You know that feeling of being jumbled, frazzled and unfocused with your mind spinning on a thousand things? The old “monkey mind?”
Ever find yourself starting a show that way? Not intentionally, of course, but realizing half-way through your first song that your mind is wandering?
Maybe you catch yourself thinking about your set list, your chord changes, your lyrics, your bandmates, or maybe you catch yourself anticipating the audience’s cheers and applause before you finish the song?
It happens. It’s natural. But it’s a reactive habit (rather than a “proactive” one), and it’s definitely not a good way to be/feel before you take the stage or before pressing “record” in the studio.
Instead, being centered with a very still and focused mind is the way to go. And if you master this little step, it will pay dividends in all your performances. You’ll be fully present and in the moment with your audience.
But it takes practice. Repeated practice. Training your mind to quiet down on cue is easier said than done.
The key is to practice finding this centered place again and again so that when the time comes to “switch it on,” it’s natural, and you default to quiet calm, rather than defaulting to being frazzled.
How to practice disciplining your mind
- Practice stillness by sitting quietly and just focusing on one of your senses — like just listening to the sounds around you and any time you notice your mind starts going again, refocus on the sounds. (Even if you have to do that multiple times every 10 seconds.)
- Get yourself out into nature and turn off all electronic devices, even no music. Disconnect from everything and experience the stillness in nature (see the video above)
- Develop the discipline of concentrating on one task at a time, such as when you wash the dishes (assuming you do) REALLY wash the dishes. Don’t let your mind wander. Be the dish! (just kidding)
All these things will help you discipline your mind so that when you ask it to focus, it will.
I have to think about something, right?
Now that you’ve quieted your mind, the second part is you need to know what to focus on before you walk on stage.
First, you need to know that you are there on stage to communicate something. (And that something is different for every single song. And there can be many things within each song.)
You may find that there are dozens of things for you to communicate, so where do you start? And how will you ever remember it all?
It’s easy. Just focus on the first moment, when you walk out on stage. Discipline yourself to be completely focused on that. Even if it is saying hello. You know how to say hello.
And if you’ve done your homework to be clear on the next task, you’ll do that one and then the next. Moment by moment.
And the final thing you need to attain the power of stillness is trust.
You must be able to trust that if you release trying to think about everything and just be still in the moment, that (1) all will be OK, that (2) you will be safe and taken care of and that (3) your innate abilities will emerge.
Being a whirling dervish of activity and thought will only cloud and disperse your power.
My personal technique before taking the stage
1. I make a commitment to myself that I’m leaving the venue, theater or studio feeling good about myself regardless of what happens during the performance. In doing that, I make my self-esteem and self-worth independent of my performance.
2. I remind myself that I’m there to communicate something. And I get clear about what that “something” is. I generally have an “overall communication” I want to make and then specific moment-to-moment things I want to communicate.
3. Immediately before I begin, I make sure I know the very first thing I want to communicate. And then I even let that out of my head, and I take a moment of stillness to gather myself.
How to Make a BIGGER Difference in Your Shows in 2011
Starting next Wednesday, Jan 5, I’ll be teaching a brand new 6-week voice and performance course online. It’s called “The Science of Switching On: Virtual Training Course,” and I’m super excited to offer it.
We’ll be covering the mental game in detail for artists, musicians, and stage performers, along with better singing techniques, strategies to design your set list, dealing with stage fright, and a deep dive into “The Science of Switching On” — all my very best material in a 6-week e-course you can take in your PJs.
Want to be a part of the course? Check out the details and register here
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Excellent tip, Steven, thanks! Finding stillness and quieting your mind is so important in all aspects of life. While it’s awesome to find those moments in nature whenever possible, I also try to meditate for 15-20 minutes several times a week. When I am consistent with this one exercise, life seems to go much smoother and I am able to deliver more powerful performances in all areas of my life. Here’s to the power of quiet…