Are You a Mentally Tough Performer? Pt. 1

mental_toughness2It is very important for musicians to be proactive in their approach to preparing mentally as well as musically.  A musician’s inner game has everything to do with his or her performing.  We have called this inner game many things, namely confidence, being in the ZONE or FLOW, mental toughness, or mental strength.   Timothy Gallwey describes this inner game with a formula (that I’ve tinkered with a little) and I think it really makes sense:    P = E + S + T(C) – I

Your performances are the sum of your efforts, your strategies, your ability to trust yourself and your abilities and skills multiplied by the courage you need to take action, minus interference (musical or mental).  According to this formula, performance can be enhanced either by increasing effort, improving strategy, building greater trust, courageously taking appropriate action, and/or by decreasing INTERFERENCE.

Interference can include five common challenges that many performers report facing:

  1. Worrying or caring too much what others think
  2. Performance anxiety or fear that interferes with performing
  3. Lack of confidence or self-doubt
  4. Perfectionism or obsession with technical details
  5. Lack of trust in learned skills

Mental Skills Needed To Perform Your Best Under Pressure:  The mental skills that performers need to be mentally tough can be considered within the following hierarchy.

 Mental Skills

Level I Skills:  ATTITUDE, MOTIVATION, GOAL SETTING, and COMMITMENT are the basic habits or skills that constitute a broad base for attaining long-term goals, learning, and sustaining daily practice.  These are basic life skills that were well in place (one way or another) when you first walked into the studio.  You need to examine these skills and determine if your present Level I skills serve you and your performing or whether your Level I skills hinder you and your performing.   Depending on this evaluation, you may need to “re-tool” or enhance one or more of these habits or skills.

What thought choices and habits do mentally tough performers make and have about the following Level I skills?

Mentally tough performers know that attitude is a choice and they choose to believe strongly in themselves and their abilities and skills.  They view music and performing as an opportunity to compete— not with others, but with themselves.   They choose to learn from both their successes and their  failures.  They have learned to pursue excellence, not perfection.  Mentally tough performers respect their own performing, other performers, their teachers, and themselves.  Finally, they recognize the distinction between the NEED to BE GOOD and the DESIRE to BE BETTER.   READ MORE about ATTITUDE
Mentally tough performers recognize the rewards and benefits that they are able to experience through their participation in music and performing.  They focus on participating in and improving their own performing, not on the outcome of participation and performance.  They know how to persist through difficult tasks and difficult times.   READ MORE about MOTIVATION
Setting long-term and short-term goals that are specific and realistic is habitual behavior for most mentally tough performers.  They routinely track their current performance level and develop specific detailed plans and goals for improving and growing.  
Mentally tough performers set specific and regular practice sessions.  They practice technical, mental, and performing skills every day.  They recognize that commitment means being willing to sacrifice and do whatever it takes to reach goals.  Mentally tough performers don’t just want “it” the most, they want it the most often.  READ MORE about COMMITMENT


Stay tuned next time when we’ll discuss Level II skills.

Want to learn more about how to develop your own unique pre-performance routine and your most effective mindset? Then, check out The Relaxed Musician:  Mental Preparation for Confident Performances, A 14-Day Plan   Download Day 1 of the workbook and audio to see how the program can work for you.  With purchase, you will receive 2 great bonuses—Your Pre-Performance Checklist and the e-book, Letting Go of the Need to be Perfect!

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