Jamil Qureshi: ‘Act Differently, Think Differently’ if You Want to Maximize Potential

Performance coach and psychologist Jamil Qureshi specializes in maximizing potential, having worked with 22 of the world’s top golfers. He was also the first official psychologist to work with the 2010 European Ryder Cup team as they made history in winning by a record-equaling margin. At Workday Rising Europe last week, Qureshi discussed his mantra of “act differently, think differently” in order to maximize the potential of leaders and teams.

Qureshi, who delivered the conference’s Closing Keynote, said this requires rethinking the standard approach to change. He encouraged attendees to focus on making incremental improvements rather than taking a start-stop approach to change. Business leaders and individuals need to move away from trying to fix weaknesses and instead focus on improving their strengths.

“There are many examples of teams and individuals who have made great strides towards great success by making marginal gains, by simply doing something a little bit more, and often these are things we are good at,” said Qureshi. “I’ve worked with teams before who weakened a strength by trying to strengthen a weakness.”

Develop Your Inner Dialogue

Qureshi discussed the importance of a positive inner dialogue, as “we think, then we feel, and then we act.” He said all human actions and behaviors start with visualizing things in our heads. Rather than trying to make people behave in a different manner, Qureshi said, business leaders should instead think of how they can positively impact their inner dialogues.

Jamil Qureshi on inner dialogue
Jamil Qureshi discusses the importance of a positive inner dialogue, explaining that “we think, then we feel, and then we act.”

“It is the difference between commitment and compliance,” Qureshi said. “We can tell people to be different all the time—to collaborate, be more creative, give better customer service, eat less, and go to the gym more. This is telling people how to do it, not changing how they view it,” Qureshi said. “The difference is being motivated by something a person is seeking to achieve, rather than motivated by something a person is seeking to avoid.”

When the late Welsh international footballer Gary Speed took penalty kicks, Qureshi said Speed would repeat one question in his head as he ran up for the kick: Would he run to the left or to the right to celebrate when he scored the penalty? In other words, Speed would visualize success rather than let any negative thoughts creep in, such as potentially miskicking.

“We must learn to dance on a shifting carpet, not see the rug as being pulled from under our feet.”
—Jamil Qureshi, performance coach and psychologist

“How many times in business do we make decisions based on mitigated risk or what we stand to lose?” Qureshi asked. “You could almost argue that every decision we make as a human is an investment decision. We should be motivated by what we’re seeking to achieve to actually have a growth mindset, to outperform the markets. If you want to move from transactional to transformational, you need to be motivated by what you’re trying to create and achieve. Many organizations define themselves by what they sell, not what the customer values.”

Reaction Over Circumstance Wins Every Time

According to Qureshi, attitude is more important than intelligence or facts, and blame looks backwards while responsibility looks forward. It’s easy for businesses and individuals to point to many factors to blame for failure. Qureshi contends it’s not about circumstances, it’s about choice—the world is and always has been improbable and complex.

“We must learn to dance on a shifting carpet, not see the rug as being pulled from under our feet,” he said. “Opportunities are never lost, they are simply found by someone else who chose to think differently.”

In his final point, Qureshi commented that as humans we do three things with all information that comes our way; we delete, we distort, and we filter according to our own belief systems. In his role working with elite sports professionals, Qureshi said his biggest challenge was convincing them that the world that they are experiencing is merely a reflection of their own attitude towards it.

“Everything new that is worth having was made by someone with a mindset for change,” he said. “The best performers in business and sport are incredibly open-minded, neither accepting the world as neither good nor bad, but simply as it is. Recognize that the world you experience is merely a reflection of the way you see it.”