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Mindfulness for Performance Success

Being mindful is not a matter of thinking more clearly about experience; it is the act of experiencing more clearly. philosopher, neuroscientist and educator, Sam Harris.

Mindfulness is a powerful tool for achieving better results in every venue of performance—sport, business, music, and the performing arts. Mindfulness training reduces performance anxiety (also known as "stage fright"), and visualizing success has been proven to immediately improve performance. For example, recent studies have found that stress, anxiety and fear of failure significantly detract from athletic performance in competitions.

Why bring mindfulness to performance technique?

In competitive situations, and before public speaking or musical performances, our adrenaline starts to pump, our heart beats faster, our palms get sweaty, and we feel "butterflies in the stomach." In fact, in a famous poll, many people rated "public speaking" as more frightening than death!

But what if we could stay connected with the present moment instead of becoming overwhelmed with thoughts of previous errors or jumping ahead to possible future humiliations, losses, mistakes, or disasters?

When our brains get caught up in thoughts from the past...or thoughts of the future...it creates a stress response, and we can't use the part of the brain that keeps us engaged in the moment Dr. Kristen Race, Ph.D., founder of Mindful Life.

One major study found that when we aim for a higher state of "flow" (the feeling of being totally in the moment, an important practice in mindfulness) we can achieve enhanced performance in any field. Other benefits reported in the study are: control of attention and emotion, improved goal-setting, and more positive self-talk.

How mindfulness enhances performance

When we are too focused about errors and stressed by competition, it is impossible to make good decisions during the athletic performance, on the fly in a meeting presentation, or in the middle of a recital. We need to be able to stay composted to solve problems.

Here is some of what mindfulness teaches us that directly affects performance: Mindfulness practice

  • improves our focus.
  • improves our decision-making abilities and effectiveness.
  • helps us regulate our emotions so that we don't act, or react, impulsively.
  • increases our energy levels, which are linked to emotions.
  • makes us calmer, as mindful practice calms down the central nervous system.
  • helps us recognize and prioritize what's important.

Mindful performance states of mind

The following three states of mind are practiced daily by most successful athletes and a growing number of performance artists and successful business people:

Self-awareness: When we listen to our own thoughts and feelings without judgment, our personal needs become clear. With a better sense of self we can more easily identify and work with our strengths and mitigate weaknesses.

Clarity of mind in times of stress: Our "monkey mind" chatters away about the past/future at least half the time. But when we focus all of our attention to one thing at a time, we inevitably become more productive and performance improves.

Acceptance of pain: Physical and emotional pain seem inevitable, especially when we are striving and competing. Mindfulness teaches that we can accept this pain rather than try to avoid or run away from it, and we learn to stop dwelling on what is wrong and start focusing on what we can do to make things right.

Three tips to get you started with mindfulness for performance

  1. Mindful breathing: Take a few minutes a day, and especially before engaging in an athletic event—whether practice, exercise, or competition— and before public performances or business challenges to pay attention to your breath, which can bring on a calm and clear state of mind. 
  2. Body scan: Practice a body scan to bring awareness to your body in a systematic way. As you engage in this practice regularly, you will become more highly attuned to what's happening in your body. Most performers spend 10 minutes or longer doing a body scan.
  3. Internal and external messages: Pay attention to your self-talk, and really listen to the stories you tell your family and friends. Notice, without judgment, when you are thinking or saying,"I can't run that fast," or "I hope I don't miss the ball," or "I'm terrified of giving report presentations." We all have these kinds of negative thoughts and they affect our relationships and performances. Let them go as soon as you are aware of them and change the thoughts and stories to speak of what you want to achieve.

Learning mindfulness for success in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland

Mindfulness courses offered by Mindful-Changes.com provide the tools you need to succeed in all aspects of life. Whether you are interested in mindfulness classes, personal life coaching or events, we can help. Contact us for more information.

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About Shahin Najak

Shahin Najak is a Vancouver-area Mindfulness Coach and speaker, teaching in the Vancouver, BC area. She is certified as a Yoga Instructor and Reiki practitioner, as well as a Jack Canfield (author of Chicken soup for the Soul) Success trainer.
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