The Counterintuitive Instant Improvement

What's the quickest way to improve your performing? The answer you will probably find counterintuitive. This episode is all about what it is, why it works and why you might resist doing it.

This podcast episode came out of the work I did with a performer last Saturday at my Free Your Voice Live event, and I wanted to share it because it was so transformative for her. If you would like to find out more transformative techniques I'm running an online version of the same workshop this Saturday.

You can register to join here: Free Your Voice Live Online

Podcast 16 Title

The Courageous Performer Podcast

The Counterintuitive Instant Improvement

Read the episode transcript here:


Hi, I'm Hattie Voelcker from Find Your True Voice and today I want to talk about a really quick and easy, on the face of it but intellectually probably quite challenging, way to instantly improve your performance.



And I would imagine like me, you might find some resistance to doing this. And I was talking about this with my Courageous Club last night, because it was really messing with our heads, because it's totally counterintuitive this.



What is the best way to improve your performance instantly? Try less, aim lower. I know, I know, it's just really weird. Don't go for 100% is what I'm saying. Don't aim for 100%. And this is so counterintuitive or counter what we've been taught throughout our lives, that we should try our best we should try our hardest, you know, people going, I put in 100%, or some people saying I've put in 110%, which always gets me as somebody who likes a lot of logic. You can't put in 110%. Because, you know, we've been told to do this, we've been told the way of achieving great things is to try our hardest, and it doesn't matter what we do as long as we've done our best.



But in reality, this doesn't work certainly doesn't work my experience with the performance I work with. And for two main reasons. Firstly, when we aim for 100%, or 110%, even what I notice in myself and in the performance I work with is that you start efforting. Now I know that's not a verb, but it really means what I want it to mean. I got it from Nick Bolton, who's the head of the coaching school, so I nicked it from him. Efforting is where we put an extra effort because we feel like we won't be good enough unless we try harder. And this creates all sorts of tension, it creates physical tension. So vocal tension for singers and for speakers. It creates intellectual tension, because we think we have to think harder and, and work harder at our thoughts and solve problems, and emotional tension, because we put ourselves in the position of not being good enough, and therefore having to make ourselves good enough by trying really hard.



And all of this tension makes us worse, it makes us perform worse, it disconnects us from the audience. As I say it creates this tension, our mind is cluttered, our body is tense, and we withdraw from the audience.



The other thing it does is guarantee failure. If you aim for 100%, you're never going to get it, you're never going to get your ideal. Because even if you feel you do for a moment, then you'll pick it apart. If you're anything like me, you'll pick it apart. We have this belief that, you know, there is this ideal that we're going to hit but it's not true. But particularly if you think about how you would assess your last performance.



What percentage would you put your last performance that? Was it 99%? Were you just missing that 1%? Or was it more like 60, 70% and I owe this idea to Alison Wells, who's my singing teacher, this idea that we want to go from 60% to 100% like that, snap my fingers, I know I was only 60% but I really want to prove to this audience, I can do it. And when I don't do it, then I will feel not as good. So I'm going to go for 100% because as they say, if you aim for that, shoot for the stars, you might make the moon but it means that you'll never be happy if you want 100%, and that's what you're going for, then if you move from 60 to 61% you won't be happy with that it won't feel like anything.



But if you change this, and we tried this with a singer at my workshop on Saturday, and it you know, I knew intellectually it works, but actually seeing it work, live with a singer there and we just honed in on this concept. And I said to her, I don't want you to go for 100% I don't even want you to give me 100% I don't want you to give me 75% I don't want 70%. If you think you're 60% I want you do give me 61% and if you give me slightly more I want you to back off.



I don't want 100% I don't want it to be that level. And it was truly transformational, everything changed for her. And then her voice opened up, she connect with the audience more, she connected with the words more, she completely relaxed. And this would work for public speakers as much and actors, because you know, this is just about connecting with the audience, the material and delivering your material, the tension released and she really leant into the performance and she gave us 75%.



And, and that's the irony, you go for 61% and suddenly, you take the pressure off, or when you take the pressure off, you relieve the tension. And also you then measure yourself by that 61%, you nailed 61%, you even got more than that. So in terms of your goal, you achieved, you outstripped your goal, you outstripped your target. And therefore you create this scenario in which you've created achievable goals, you're making progress, and then each performance feels like a success.



You might slip back, maybe you'll only get 50%, one day, but you know, you're capable of giving that and making that incremental development. And it means you're looking at your progress, rather than the gap, rather than the bit you're missing where you're not. You're looking at what you have achieved and that is so rewarding and encouraging. Because it means you're more likely to put yourself out there next time, because you can, you know, you can make another little bit of improvement. And read the book, 'The Gap and the Gain,' which is a great, it puts this very simple concept really clearly, this idea of measure yourself against your progress, not what you're lacking.



We're not where you're not yet, but where you were and where you've got to. And it is so helpful to do that. And that was it, I mean, this was one of the number of things that we did on the Saturday, but to see it in action to see it really kick in. And that's what I love about these workshops. When I run these workshops, I get to get my hands on people, metaphorically speaking, I get to listen to them, and change how they think and how they perceive themselves and their audience and what they're doing and the task in hand.



And you also get the feedback from the audience because they get to see it. And you see, when you see it actually happening to somebody in front of you, you see that change taking place. It's really interesting, because you suddenly when you see it on somebody else, you think, oh, that's totally possible. And it's almost more valuable than it happening to you. But that's what I love about these workshops.



By the way, I'm running another one of these workshops, little plug here, I'm running another one of these workshops, this coming Saturday, it's online. So it doesn't matter where in the world you are three to six UK time. And we're are we doing exactly the same sort of work and showing you how you can change your approach in these sorts of ways. So you can really, actually get those instant changes to how you perform.



But getting back to this idea of going for 61%. There is a huge amount of resistance, because we have been taught all our lives to go for 100% to give it our best. And as I say I was talking this through with the Courageous Club last night. And it's different. So you may have been told that less is more. And that is true. And I'm a great proponent of that. But that's not what I'm talking about here. You may also have been taught, you know, to go that 70% is is good enough, if you're aiming for perfect 70% is still the passmark, anyway, if you're doing an arts degree, and you get 70%, you get a first class degree. As I did by some miracle, I say do you see how I run myself down too. But that can help to.



What I'm actually talking about here is aiming lower, which so it feels so difficult to do, to deliberately give less. And it really messes with your head because it's so against everything you've been taught. But what you will discover and I invite you to really play around with this idea. Because what you discover is by aiming lower, you take the pressure off, you let go of control, which might feel uncomfortable. We talked about this on Saturday as well this whole idea of what is control and can you if you're not in control, does that mean you're out of control, which I disagree with. And I'll go into this, I always go into this because I love this, it's a thing for another podcast but it's that idea of you let go of control and controlling, which means you let go of tension, you let go, and I think this is a really big part of it. Because part of the reason I think we're told to try our best to give it 100% is this idea that unless we have that instruction, unless we give ourselves that message or are given that message, we won't.



We won't, we'll be lazy, will not put the effort in. But that's not my experience, my experience is when we trust ourselves, we end up tapping into the creative within us, we end up tapping into our natural abilities, our natural way of talking, and we are more authentic, which means we can connect with the audience more, we relax. It's like, you don't think about walking, when you walk, you just walk. And you do it really well and it's actually, when you start to think about walking, it becomes awkward. So taking that pressure off taking that I've got again, 100% pressure off, means you get back to having space to do what you do. And I think one of the reasons we resist doing this, one of the reasons it feels so uncomfortable, the idea of deliberately giving less is that at all, the fundamental of all of this is a resistance to trusting yourself. A resistance to trusting that without that stick to beat yourself without that aiming high without high standards, you won't do a good job.



And that I have found through all my many years of working, through the hundreds of people I have worked with, through my own experience is simply not true. And if I'm being honest, a lot of my work, the vast majority of my work is about how do you get into a space where you trust yourself and you deliver. Because that is the cycle where you build confidence and you start to have a positive opinion of yourself. And then you get positive feedback from your performances of your own opinion, not from the audience. But you go yeah, 'That felt good that felt like it worked.' And then the feedback from the audience is a bonus.



But it comes back to this idea of you don't have to drive yourself hard to do a good job, you will do a good job anyway. And as I say, I invite you to play around with this idea to play around with this concept to give it a go. Because there are so many layers to it. I mean, I'm trying it at the moment with my own high notes because I didn't realise how much I was efforting my high notes. I thought I'd stripped back the effort. But I stripped back the effort now I've found a whole nother layer of effort I didn't realise was there. So I'm stripping back and I'm aiming lower, although higher in the note, and I'm stripping back and I'm stripping back and I'm stripping back and it's working. When you take the pressure off, you tend to produce better and more.



So give it a play, and send me a message. Let me know how you get on with this. Email me DM me, whatever means, let me know how you get on and what you think about it and whether you find what we found with the singer on Saturday, that you actually produce more by aiming to give less. I'm Hattie Voelcker from Find Your True Voice. Thank you so much for listening.