Dive In Newsletter

Research-backed tips, mini performance training strategies, and intimate behind-the-scenes stories from our biggest learning lessons… all tied together by our mission to make EVERYTHING you read as actionable and useful as possible.

Four Footsteps to Fearless–Step One: Setting Your Stage

emotion regulation fear four footsteps to fearless learnlovewellletgo performance anxiety Jan 06, 2022

Happy New Year!!

We hope you had a wonderful celebration to bring in the year.

In case you missed it, last week, we introduced Four Footsteps to Fearless: a roadmap that touches on four significant opportunities to make choices in performance that can lead you toward fearless or fearful sharing.

We want to make sure we're giving you information substantiated beyond our individual experiences, so we based this process on an empirically-verified model of emotion regulation by Dr. James Gross, director of the Psychophysiology Lab at Stanford University. Here's the recap:

Let's dive into the first step: setting your stage!


We form our emotions, including performance anxiety, through what we choose to pay attention and how we interpret what we observe.

The first step toward guiding our attention in performance is to learn how to optimally set up our external and internal performance situations.

Let's acknowledge right off the bat that there will be many aspects of a performance situation that will be outside of your opportunity to choose. These aspects can include the venue, the time ...whether you left your concert dress pants at the last hotel!?!?! (true story!!)

Now, let's dial in on where you CAN choose to modify your performance situation so you can enter your next performance as optimally as possible.

First, learn how to set up situation systems that help to you perform your best. A most ideal system can even eliminate possibilities to choose destructively. Consider how you might better set up aspects of your external or internal environments.

External System Deep Dive
Strategically plan your recital repertoire. Imagine you're walking into a performance situation where you've carefully balanced your program's technical, physical, and mental requirements, so you don't end up having to choose around over-programming yourself or feeling bored. You've curated your audience's experience through your recital theme, so you can choose to be excited and draw confidence from the thoughtful experience you're about to share. You've arranged the program order to incorporate breaks off the instrument, so you can choose to connect with your audience through speaking while giving your body a brief rest.

That's a situation we want to be in! It's absolutely not necessary to have these parameters in place in order to execute our best, but the point is that we are always seeking systems that make it easy to make fearless choices while eliminating opportunities choose doubt or fear.

Other external details to explore: your rep book, performance attire, stage position, music stand location, instrument maintenance, performance accessories, how easily visible your markings and music are... endless possibilities!

Internal System Deep Dive
Change how far out of your comfort zone your performance feels through systematic exposure. Some performances can feel like a bigger step outside of our comfort zone than others. They don't have to, but that can absolutely be our experience.

If you're concerned about an upcoming performance, there is noooo need to go from 0-100 (save it for Tesla rides!!) You have options beforehand to stretch and extend your comfortability. Plan regular performances leading up to your target date, but begin these performances warm and snug inside your comfort zone. Then, systematically, take one step out!

This can be as methodical as you prefer. It can look something like this: Start with a full performance of your repertoire in your practice room; add audio recording; add audio & video recording; add audio & video recording and share your recording with someone you trust; visualize a full performance for someone you trust; perform the piece you feel most confident about for someone you trust; etc. (You can keep going even beyond what your target performance situation demands.)

However you approach it, you can modify your internal performance situation by diminishing your alarm response through a rich repertoire of positive performance experiences.

Other internal details to explore: hydration, sleep, energy, sustained monofocus practices, meditation practices, mental organization checklists, endless possibilities!

Love Well

Second, love yourself so so soooo well in performance by constantly choosing HOW you will enter into your next performance situation.

This practice involves learning what helps you physically, mentally, and emotionally execute at your highest level and creating self-love rituals at key points throughout the course of performance to draw on those internal resources. Here are the top three rituals to incorporate!

Develop your backstage ritual. Set up your body and mind with optimal thoughts, sounds, images, and feelings through visualization, mindful breathing, your Inspiration Sheet, stretching, grounding, and more!

Practice your walk. There is a Magic Line between backstage and onstage. Every time you cross this line you bring every choice you’ve made your entire life...with you, up to...and across the line. That can either be a source of a lot of fear, or good inspiration to clean up your choices. Literally, practice how you will enter your performance situation!

Nail your transition moments. Discover what segues you from entering and being seen by your audience to entering the task at hand: performing your music! Find what segues you from one piece to the next, from one movement, one section, one phrase... which segues us to our next point!

Let Go

You can reset and "re-enter" your performance situation at anytime! No matter where you are in a performance, you can always let go of moments where your choices are creating a large quality gap by doing an "optimal reset." Tell yourself it's time for an optimal reset. Empty your mind. Then, focus on the next constructive choice!

* * *

This is a lot.... and that's okay!! We get a lifetime to explore the art of the performance. Amazing... yeah!?

The Magic Line Performance Method gives you a simple framework to address stage setting, but you can and should always be tailoring your performance approach to your needs.

Here's how to get started this week:

1) Think of a recent performance.
2) What is one detail you would have loved to have gone differently?
3) What external or internal parts of your performance situation influenced what happened?
4) How can you modify your performance situation with one system or ritual to help you make your desired change?

All the world's a stage, yet nowhere will it look quite like yours. Own it. :)


Jeff Nelsen

Dr. Katy Webb
Creative & Managing Director

It’s like a digital coffee date in your inbox. Subscribe to the Dive In Newsletter to discover why thousands of musicians are clinking mugs and diving in to all things performance!

Privacy Policy: We hate spam and promise to keep your email address safe