Prepare Your Mind to Let Go…I mean, Perform

Preparing your mind to perform is another important reason for having a great pre-performance routine.   As you prepare to begin your performance, you will want to engage in thinking and activities that enhance your trust in yourself, your preparation, and your readiness to perform.  Also, you will want to recognize the fearful, anxious, and doubtful thoughts and actions—performance anxiety—that distract you and may cause you to feel unprepared.

As we discussed last time in Focus On The Process, keeping your focus on the here-and-now and on the things within your control that contribute to your performance in a productive way is a necessary step in preparing your mind to perform.  However, many performers have a difficult time letting go of the conscious controlling tendencies used so effectively in practice.  In order to prepare your mind to perform rather than practice, it is necessary for you to enter the role of the performer.

In our lives we play many roles—that of student, sister, brother, wife, husband, partner, mother, father.  In the various roles we play we are faced with experiences that can often challenge our ability to focus when we need or want to.  While readying for a performance, you might find yourself worried about an upcoming test or disappointed with a test you’ve just taken or maybe you have just argued with a friend or family member or are going through a difficult time.  Our life experiences can often distract us and can cause us to lose focus.  Assuming your role as performer involves setting aside the life cares and challenges that distract you.  I’m not saying that you stuff them down, but that you set these distractions aside just for a time.  Once the performance is over, you may return to them and deal with them as you will.

When some musicians think of assuming the role of performer, they turn their attention to their technique, being perfect, and controlling every action as they work to avoid mistakes or errors or memory slips.   However, shifting your focus onto your role as performer, means working to let go of conscious control over correctness and other controlling tendencies by accepting your playing or singing without expectation or judgment of right or wrong.  Your primary goal is to trust your practice and preparation in order to let your performances happen—not make them happen.

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” Lao Tzu

Preparing your mind to perform involves letting go of practice, trusting your preparation, and accepting your performances without judgment.  This makes me think of circus trapeze artists.  Their whole act involves swinging on a bar suspended high into the air and then letting go of that bar to fly into the air—into the arms of another trapeze artist or onto another swinging bar—with or without a net.  Think of how much trust they must have in their preparation to let go of that bar and fly into the air.   It is a risk to let go, but what kind of act would it be if all they did was swing back and forth and back and forth.

“He’d fly through the air with the greatest of ease, that daring young man on the flying trapeze…” —19th century popular song

In your next performance, think of yourself as a trapeze artist and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I  going to just hang onto the bar and swing back and forth? or
  • Will I risk, trust, and let go? or
  • Will I hang onto my controlling tendencies for dear life? (is this the greater risk?  hmmm…) or
  • Am I going to enter the role of performer?
  • Will I trust my preparation?
  • Will I accept myself and my performance without judgment?

Preparing to perform is a good time to remember why you chose music in the first place—for the excitement and fun of it.  Take a deep breath and…

Let go of the trapeze bar, embrace your fear—take the risk, trust yourself and your preparation and fly—fly through the air with the greatest of ease!


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  1. evelyn metcalf says:

    Love this one – pleasure to be able to comment.
    “By preparing your mind to let go like the trapeze artist, and trust in the preparation of your mind”

    REPETITION; REPETITION; REPETITION – the mother of all skills by PERSISTENTLY practicing and “letting go” over and over again – maybe a “career-long” journey for some, but as it is all about process, enjoying what they do is surely the bottom line at the end of the day no matter what they are trying to achieve. Using the trapeze artist as an example, I believe you have “nailed” it. It makes perfectly good sense to me, and as a coach a realistic challenge for our clients and ourselves along the way.

    evelyn metcalf
    Level 2(advanced) coach
    Lawn bowling
    Clifton Springs
    Victoria, Australia

    • Dr. Diana Allan says:

      Good to hear from you Evelyn. You are so right when you mention that we must practice letting go over and over again. Trusting our preparation is a skill and like any other skill, must be practiced. I’m reminded of a quote by Karen Salmansohn, “In a way, fear of trying is about fear of flying. It’s about being afraid to fly to new heights. Spread your wings and try.”

      Hope all is going well with you and your students. All my best to you, Diana

  2. Enjoyed this post Diana. Many thanks and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

    • Dr. Diana Allan says:

      Thanks Paul. Good to hear from you. Hope you are enjoying/enjoyed your St. Patrick’s Day on the emerald isle!

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