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Why Mental Preparation is a Must

What would happen if you didn’t physically prepare to perform?

Do you think you’d be able to do it: win a tennis match, sing on stage, or give a presentation on a topic you knew very little about? My hunch is, probably not and it’s probably not something you’d even entertain. Then, what makes you think you don’t have to mentally prepare to do something? Your body isn’t the only part of you performing and when you train your body, but not your head, you leave a larger margin of error. Let’s think about it this way, when you are physically prepared to perform, generally what are the barriers that get in the way? I’ll bet they are mental! So then, how do you prepare mentally?

Be aware of what’s currently happening

Currently, something is happening in your head prior to performing and after you make a mistake. What is it? Get in touch with it! What thoughts are you having? Many people will have worries, doubts, or fears which will come out in the form of negative language. Negative language leads to more negative language and once you are too deep in the cycle it can be hard to get out. What somatic sensations are happening in your body?  People report experiencing somatic responses to nerves and mistakes. These include an increase in heart rate, butterflies, sweaty palms, jitters, and nausea. The brain’s negativity feeds to the body and the body’s somatic responses feed the brain which creates the feeling of nerves and doubt.

Develop optimal mental systems for performing

When you think back to your best performance what was happening prior and during? You were probably in the right headspace prior and in a (semi) state of flow during. This can automatically (magically) happen in situations that you don’t care so much about but, again, if you leave your mental state up to chance, you may have one good performance for every 20, 30, or 50 challenging ones. To prevent this from happening, developing good mental plans are as important as developing good physical ones.

Reflect on your best performances and work on figuring out what you can do every time to get in a similar headspace. Is that space calm, fired up, or somewhere in between? And what 2-3 simple things can I do to get myself there? When clients are interested in being calm before they perform, here are some things they utilize to get themselves there: calm music, breathing, meditation, and a positive mantra. When clients are interested in being fired up before they perform, here are some things they utilize to get themselves there: fiery music, power pose, motivational YouTube, and a positive mantra.

During the performance, the first thing you have to understand is that mistakes are going to happen. Accept them, and understand that they provide feedback for getting better. Secondly, you have to learn how to let go of those mistakes and keep moving forward otherwise the performance goes on without you; literally. When a mistake happens during a performance you can’t go back or change it. It’s already happened. In that moment, thinking about it is not going to help. It’s going to make things worse.  

Developing your brain and perceptions outside of performing

What are we really talking about here? Developing your coping skills/life skills/mental skills for life. While the barriers might largely show up in and around performing there are ways to develop your skills and perceptions outside of performing. How you understand and think about concepts like confidence, motivation, nerves and focus has a huge impact on you. So many of my clients don’t really understand these concepts which is partly where the confusion comes in. But once they do, things start to make sense and we can work on developing the coping skills/life skills/mental skills they need on a day-to-day basis in and around performing. We develop an understanding of concepts, mental life skills and skills specific to performing. With that said, what will work and how do I keep moving forward with a potential plan?

Moving forward

Ask yourself these questions –

  •   What is currently happening (before and during)?
  •   What’s the impact?
  •   Where do you need your energy/head to be prior to and during a performance?
  •   What are 2-3 things you can do beforehand to get yourself in that headspace?
  •   What will help you let go of mistakes?
  •   How will you remind yourself to use the new mental systems?

Take a few things to think about it, come up with a simple realistic plan and give it a go for 3-4 weeks. 

After 3-4 weeks reflect on what is happening: what’s working, what’s not working, and what do I want to change? If your new mental systems seem to be working, stick with them for a while longer. If not, change one thing. Re-evaluate again in another 3-4 weeks. The problem with us human beings is that we immediately want to change what’s not working but how do you know if it’s really working in the first place without some time?

  •   What date will you re-evaluate (put it in your calendar)?
  •   How many things will you change (exactly one)?
  •   When will you re-evaluation again?

… This seems like a time commitment

Really? The garbage already in your head seems like the time commitment:  worries, doubts, negativity, anxiety, and fears. The process of developing mental systems will actually free you. It will allow you the ability to live life better and to perform closer to how you want to perform. Certainly developing better awareness, reflecting, and answering the above questions takes a few minutes but it’ll be so worth it. You’ll be working toward making your mind an ally versus feeling like something outside your control is controlling you.


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