The 5 ‘A’s of Performance Mindset – Anxiety

Your mindset when you perform can make or break your performance. It will determine how anxious you are, how much you connect with your audience, and has a massive impact on how well you perform overall.

In this series I look at the 5 As of Performance Mindset to set out the 5 most important aspects of mastering your mindset, and give you tools to do just that.

This episode is all about anxiety, one of the biggest challenges that performers face - and always at its worst in front of the audience that matters to you most!

Podcast 31 Title

The Courageous Performer Podcast

The 5 'A's of Performance Mindset - Part 1 - Anxiety

If you would like to learn how to let go and perform brilliantly, so that you can feel confident (even without being able to guarantee the outcome!) then go to to find out how to work with me.

Read the episode transcript here:

Hi, I'm Hattie Voelcker from Find Your True Voice, and this recording is the first in a series of five recordings on the topic of

The Five A's of Performance Mindset. And I'm going to be deep diving into each A over the course of five different recordings. Today, we're going to be looking at Anxiety, because that's what a lot of people come to me to talk about. They come to me to talk about how they beat their anxiety, how they get rid of their anxiety, how do they control their anxiety. And it's really interesting because anxiety is really what comes up when we have a sense of lack of control. When we feel out of control, or feel that something is beyond our control, we feel powerless in a situation.

That's when anxiety crops up for people. Because anxiety is really this process of overthinking in order to get to a space where we feel back in control. And it's really our limbic system, at its worst, it's when our limbic system takes over and we go into fight, flight or freeze because of this sense of lack of control.

And really what I'm going to be talking about today is how do you get to a place where you are seeking to influence the future rather than control the future. Because the reality is you can't control the future. The future is beyond our control. We have no idea what's going to happen in the future, but you can influence it.

And that gives more of us this idea of a sense of increasing improvements as opposed to the idea that there is a perfect that you are aiming for. Once you get to that perfect then you will be in control and you will be invulnerable and whatever happens on stage you will know what you're doing and you will nail it.

That's a lovely idea but there are so many things that happen when you put yourself in front of an audience that have absolutely nothing to do with you that are completely outside your control. Let alone being in control of everything that goes on for you because as we all know when we get out in front of an audience things happen either to do with other people or to do with ourselves that we did not predict so no matter how much you think before you go up there how much you go through all the process of thinking through all the different issues and possible issues something may come up that you didn't predict and the other element of this so one is moving to a place where you influence, you don't aim to control it.

And the other is trusting your ability to cope. And these two things will transform how you approach your performing and reduce your anxiety. So let me talk about trust for a minute. Because I remember having a conversation with a friend and they were talking about something that happened when they were driving across the desert and as they were driving across this person was imagining all the things that could go wrong and thinking up solutions as to what might happen and and then something did go wrong and and they went "Oh it was brilliant because I thought of all the things that could go wrong and I had a solution at my fingertips and if I hadn't then it would have been a disaster."

Within that is an assumption that that person wouldn't have come up with that solution in a split second. They wouldn't have just been able to think of it in the moment when the crisis hit, that they had to prepare ahead of time. But you hopefully can see by preparing ahead of time what happened was,

in that process of driving across the desert, they were thinking about all the bad things that could possibly happen. And that's not going to put anyone in a great headspace. Yes, they might have been slightly more prepared by having thought about something they were perfectly capable of thinking of.

They were perfectly capable of thinking about this solution because they thought of it before. So we know that they were capable of it. They thought by having it up front. gave them an edge. But it also took away the joy of the whole process of the trip. And actually, if they had just paused when the disaster happened, they had the mental capacity to come up with that solution there and then.

And that whole process of, if you trust that you can cope whatever happens on stage, then that will reduce your anxiety. And that is about having the inner confidence to go, "Okay, I don't need to predict that this might go wrong or that might go wrong. I just need to breathe and know that I am an intelligent, capable adult human being and I will come up with a solution."

And in my experience, the impact this has on me as a performer and on other people as a performer is that they relax and enjoy the moment. And that means that disasters are less likely to happen because they are more relaxed and in the moment and able to deal with things as they come up, and then, being relaxed when things happen out, in the auditorium or the sound goes wrong, you're relaxed enough to deal with it in an intelligent and grown up way.

For example, I, I heard Madonna's performance the other night, her opening night, something went wrong with the sound and for 20 or 30 minutes she sat chatting with the audience. If she'd been in a state of panic and unrelaxed, then that wouldn't have happened, but she was totally confident that it would all be okay.

So she sat chatting and the audience had an advantage. So, if you trust that you can deal with any disaster that comes up, you will relax. And you won't feel the need to go through all the potential disasters, because by going through all the potential disasters, you'll make yourself more anxious because you're thinking about all the things that could go wrong.

Now, I'd like to talk a bit about influencing the future rather than controlling or aiming to control it. Because wouldn't it be lovely if we could control the future, in some ways. But then, life would be so boring if we could. Everything would be entirely predictable. But the good job is, we, we can't.

There is no way to control the future. However, that doesn't mean we sit back and do nothing. It doesn't mean we don't prep. It doesn't mean we don't think through, what we want to say, how we want to be, how we want to communicate. And this, for me, comes back to this idea that although we can't control the future, we can definitely influence it.

If I've got a song coming up, I have a tendency to learn it backwards because then I will have done the last line far more times than I've done the first line. So as I go through the song, my confidence will increase, not decrease. That is influencing the future. That is making it so it's more likely I will be more confident at the end of the song than otherwise.

So, there are so many things we can do to influence. If you start to aim for perfection, then that can be daunting, that can promote procrastination, and that means you might do less instead of more. However, if we say we can influence it, then every little bit bit of work you do is work for the good and moves you closer towards a space where you feel more and more confident.

I'm not going to say there's an end point. I felt like I was ending towards, um, saying there was an end point. There isn't. You can always, always increase your confidence. There's no point where you get too confident in this sense, because confident, too confident is arrogance and that's just another form of armour, which is another way of us protecting ourselves from our perceived insecurity and vulnerability.

What I'm talking about here is increasing our ability to be relaxed and communicate with the audience and increasing our ability to know our subject so that when questions come up we answer them as better to know our songs so that when things happen we can lean into a different form of expressing it or dance or acting or what the script or anything like that the more work we do around it to enhance it the more we can feel relaxed and flexible when we actually go out in front of the audience.

So the final thing I want to mention is this idea of imagine if you got all the energy and brain power back that you currently spend on anxiety and worrying. Imagine if you get that back. What could you use that for? How much could you pour that into your preparation? That into opening up your awareness and communication with the audience when one part of your brain isn't constantly on high alert looking out for things that might go wrong.

It doesn't mean you won't respond when things do go wrong. It means you have more of your brain to perform and communicate. And then when things do go wrong, you still have that part of your brain that you can get into gear to solve the problem. It doesn't suddenly detach and disappear. But it also means, fundamentally, you will enjoy the performance more.

You will enjoy the preparation more. And that way your audience will enjoy it more. So anxiety is a desire to be in control and a fear that you won't be in control. If you can learn to ride the waves like a surfer, as opposed to trying to control the waves, which almost certainly means falling off the surfboard in my experience of stand up paddle boarding at the very least,

then you are more likely to be able to ride those waves with joy and enjoyment. And the people watching you will enjoy watching you and get so much more from it. Remember. You influence the future, you don't control it, and you build trust that you can respond. Whatever goes wrong, you will survive and respond.

And you don't need to spend the brain power and the energy working through all the possible things that will go wrong because that will just depress you. You are a grown adult. You are capable of dealing with things when things go wrong.

I'm Hattie Voelcker from Find Your True Voice. Thank you so much for listening.