Preparation is critical to giving a good performance – be it a business presentation, a sporting event or a music/drama gig. No surprises there. What is the science behind psyching yourself up though?
What performers do
Daniel McGinn writes about this in his book, Psyched Up. He gathered his data from extensive travel, meeting performers, drawing on their experience to gain insight into how they psych themselves up for performances in a range of domains. He discovered a range of steps that performers use to reduce anxiety and enhance output. These include routines, rituals and superstitions that people believe help reduce error and performance anxiety.
There are many things that people do, including:
- creative visualisation
- playing particular music
- unique handshakes with team members
- eating certain foods
- yoga poses, and
- centring exercises
Mindset is everything
The crux of the matter is belief. It seems we can believe we are better than we are, by association with certain objects or routines. The other approach is fostering self-belief through creating an excitement and positive energy about the performance rather managing anxiety or inducing calm. McGinn suggests “a smart strategy is to force yourself to make a mental shift from nervousness to excitement“.
Developing your own approach
It seems that the best approach for you is as individual as you are. The advice would be “know thyself“. Find the things that work for you. Develop some routines/rituals/habits that help you induce self-belief. Consider positive affirmations that are incompatible with an anxious state.
Do you have your own unique routine?
Reference: “The science behind mental preparation” by Daniel Gross in Strategy & Business, 12 July 2017.