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The Psychology Of Performance!

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This week at the All Round Advice column, Voice Teacher Mena Greg
shares her story:
“Like many performers, I started off my career as a singer with severe stage fright. I never let it stop me – the inner drive to perform and make music was too strong – but it did cause me some sleepless nights and ruined some auditions until I found a way to deal with it. Once I overcame performance anxiety through a change in focus that I’ll talk about here, I was never hampered by it again. That doesn’t mean that I never feel performance anxiety; just that I experience it very differently now, and that my performances never suffer because of it. Anyone can learn this change in focus, which can transform the way you experience performing. Performance is something most of us have to do periodically in life; it is certainly not limited to professional entertainers. When you have to stand
up in front of a group, whether giving a lecture to a group, teaching a class, or giving a pitch to a prospective client, you’re giving a performance, a situation which can cause anxiety for some. Any time we’re in a situation that requires a performance – meaningwe have to stand in front of people and do something that puts the focus of the audience on us – we can use the change in perspective I’m about to describe, not only to relieve performance anxiety to a great extent, but to help us give more effective and compelling performances. It is absolutely normal to get nervous before a performance and have some of the physical manifestations of anxiety, such as heart palpitations, sweating, muscle weakness, muscle contraction, need to urinate, dry mouth, and shaking, or the mental manifestations, such as memory issues and panic. When we stand in front of a group and have a fear of being judged, we will likely experience some of those symptoms. But they don’t have to be a hindrance; in fact, those manifestations of anxiety (which are the effect of a huge rush of adrenaline) have the potential to create a more inspiring performance than if you didn’t have them once you learn to harness the energy behind them. The first and most important question is; why are you performing? What is it you’re hoping to accomplish? As soon as you focus on the objective, it begins to become much easier. Second, why are those people in the audience, really? Why did they make a trip to sit in probably uncomfortable seats to watch and listen to us? The truth is, people want us to be good; they are hoping to be entertained and inspired; they want to feel something. They are dying for us to give a successful performance because they want, even need, for us to give them an experience. So the next time you have to perform in any arena in life, and you have a fear of having performance anxiety, recognise immediately that the symptoms can enhance your performance once you channel the energy. Instead of worrying that you might have anxiety symptoms, focus instead on being the “seer” and not the “seen,” on what you are giving to the audience and on serving the material you are presenting. You just might find that you’re a natural performer!

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