State of Mind
How many times has someone asked you that question? Or right before you are about to go perform, has someone asked you how you feel about what you're about to go do? When you get asked that question, what "evidence" do you look to in order to determine how you are going to respond? You could take stock of external factors (ex: the weather, someone else's verbalized opinion, factors specific to the performance such as importance, uncertainty, past history) and/or internal factors (ex: the nature of your thoughts thus far - positive or negative?, how you feel - good or bad emotions, how your body feels - heart rate, muscle tension, breathing rate, etc.). No matter what you look to in order to form your opinion about how your day is going or how you feel about your performance, the reality is that it is just that...an opinion. There is no objective reality to this; it really is all in your head. So it's not about the actual evidence, but rather the perspective you take on that evidence.
A good example of this can be seen in a recent State Farm insurance commerical (yes I am really referring you to a commercial and no I'm not trying to suggest you should or shouldn't get their insurance!). Watch the short video here. So the same words and thoughts can result in completely different experiences and outcomes when in different contexts.
One of my favorite authors and speakers, Simon Sinek, discussed this in an interview on performing under pressure....when someone asks him how he feels before a speech, he responds "I feel excited" rather than "I feel nervous." The stimuli (ex: increased heart rate) for both options are the same; it's the interpretation that makes all the difference.
The lesson: what is actually happening to us is not as important as how we see it (and what messages we send to ourselves as a result...see a previous blog post on this topic). And according to Kelly's (1955) personal construct theory, we all make up our own individual interpretations of the situations we are in.
This is good news. It means that by becoming more aware of how we are seeing things (our interpretations of things like our thoughts, feelings, body sensations, and situations), we can choose how we respond and thereby have a bit more control over how we perform.
A great, recent sport example of this is when Cubs first baseman, Anthony Rizzo, during Game 7 of the World Series told his teammate, David Ross, that he was an emotional wreck (watch the brief video here). Yet he continued to perform well and help his team to win their first World Series in 108 years. Thus, the goal isn't to NOT have unhelpful thoughts, emotions, or perspectives (that really isn't possible). Rather THE GOAL is to be aware of when you do have them and perceive the internal and external evidence as positive, helpful, and/or manageable rather than negative, threatening, and/or completely out of your control, so you can perform no matter how you feel or what's at stake.
So, how's your day?
"If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change." - Wayne Dyer