The 5 ‘A’s of Performance Mindset – Aims

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 achieving your aims as a performer.

What are your aims? Do they feel heavy or light? Do they feel achievable? The goals we set ourselves can either be stultifying or empowering, so how we choose and implement them matters and impacts mindset hugely. This episode is all about those aims. 

Podcast 35 - The 5 'A's - Part 5

The Courageous Performer Podcast

The 5 'A's of Performance Mindset - Part  5 - Aims

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:

[00:00:00] I'm Hattie Voelcker from Find Your True Voice, and today I'm talking about the fifth in the five 'A's of Performance Mindset, and that is Aims. And the reason I want to talk to you about aims, because I talked to you about goals last time, but I think it's a subject that could do with going into in some depth, because I think we sometimes lose clarity over what our aims are.

And the way I like to see it is we have different aims. We have short, medium and long term aims. And they all give us this sense of direction. And for me, it's really important that our short and medium term aims are achievable stretches. Because if we view them as unachievable, we'll probably give up before we start.

But if we see them [00:01:00] as achievable, but a stretch to achieve, then we'll be learning in the process. And the state of flow is really interesting and the state of flow was first defined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. So it has to be a challenge, challenging enough that you are interested in and stimulated by it.

Because if it's too much of a challenge, you'll give up. And if it's too little of a challenge, it will be boring. And we all want it to be both interesting and challenging enough that we feel stimulated by it. And when you are challenged and interested, not over challenged, not under challenged, but challenged just at the right level.

Then where your ability is, is just... just slightly under the challenge in some ways, where ability and challenge meet. That's where flow is. That's where you go into this dream like state. And so when you [00:02:00] look at your goals and your aims and the things you're doing, it's about making them challenging enough to keep them interesting

and also to expand your realm of ability. So they need to match or be slightly over your current skill set because that way, you are growing and staying interested, and that's when you get into this flow state. Your long term goals, now they can be things that you think, I'm not sure how I'm going to achieve it and there's this wonderful process, I think it's an NLP process which is called future pacing, where you set out this major goal that you have in your life and you backtrack what would happen just before you walk on stage at Covent Garden or in front of a hall of thousands of people to give a speech.

What's the thing that happens just before that? You know, you're standing in the wings. How are you feeling? What are you doing? And you go back and back one step at a time until you reach now [00:03:00] and it gives you your first achievable stretch step to take. So if you're standing in the wings, what happens? Well you're sitting in the dressing room before that.

What happens before that? You're in the rehearsal phase or maybe you get a call from your manager if you have a manager at that stage. What happens before that? Right to where are you now? What is the first step on this epic journey to where you want to be? And it's about breaking it down so you come back to now and you then feel invigorated to take that first achievable but stretching step.

,And all of this adds to the sense of excitement and joy that I think is a far better motivator than the stick, and the should, and the ought and a have to that we often use to get ourselves motivated. So instead of, I should be practicing right [00:04:00] now, if you think: Well if I want to get there, the step before that, the step before that, the step before that, actually my first step is to learn this song.

My first step is to put myself out there for a job I didn't think I was capable of. Or maybe it's the other way. My first step is to put myself out for a job that I thought was below me but actually in my grand plan, that job is the first step because I'm going to use it to learn this, that and the other or I'm going to use it to go in front of these people.

And then everything you do has this sense of purpose to it, a sense of joy because you are looking to achieve that wonderful aim that you have in life. But you're doing it in a way that feels achievable. In the same way, if we flip the perspective as we often do and say, What I want is 100 percent right now.

I want to go out on stage and I want to [00:05:00] nail it right now. What you've instantly done is set yourself an unachievable goal and set yourself up for failure. Because not only is 100 percent not achievable, because even if you, in the moment, think I achieved 100%, you will later pick it apart and go, well that didn't work well and I didn't like that, because that's what we do.

Also 100 percent isn't desirable because if we do it perfectly, it lacks creativity and it lacks soul. So you've set an unachievable, undesirable goal and you've set it usually because you want to feel safe.

So, instead of aiming for 100 percent so you can feel safe, think about where you are and think about the reason you're doing the thing.

What is it you want to achieve from this particular activity? What's the next thing on your [00:06:00] checklist that is an achievable stretch goal? And you will be surprised how taking the pressure off, um the idea of what you feel you have to achieve with this, will actually improve the quality of your performance.

So, I've said this before, if you stop aiming for 100 percent and you feel like you're at 60 percent of your current skill zone is 60% and you actually then go, I'm gonna aim for 61%, and I've said this to people before, don't aim any higher than 61%. If you aim for 62, as far as I'm concerned you have failed.

That, taking the pressure out, allows you to enjoy it, which will allow you to relax, which will allow your performance to be better. But if you then layer on this idea of being specific as to what you want to achieve from this particular activity and you say, analytically, what I want to achieve from this particular activity is I want to make eye contact.

I want [00:07:00] to make gentle, meaningful, empowered eye contact with a number of people in the audience because that's my next step. That's my next bit of the learning curve. Then one, that's an achievable goal and it still could be a stretch because you might find eye contact really hard, and two, you haven't set yourself up for failure.

If you go, I want to go and nail it this time, I need to get a hundred percent in order to be good enough, then you know you won't succeed.

These achievable goals can make you feel good in the moment because you're not setting yourself up to fail. And the thing is, we're setting ourselves up to fail we're aware that we've set ourselves up to fail on some level. We're aware that there's no way we're going to get a hundred percent. So we know this, so we go out predicting and expecting failure. If you go out saying, my main aim is to make eye [00:08:00] contact, and I say that because that's one of the things that I do in order to address some of my anxieties.

I know that if I make eye contact, my anxieties reduce. So sometimes I go out and say, my one aim in this particular thing is to make eye contact, and to engage with people. What I find is because I'm focusing on that and not trying to get everything right then success is just there and I relax and then all the other things that I've trained my body to do, like talk and speak about something I understand and love, just happen and I free myself up to do that and I let go of that self sabotaging overthinking, because I've given myself one target for success.

And the more I practice the eye contact, the more that becomes a neural pathway that I don't have to think about, so then I can layer on the next goal for myself.

So, this last [00:09:00] in the series of five is all about having aims. Having, in the short and medium term, goals, achievable, stretch aims to go towards your main aim that makes you feel excited. That main aim can be a real stretch. So then break it down into these achievable stretch goals so that every day has this sense of purpose and joy about it. I'm going to do this now because this is the next thing on my list I want to achieve.

If you haven't listened to the rest of the series of five, I will put the links to those with the blurb that goes with this particular recording. Have a listen to those if you haven't already listened to those. Thank you so much if you have listened to all of them.

I hope they all hang together and give you this sense of joy and achievable goals and aims to have.

[00:10:00] I'm Hattie Voelcker from Find Your True Voice. Thank you so much for listening.