Ok, let’s talk about worry. . . How many times have you worried about the weather? If you’ve ever planned an outdoor event—a wedding, a child’s birthday party, a picnic or even when you have been planning a trip I bet you have worried about the weather! Is it going to be nice? Is my event going to be rained out? Will all my plans be ruined? I’ve worked so hard all year for this one week of vacation. . . Think of all the worrying and fretting you’ve (we’ve) done over something like the weather—something you have NO control over! What good did it do to worry about it? How much influence did you have over the weather conditions by worrying or stressing about them? How much energy did you waste by running the “what ifs” over and over in your mind? I daresay, A LOT!
All that energy you spent worrying was wasted. It was 100% wasted! It didn’t have ANY effect on the weather, but it certainly had a big effect on YOU!
“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” —Corrie Ten Boom
Worrying about performing is a little like worrying about the weather with one rather large exception. Unlike worrying about the weather, worrying about your performing can have a tremendous negative effect on the very thing you desperately hope will be good—your performing—and like worrying about the weather, this worry, doubt, and fretting has a tremendous negative effect on you, the performer.
When it comes to your performing, what are the things you end up worrying so much about? Scan the following list. Recognize any of these thoughts?
- Will I perform up to others’ expectations?
- Will I perform as well as I do in practice?
- Will I impress the right people?
- Will I embarrass myself?
- Will I mess up?
- Will I fail?
Your worry may be listed above or you may have another one on an endless list of worries about what might happen when you perform. An important thing to remember about these worries is that some—maybe most—are totally outside of our control—just like the weather! We spend tons of time worrying and fretting about how we are going to be perceived or if we will win this audition or that competition or if we’ll please this or that person. STOP IT! This kind of worry wastes both our time and energy.
Take one or more of the questions above that illustrates one of your worry thoughts and run it through the following decision tree*:
Let’s look at one or two of the worries above and take it through the decision process illustrated above. Let’s look at the first one, “Will I perform up to others’ expectations?” Go to the top of the decision tree, “Is performing up to others’ expectations within my control?” YES or NO? When determining your answer here, how can you even know what someone else’s expectation for you really is? I know we think we know, but really, can we? Performing my best in this moment is within my control. Performing up to someone else’s standard for me or impressing anyone is not within my direct control. The answer is NO. The next course of action is to shift my focus, “Stop worrying, trust my preparation, and focus on this moment.” and then, to “Let go and perform my heart out!”
Why don’t we take “Will I mess up?” or “Will I perform as well as I do in practice?” Go to the top of the decision tree and ask yourself the question, “Is messing up within my control?” YES or NO? If you answer yes, it indicates that you have decided that YES, messing up or not messing up is within your control so go to the next course of action, “Stop worrying!” and go on to the next important course of action, “Shift focus…” These two words are incredibly important to performers. Learning that you can shift your focus and practicing doing so is a great mental skill. You can actually shift your focus from the worry and doubt you are thinking and feeling to “What can I do to make a difference?” What can you do to influence whether you “mess up” or not? If you honestly ask yourself this question, you will probably examine your practice and preparation first. Next, you might want to examine what you do to prepare yourself to perform. Do you have a pre-performance routine that works for you? Do you remind yourself of the good things in your performing prior to performance or just play through the what-ifs of messing up? You can make a tremendous difference in the confidence you feel going into a performance by the way you prepare for and talk to yourself about that performance. The next course of action is “Get to doing that, then…” (and I would like to add RIGHT NOW!). Then, remind yourself again “Stop worrying, trust my preparation, and focus on this moment.” and finally, “Let go and perform your heart out!”
Learning to work through doubt, fear, and worry is something that performers need to practice. Remember to spend your time and energy on the things within your control. Identify these things and focus on how you can make a difference in your performing with a focus on what matters most in your performing!
If you would like to work one-on-one with someone to help you work through doubts and fears, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Download your own decision tree by clicking here and then clicking on Stop Worrying Decision Tree.
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I would love to hear from you so please comment on your worries or how you have managed to work through doubt and anxiety in your performing.
*Decision trees are excellent tools for helping you think through and choose between several courses of action.