I interviewed some of the top performers on the planet- people that have had experience with performance anxiety. The stories and knowledge I received fortified my Nerve Breakers. Best-selling author Dr. Paul Stoltz put it best when I spoke to him on the deck of his ranch on the central California coast. He said, “What you’re researching is part of the core human drama. You’re asking really incredible people, ‘What do you do, and what have your moments been?’ That’s a great question to be asking.”
It’s true. It’s pure human drama, fascinating in its intensity and the lessons it provides. There is a consistency, a similar path, a universal truth that applies to how top class performers, presenters, and communicators gain the confidence to get beyond anxiety and actualize their goals. These are the Nerve Breakers and they work sequentially in three simple categories: Clarity, Capability and Confidence, the three Cs:
Clarity- We consider our goal to clarify it for ourselves
Capability- Once the goal is clear, we can become capable with it
Confidences- As we succeed with the new skill, we become confident
Clarity: This is the first anxiety buster. At some level, I knew before I auditioned for Bad English that I lacked skill in some way—in that case, my ability to control internal sense of time. I wasn’t prepared to be in that world-class band. My anxiety was appropriate; I was out of my league. I was a Double-A pitcher expecting to get called up to The Show. But it wasn’t until I had clarity on what was missing from my skill set that I was able to create the mindset to move forward. Clarity enables you to cut through the distractions and ambiguity to define your true goal. The root of performance anxiety can stem from the fear of the unknown. The moment you clarify your true goal in it’s simplest form and where you stand relative to that goal, you make known what it is you need to do. There is no mystery and that diffuses the anxiety.
Capability: Clarity leads to Capability. Capability represents preparation, education, the proper feeding of the mind and the proper execution of skills. You are busting through any barriers to achieve your goals that you have specifically clarified. I was clear that I lacked some real fundamentals in the area of meter. I also became clear that the way to develop those fundamentals was to get busy working with a metronome, that same device that was the final symbol of my failure in my audition. I knew I had to come at that beast from all angles…so I did and became highly capable at working with a metronome while refining my internal meter.
If you are capable, you are accomplished, talented, proficient, skilled, and able to do a particular thing. After you have clarified exactly what your goal is, the road to capability is proper preparation. When you’re prepared, you’re at the highest level of performance or presentation. This is paramount for fundamentally reducing fear because you have no question about the capabilities you have worked so hard and smart to create. You always need to ask yourself if you can really do the thing that you say you can do. If you are just puffing, then it is time to rewind and continue developing your capability.
Confidence: Capability leads to Confidence. Confidence is the state of being certain. That is the simple and powerful result of clarifying your goal and becoming truly capable. I am now completely confident in my capability to work with a metronome and to control my internal sense of meter. I’ve just started rehearsing with P!NK for her next world tour, playing some of the songs I’ve played hundreds of times on the last two tours. On Day one, I got a refreshing hit of slight nervousness when we broke into Just Like a Pill, and So What. I was energized and confident because I knew I was prepared, fully prepared. I maintain confidence that my preparation will act as my safety net. I have total clarity, complete capability and therefore total confidence in my goal of performing these songs and the rest of the songs I’ve already played before. I am completely clear on what I have to do to play the new songs, and as I play them more and more, I will develop total capability and eventually be totally confident. Anxiety will not be a part of my equation…