Part 2: Build A Solid Foundation Of Self-Belief
Use proven, practical exercises – no need to guess if you’re doing it right.
Belief in yourself and your abilities is the foundation that underlies everything else. It reduces anxiety, enables you to play freely, and leads to better and more enjoyable performances.
Studies suggest that confidence is the single biggest predictor of success in sportsmen and women. It’s equally important for musicians…
Overconfidence doesn’t help – no amount of self-belief can give you technique that you haven’t earned. But the technique that you’re able to access in performance is limited by the level of your confidence.
The problem is that most people get the order wrong. They think that self-belief is something you only get once you’re playing really well. Actually, it’s the other way around: you need to develop the belief first and then the results you want will come.
The good news is that there are specific, concrete exercises that you can use to build that belief. I’ll get to them in a bit but you need to understand what true confidence is first…
True Confidence is not thinking that you’re going to get the outcome you desire, no matter what.
Perfection is unrealistic and it’s not helpful to aim for. The cornerstone of confidence is accepting that it’s okay to be less than perfect.
Doing your best and achieving your best are two different things. There are lots of things that you can’t control so that means that the final outcome will always be beyond your control.
True confidence focuses on what you can control. Here’s what it really looks like:
- You have faith in your ability to do the thing
- You put in your best effort to cope with any challenges that arise on the way
- You can accept the outcome – whatever that happens to be
Implement Belief Tools
Now that’s clear, we can get into the tools to build your belief. There’s no one “magic bullet” here – rather several seemingly small things to work on. Believe me, though – they’re more impactful than they look… and they add up to make a big difference.
At this point, I’m just going to list out all the exercises. We’ll go over how to work with them on page 7.
Create “Personal” And “Identity” Statements
Everyone experiences a constant stream of self-talk – that little voice whispering inside your head.
[If you’re thinking right now that you don’t have a little voice inside your head, then that is the little voice telling you that you don’t have a little voice… 😉]
Studies show this is one of the biggest drivers of confidence. Your self-talk has a massive effect on whatever you do… for good or for bad… whether you’re aware of it or not.
The key to managing self-talk effectively is to accept that unhelpful thoughts will come up sometimes. Don’t try and stop it happening – simply notice when it does and replace the thought with something more helpful.
The most reliable way to do this is to have suitable replacement thoughts prepared and available in advance.
Two simple but highly effective formulas for this are the Performance Statement and the Identity Statement [both developed by Jason Selk]. I want you to create your own versions of these and practice using them.
Your Performance Statement is a simple concrete thought that specifically identifies the process of success. Think of what one or two things you would tell yourself to concentrate on immediately before a big performance to give yourself the best chance of success.
Don’t try and be clever or complex. The best performance statements are usually simple and obvious.
Examples might include: “Relax the shoulders” or “Feel the groove”.
Your Identity Statement is formed of two parts:
- A strength you currently have or want to have
- What you ultimately want to accomplish
So an example might be: “I have a great sound and I’m better prepared than anyone. I’m a compelling, unforgettable performer.”
Rewrite The “Stories” That Hold You Back
Stories are an interpretation that you put on past events. They’re not facts, but we accept them as though they are.
Stories start with a grain of truth. Then you embellish it and attach meaning – the end result is often exaggerated until it’s totally false.
They might look something like: “I always mess up this part”; “I can’t play the style of music”; “I don’t play well in this situation”. Etc etc
You need to identify the stories that hold you back and reappraise them. Once you realise they’re just stories and not facts, they no longer have any power over you.
Once you’ve become aware of a story that you want to rewrite, go through these steps:
- What was the originating event?
- What meaning did you attach to that event?
- Separate story from the fact. Is it true? How do you know it’s true?
- Who would you be without the story?
- How could the story be different?
Build A “Belief Bricks” Log
Humans are biologically wired to focus on the negative and downplay the positive. You’re going to deliberately rebalance this.
Create a list of small belief bricks – specific, concrete examples of where you’ve achieved good results. Review it regularly.
Craft Your “Highlights Reel”
You’ll use your highlights reel to draw self-belief from past successes. And set yourself up for future successes at the same time. This is something you’ll repeat every day.
You’re going to spend three minutes visualising in total – recreating past highlights and imagining future successful performances. Split this out into:
- 60 seconds visualising past excellent performances
- 60 seconds visualising your next upcoming big performance
- 60 seconds visualising your immediate next performance or rehearsal
The more vividly you can recreate the scenes – not just sights, but sounds, physical sensations, thoughts, feelings and emotions – the more effective this exercise will be.
You’re practising feeling what it’s like to play in your Ideal Performance State (IPS).
What exactly is your IPS? We’re just about to get to that…
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