"In helping humans perform, psychology is the software, but biology is the hardware."
"To really make the most of the final moments before you perform, reducing anxiety isn’t enough. You also want to build positive emotions, such as confidence, self-efficacy, and power."
The rush of fear and anxiety we feel before a big presentation or interview is caused by adrenaline being dumped into our system.
Originally quite helpful when confronted by a dangerous animal, in modern days we are stuck with the racing heart, sweaty palms, and frozen brain of the “fight or flight” response. How we speak to ourselves in the moment can make a difference.
As a leader, you can help your teams achieve better results by introducing them to pre-performance routines.
In experiment after experiment psychologists documented enhanced performance when workers were exposed to reminders of positive performance like these.
Before an important event:
For example, one study compared the performances of people who said, “I’m so excited” vs. those who said “I’m so nervous” and those who said nothing before going on stage. The people who said they were excited, and thus reappraised anxiety to excitement, performed the best.
Why does this help more than not saying anything at all? Because transitioning from anxiety to calm is very difficult, as the two emotions are very different. Transitioning from worried to excited, however, does not take much effort at all.
This is another essential technique in calming performance anxiety. You can center yourself by breathing deeply and concentrating on your breath while releasing all muscle tension.
Imagine all the energy in your body moving into one point, the belly button. Once it’s all there, visualize releasing it. Using this technique before an important event will help you regain focus and kick anxiety to the curb.
Regardless of what you choose to do before your performance, however, there is one thing that should always happen: consistency.
Studies back up the effectiveness of athletes’ routines before a game, for example. Athletes are aware of this and do what they can to prepare.
When it comes to performance, competition and rivalries are a great thing. Studies show that competition dramatically enhances performance.
The feeling we get when we are racing against others and someone is right on our tail drives us to do better, to prove ourselves. Cyclists do better when competing rather than beating the clock, and the same goes for other sports as well. Furthermore, fighting against a rival, or someone you know, rather than a stranger, boosts your abilities even more.
The motivating effects of competition help not only in sports but in the business world as well.
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