human being experiences movement, understanding their intuitive process necessitates focusing on intentional movements – and the experiences of those choosing to move and dance.


Artists and philosophers have, throughout history and across multiple domains, acknowledged unconscious, intuitive and spiritual processes in creative work. Some have even said that their art was not a product of their own but that of God. Friedrich Nietzsche said, “I could believe only in a God who would know how to dance.” (Nietzsche, 1896. p. 49). Martha Graham, who was known as the grandmother of modern dance, once stated, “Dancers are the messengers of the gods” (Graham, 1953).

Carlos Santana, one of the most famous guitarists of all time, not only alluded to being connected with intuition but described going into his guitar or going into a note. “I’m curious about how to penetrate in­side the note” (Santana, 2017, para. 10). When asked in an interview, “You talk a lot about trances. Do you go there when you hit one of those long notes?” he responded, “You have to give yourself chills before anyone else gets them. I become less of a ringmaster. I forget to correct anyone onstage. I just go into my guitar. I can see the rest of the musicians going, ‘Yep, he’s hungry, and he’s helping himself'” (Santana, 2017, para. 12).

Intuitive Dance

An overview of the literature revealed that there was no scholarly definition of intuitive dance. Indeed, the definition that most closely approximates the exploration of dance through the subtle senses is the definition of interpretive dance provided by Merriam-Webster. Interpretive dance is “a form of modern dance in which the dancer’s movements depict an emotion or tell a story. A style of theatrical dancing that is not as restricted as classical ballet; movements are expressive of feelings” (Interprative dance, 2017). Another helpful view comes from Maxine Sheets-Johnstone (1966/2015), whose seminal 1966 book, The Phenomenology of Dance, elegantly described the way in which people intuitively experience dance.

When a dance is there for us, we intuitively know that it is there; something alive and vibrant is happening on the stage, and as we are totally engaged in our experience of that happening, we too are alive and vibrant: we have a lived experience. Judgements, beliefs, interpretations are suspended: our experience of the dance is free from any manner of reflection. (p.1)

Phenomenological Experience

            Throughout the research for this paper, I have undertaken a phenomenological approach to integrate the scholarly and anecdotal literature with my own experience as a dancer. Despite not having had any formal dance training until the age of 23, I choreographed and performed from the age of nine and was a professional touring dancer by the age of 19. This lack of formal training was often a disadvantage for me as a professional dancer and choreographer because I did not always speak the same dance language as other professionals. However, the experience of growing from childhood to adulthood and experiencing dance without the imposition of others became an advantage as a researcher.  The following describes a narrative between and with myself and another person, capturing this untrained experiential phenomenon of dance.

“Do you always dance with your eyes closed?”

I open my eyes and become aware of a slight jarring of my senses. I respond with something like, “Um…yeah. I guess.” Feeling a little annoyed and imposed upon, I take a deep breath and let it out in an attempt to release my negative feelings. I open my eyes       completely and reorient myself to the room. The lights are low – almost off – because I           don’t need them when I dance. I only need them to navigate my way to and from the    room.

“Do you always dance with the lights off?”

Again, I feel annoyed and as if he is asking me to share something sacred. As I listen to    my thoughts and feel my bodily and emotional reactions, I also become aware that I am             feeling superior, as if my ego is in charge.

“Why the silly questions?”

I think this to myself, but I want to say it out loud. However, when I look at his face, I see            a child-like look of something that approaches wonder. He smiles and says, “Aren’t you      afraid you are going to bump into something or fall?”

            The above interaction initiated a profound shift in self-perception. In the matter of a few minutes, I had gone from a lifetime of feeling as if I was at a disadvantage as a dancer because I lacked professional training to the realization that instead, my lack of training was a gift. Because I had learned to dance by listening to myself and my impulses to move, rather than someone else telling me how to move my body, I had honed my intuition. I was and am simply a human being who dances. The fact that I am a researcher and scholar only compliments my experience and, hopefully, allows me to understand and communicate my experience to others more effectively.

I have always danced alone for the pure joy of the experience of moving my body, the only exceptions being when I was pregnant or with my children and when they were young. When my babies were too young to walk, I danced with them in my arms. When they were older, they danced with me or sometimes watched me dance. They never asked me why I closed my eyes when I danced.

            Given the conceptual model adopted for this paper, which describes intuition as part of a dual-process system of cognition that is an automatic, non-rational, unconscious, affect-laden, experiential, associative, holistic system of processing, I have come to realize that perhaps I have been dancing through intuition my entire life. In reflecting further on my history with dance, I also realized that I have danced intuitively for self-healing. I recalled times when I danced my anger or sadness, for hopes and dreams. I have danced joy and love and gratitude. I have danced myself and I have danced my life.



Ariely, D. (2010). The upside of irrationality: The unexpected benefits of defying logic. New        York, NY: Harper Collins.

Blacking, J. (Ed.). (1977), The Anthropology of the body London: Academic Press.

Chabris, C., & Simons, D. (2010). The invisible gorilla: And other ways our intuitions deceive us. New York, NY: Crown Archetype.

Movement. (2017). In Merriam Webster’s collegiate dictionary. Retrieved from

Dane, E., & Pratt, M. (2007). Exploring intuition and its role in managerial

decision making. Academy of Management Review, 32(1), 33-54.

Fricke, D. (2017) Q & A: Carlos Santana. Rolling Stone Magazine. Retrieved from

Gigerenzer, G. (2007). Gut instincts: The intelligence of the unconscious. London, UK: Penguin Books.

Gladwell, M. (2005). Blink. New York, NY: Little, Brown, and Company.

Graham, M. (1953). Dancers are the messengers of the gods. Website. Retrieved from

Hodgkinson, G.P., Langan-Fox, J. & Sadler-Smith, E. (2008). Intuition: A fundamental bridging construct in the behavioral sciences. British Journal of Psychology, 99, 1-27.

Interpretive Dance. (2017). In Merriam Webster’s collegiate dictionary. Retrieved from:

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Nietzsche. F. (1896), Thus spake Zarathustra: A book for all and none. (A. Tille, Trans.). Website. Retrieved from

Osbeck, L. M. (1999).  Conceptual problems in the development of a psychological

notion of “intuition.” Journal for the Theory of Social Behavior, 29(3), 229-250.

Sheets-Johnstone, M. (2015). The phenomenology of dance. Philadelphia, PA: Temple

University Press. (Original work published in 1966).
















High Stakes Performance: What it is and (more importantly) what it isn’t

jetBy: Lorie Hood

“A High Stakes Performer is someone upon whose ability to consistently perform at their potential rests the win or loss of something of great importance.”  ~ Lorie Hood

Merriam Webster defines “stakes” as “something you could win or lose as in a contest” and “high” in the context of “high stakes” as “of great relative importance.”

Performance is defined as, “the execution of an action, the fulfillment of a claim, promise, or request and the ability to perform.”

Given the above, a simple definition of a “High Stakes Performer” is: Someone upon whose ability to perform rests the win or loss of something of great importance.

I first conceptualized the term “High Stakes Performer” (HSP) well over a decade ago as a researcher working with profoundly intelligent individuals. I had worked through the research on intelligence and creativity, motivation and eminence, nature and nurture, under achievement and perfectionism. I had, by about midway through my doctoral training, successfully raised two profoundly intelligent children and been identified as profoundly intelligent myself. I had figured out that high intelligence did not equal high performance. It did not equal success or happiness either. What I had not figured out (nor had anyone else) was what made some people able to perform at high levels while others were not? More specifically, why were some individuals with more than enough intelligence, opportunity, education, support, and other things that we as researchers believed were predictive of “success” winding up wildly unsuccessful, while many we were identifying as “high risk” were succeeding in terms of fulfillment, performance, happiness and, well, life!

Part of the answer came when I defined “success” differently however, much of it came in realizing what HSP was not.

It took almost another decade of research on trauma, posttraumatic growth and resilience and well over 1,000 interviews and case studies to come to my current understanding of what High Stakes Performance is and, more importantly, what it is not.

  • High Stakes Performance is not simply being a top producer. While HSP’s are high producers, high producers are not necessarily HSP’s.
  • High Stakes Performance is not simply being a top performer. There must be a high stakes component to the equation. For example, an attorney working a death penalty case.
  • High Stakes Performance is not simply working in a performance position where you earn a high income. Yes, many HSP’s are top income earners however, income is not what drives them.
  • High Stakes Performance is not being a rainmaker and, in fact, many of them resist being “reduced” to being “only” a rainmaker.
  • High Stakes Performers are multipotentialities. They have likely struggled with multipotentiality as a child and even into adulthood however, they have learned how to use it to serve their choices. It does not debilitate them.
  • High Stakes Performance is not simply having a lot of power however, they are some of the most powerful people you will meet, they seek a different kind of power. HSP’s seek a power that comes from the personal satisfaction of putting their abilities to good use.
  • High Stakes Performers rarely drink, use drugs or engage in other numbing behaviors.
  • High Stakes Performers tend to be very intuitive and use a balance of intuition and pragmatism. They consult from a place of heart and mind.
  • High Stakes Performance is not (and this is a biggie) being able to white knuckle it, apply all your assets, skills and abilities and then be crumble and be unable to perform for the next several weeks to months. True HSP’s do not burn out because they have trained to access, at will, any of their abilities at any given time. They have also honed their ability to”turn off” skills and parts of themselves to which they do not need access. This highly trained ability to only access what is needed in the moment conserves mental, physical, psychological, emotional and other forms of energy.
  • High Stakes Performance is not easily won. There are very few true HSP’s out there and those who are the real deal have worked at self- mastery on multiple levels for a very long time. When you meet them, you will know them. They somehow ride the edge between the mundane and overwhelm. They can be calm and smooth yet accomplish amazing things in less time than most of us. They are neither ego driven nor self-effacing. They hold their place in the universe without apology. They feel powerful yet safe to be around. True High Stakes Performers can teach us all how to handle the high stakes situations and events in our own lives.