Insights on How to Become Fearless

Because anxiety inhibits many people from performing to their true potential I thought I'd share some fresh insights on this topic, gained from my contact with a world class musician.

As a contribution to promoting excellence, FRI recently sponsored an International Music Festival for young people, including a workshop by acclaimed guitarist, Karin Schaupp, on Overcoming Stage Fright. Karin knows a thing or two about performing under pressure. She regularly gives solo concerts to thousands of people around the world and collaborated with a sports psychologist on her Masters Degree in overcoming performance anxiety.

So last Saturday I took a trip to Brisbane and sat with 30 young musicians and performers to hear what she had to say. She opened by explaining that, while fear is a normal and constructive reaction to real danger, there are few situations these days where we are genuinely in danger.

“What is so dangerous about performing in front of people?” she challenged us. I offered a hesitant response. “Ah, maybe everyone will boo you?” After all, I figured, isn’t this what’s behind most people’s fear of public speaking.

She acknowledged that while this may not be great for our ego, it certainly wouldn’t be dangerous. “Anxiety is the real problem, not fear.” she continued. “This is a reaction to imagined danger, and it is absolutely self-created through our thinking.”

I thought back to the saying about F.E.A.R. standing for False Expectations Appearing Real. She then described with examples how high levels of anxiety actually thwart us from doing our best. According to Karin’s research, anxiety clouds our thinking, tenses us up and prevents us from responding creatively to the opportunities around us. The bottom line is anxiety diminishes performance, not just in music and sport, but in most areas of life.

There are of course techniques, commonly used by elite athletes, to reduce anxiety and position us physically and mentally to perform at our best. Karin showed us some of these which include physical relaxation, mental imagery and reframing negative thoughts into positive statements. For instance, she gave the example of turning the thought, “I am afraid the critics will pull me down” into “The critics will appreciate that I am putting all of myself into this performance.”

But my favourite part of the workshop was toward the end when Karin was asked why she performs. “Being in touch with yourself and why you perform is the most important thing” she urged. “It is because you want to share something with the audience. This is a creative process, not just going through the motions. Don’t hold back. Have the courage to put all of yourself into what you do. It’s about what you give, not what you get!”

These inspiring comments reminded me of the many happy and successful people I’ve met over the years, franchisees and franchisors, uninhibited people who clearly get so much satisfaction from serving their local communities and expressing a passion for excellence through their work. In our latest research, we call this attitude, Intrinsic Motivation.

To summarise, in addition to techniques to reduce anxiety, the essential key to performing at our best appears to be simply focusing less on ourselves and more on what we can do for others. And now if you think you deserve a small treat take a look at this clip of Karin Schaupp performing a beautiful song live with Katie Noonan on Q&A. It’s a great example of fearless, high performance in action.

Until next time,

Greg Nathan

P.S. All this assumes lots of practice and professional development, speaking of which our September Field Manager Bootcamps are filling fast. Click the banner below for full details.

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