In the recent post, Focus On What YOU Can Control, we discussed the kind of focus many performers have that makes them fearful, anxious, and distracted by things that are outside of their control. When you focus on what is within your control, you will feel more confident and calm and ready to face performance challenges with a clear and present focus.
What kind of focus do you need to acquire and maintain to enhance your performances?
When you are totally absorbed in WHAT you are doing, we call this PROCESS Focus. This kind of focus is characterized by feeling in the here and now or “in the moment.” This is a fun, relaxed, and exciting place to be!
Where many performers find themselves is focused on OUTCOMES. This kind of focus will get you into our head and undermine your performing faster than any other. When you are totally absorbed in what the RESULT or OUTCOME of your performance, we call this OUTCOME Focus. Outcome Focus takes you OUT of the present and into the past (thinking about what just happened) or into the future (worrying about what might happen).
Being overly concerned on the outcome of your efforts is a big cause of feelings of fear and anxiety. It is not a fun place to be!
Now I know you must be thinking—hey, performing and competing at auditions is HIGHLY COMPETITIVE! How can I NOT worry or, at least THINK about the outcome?
It turns out that the answer to this question may sound very strange.
The most powerful mental technique to improve your performing is simply letting go of any concerns about the outcome and instead focusing solely on the process of preparing for and playing or singing each phrase! Although it may seem paradoxical, the best way to increase the likelihood of a good outcome is by not focusing on that outcome! Instead, focus on the process of preparing for your performance, committing to your preparation, and then simply allowing yourself to BE!
Another thing to keep in mind is that FOCUS has two dimensions: TIME and PLACE. We’ve mentioned this several times. When you practice, compete, or perform you can mentally be in one of three time zones: the past, the present, and the future.
If you’re in the PAST:
- your mind is behind your body
- your mind is dwelling on something that just happened—a mistake, missed entrance or breath, a crack
The PAST SOUNDS LIKE:
- “Here we go again!”
- “This always happens!”
- “I can’t believe I missed that AGAIN!”
If you don’t let go of the past before you perform, all that you fear is likely to come true—a self-fulfilling prophecy!
If you’re in the FUTURE:
- your mind is ahead of your body as you perform
- your mind is thinking, “if I just get this last high note,…”
The FUTURE SOUNDS LIKE:
- “What if…”
- “I hope that I don’t miss the last high note!”
- “If I win, then…”
- “If I don’t win, I’ll just…”
If you’re in the PRESENT:
- your mind and body are in sync
- your focus is locked on what you are doing in the moment—you feel the ease of performing, enjoying the moment
A present focus sounds like the music you are performing because you are totally absorbed in the moment and engaged in your performing. Your thoughts are performance—physically, emotionally, and mentally.
It is important to STAY IN THE NOW—the PRESENT!
Don’t get caught in the wrong time zone!
FOCUS on the PROCESS, not the outcome!
You want to focus on giving your full effort and executing to the best of our ability in the NOW!
Have you ever seen the bumper sticker: ONE DAY AT A TIME? You probably know the driver is in some kind of 12-step program that reminds its participants that if you can focus on TODAY, you can MAKE it!
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