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5 steps to overcome performance anxiety

 

By Anthony Zhou

Quite recently I was down in Wellington where I competed at the Ceroc Classic Dance Competition at Beginner level…

I entered two categories and placed 1st in both. Compared to my last competition at Waikato a month ago, I had no performance anxiety.

I was calm and confident, and it showed through my dancing as well my body language. I walked away with an amazing result.

You can see the videos for each of the competitions at the bottom of this post. Read through first and then compare the two, you’ll see the difference!

So what did I do that was different?

Whether you have to a presentation at work, a speech at a wedding, or any big important event which puts you in the spotlight. Below are 5 steps which helped me, and I think they will help you:

1) TRAIN LIKE YOU FIGHT

It’s a saying and philosophy used in the military. It means give it 100%; to your training and preparation, because when it comes to the crunch you will fall back onto your training and preparation.

Leading up to the competition I was putting in the hours to practice my dancing, as well as getting private lessons to work on my timing. I dedicated three songs a night where I would treat them like it was a competition dance. I would make one end of the room my audience, and made sure I presented towards them, focusing on my timing and the performance factor.

I remember the Tuesday the week before competition I had a really amazing dance with one of my teachers, and I was like “If I can dance like that on Saturday, I will be fine”.

By doing your preparation in a place where you are most comfortable, in such as your own home, you will be anxiety free and confident.

On the big day take yourself back to that moment where you were comfortable, confident,  and anxiety free. Take control of the room as if it was your own home – because for that moment when you are center stage, you are THE BOSS and that room is YOURS.

2) FOCUS ON THE MOMENT

I do a bit of Mindfulness Meditation, which ensures that I breathe, help calms the nerves, as well as making me aware of what my body is doing at this present time. When we are stressed we tend to forget to breathe.

If you are not into the whole meditation thing, then simply take deep breathes in, holding for a second and slowly exhaling. It will help oxygenate your body and increase your ability to focus.

For a great guided mindfulness meditation, check out this link from the blog of neuroscientst Sam Harris.

I also told myself there were three things I needed to do while I was out there on the dance floor which would keep my focus in the present moment:

– keep stepping so I was always in time with the music,

– make sure I had good posture so made sure I didn’t slouch,

– do the three moves I wanted to bust out.

It doesn’t have to be three things, but have at least one thing that you can focus on which will keep you in the moment. This will stop your mind from wandering and thinking about all those ‘What ifs’, and things that could go wrong.

It could be as simple as having good posture, remembering to smile, or making eye contact with people around the room.

3) LET GO OF PEOPLES’ EXPECTATIONS

People expected me to do well at the Waikato competition, and I have been told that I am a good dancer. This gave me a complete psych out, because I didn’t want to let those people down. I felt like their respect for me depended on whether I won or lost the competition (people-pleasing Nice Guy coming through – for more on that click here).

At Wellington I didn’t care what people expected of me. I acknowledged their support for me and took it on board, but realised that it’s just their personal opinion, and there was no need for me to be swayed by it.

I knew what I wanted to achieve and I kept my mind focused on that.


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4) LET GO OF THE OUTCOME

I went into the Waikato Competition needing to win. I put a lot of mental pressure on myself to perform and that caused me to have performance anxiety. By watching the videos of the competition you can see that.

I focused on winning, which is an outcome I had no control over.

Compare that to Wellington, where I focused on the things I could control, such as dancing on time and doing three moves I wanted to use. These kept me focused on the present and carefree about anything in the future. I forgot about the things that were out of my control.

5) HAVE FUN!!!

Having that performance anxiety made my experience at the Waikato Competition a very stressful one, and I didn’t enjoy it as much as I should have.

At Wellington I enjoyed every moment of it, because I let go of the outcomes and expectations. I just enjoyed the experience and the journey of becoming a dancer. I know that regardless of the result I will learn and grow from the experience. I just focused on having fun and enjoying myself.

If you are having fun and enjoying the experience for your own personal benefit, then all the worries and anxiety will fade away.

Every experience in life good or bad we can learn from and we will grow from it.

Here are the videos:

Waikato Beginner Freestyle Final
I’m in the back in the red
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AzS5MBxE3jY

Waikato Beginner Dance with a Stranger Final
Wellington Beginner Freestyle Final
Centre back in the black
Wellington Dance with a Stranger Final

Life is about the journey not the destination, so enjoy the journey and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.






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