As the acting coach Constantin Stanislavakin likes to says, “Rehearsals are the work. Performance is the relaxation.”
When Yo-Yo Ma, the famous cellist, steps into the green room just before a performance, he isn’t sweating. He just chills out. He’s spent countless hours rehearsing every musical phrase, every nuance of one of Beethoven’s cello sonatas. Now it is time for him to play – literally.
Many of us expect to perform like a master, when we haven’t really prepared.
Jerry Seinfeld, arguably one of the most successful comics of all time, used to say that he didn’t have to work for creative ideas. Jokes just popped into his head all the time. That’s the way a creative person’s brain works. What he did work at was delivering those jokes in a very meticulous, extremely precise way.
He said that this preparation was what made sure a joke didn’t bomb. If he had a catch in his throat, or the inflection of his voice wavered just the slightest bit, the audience wouldn’t “get it,” and wouldn’t laugh.
Comics like Seinfeld spend hours or preparation nailing the delivery of a joke because they know how critical it is to their success.
Do you put that much attention toward preparation of your own projects and goals?
When we prepare so much that we can play a piece backward, or give a presentation or speech in our sleep, we can relax into the performance. We’ve already worked out the awkward spots, the mistakes, the gaps in information.
Preparation also tricks the brain into thinking you’ve already done something a million times, even if you’ve never done it (live and in person) before.
This is because the brain doesn’t know the difference between a boots-on-the-ground free-throw shot, and an NBA player’s time at the line in a season-changing match.
The power of visualization can help you prepare for anything. It doesn’t matter if it’s a new healthier you – one that’s lost 10 pounds, or you’re preparing to deliver a proposal for a million-dollar project.
Dr. Biasiotto at the University of Chicago conducted a study. He split people into three groups and noted how many free throws each group could make.
He then had the first group practice free throws every day for an hour on a basketball court.
The second group just visualized themselves making free throws.
The third group did nothing.
After 30 days, he tested the entire lot of them again.
The first group – the one that actually practiced making free throw shots – improved by 24%.
The group that just imagined getting “nothing but net” in their minds improved a whopping 23%. (You can see the full study here.)
When it comes to changing your DNA, improving your health, telling your cells how to behave and communicate with the rest of your body, even, you can use preparation and visualization to train yourself how to do something you’ve never done before.
Maybe you just want to be happier every day. Train your mind to be in that state. Sit down and think of the things that would make you happy, and imagine doing them in the most detailed way you possibly can. What does it smell like? What does it look like? Who is there with you?
Maybe you want to make new friends but you tend to be introverted or shy. Train your mind to go up to a stranger and give them a compliment. Act as if you are confident and gregarious in your mind.
Maybe you want to improve your cognitive skills. Visualize having an amazing memory, or being able to come up with witty remarks in a conversation. Imagine reading ten books in one day with ease. You just might then feel compelled to get through one in a single sitting tomorrow night.
Johanna Bassols of Healers of the Light uses 21 different visualization exercises in her DNA Reprogramming technique because they are no different than Yo-Yo Ma’s hours of practice before a sold-out concert.
That preparation allows him to coast through a 2-hour performance, fingers flying up and down his cello, with a sense of pride and easy calm.
If there’s something you haven’t been able to change in your life, start using the power of practice to alter your mind. Once your brain has a little experience doing what you want to do in virtual reality, that holographic energy will compel you to perform similarly in the “real” world.
Don’t be afraid to try something that challenges you. You can practice all the awkwardness and discomfort away with visualization. Or as Jerry Seinfeld would say, “You have to motivate yourself with challenges. That’s how you know you are still alive.”