How does the power of abstract thoughts concern me the singer? What is important for me to understand about this subject? Two very good questions! Here are some facts, thoughts and suggestions I would like you to consider.
As you may remember I often say “thoughts are things” so we have to be careful what we wish for. Often times instead of saying what it is we want, we use negative words expressing what we don’t want to happen. An example would be; “I wish I wouldn’t get so nervous and anxious when I audition” when what you really want is: “I am a little nervous but know I will do well in my upcoming audition.” We all do it at some time or another and I would like to suggest an alternative that you are going to have to be mindful about in order to switch your thinking pattern and create a new one that actually asks for what you want or need so it can eventually become the default system, the automatic pilot choice. That way you will stop being anxious and nervous about auditioning, performing, networking, dealing with family and etc., and instead have a new improved perspective about how to get what you want and need.
Scientific research has come up with a new study that they have named “embodied cognition”. Its premise is that the brain is not the only part of us with a mind of its own. The body takes language to heart and can be awfully literal-minded.
This research suggests that when people were asked to engage in a bit of mental time travel, and to recall past events or imagine future ones, participants’ bodies subliminally acted out the metaphors embedded in how we commonly conceptualize the flow of time. That means in talking or thinking about the past, participants actually leaned slightly backward, and likewise, when fantasizing about the future, they leaned forward a bit. Our bodies and minds are truly connected more than was ever thought possible before. Another example is that when a group of students in a controlled study group held a warm cup of coffee in their hands when evaluating the personality of an imaginary individual based on a packet of information, those involved in this test tended to find the fictitious character warmer and friendlier than the other half of the participating group that held ice coffee in their hands. Wow, who would ever have thought!!
“There is always an inner game being played in your mind no matter what outer game you are playing. How aware you are of this game can make the difference between success and failure in the outer game.” — Tim Gallwey, The Inner Game of Tennis
I don’t know how many of you watched the Winter Olympics, but when they showed the skiers getting ready to traverse the fast, hard racing courses, they went through some strange imaginary movement of hands, head and bodies which I’m sure was part of their psychological training. They were physically, emotionally and mentally going through the motions of a successful run before they actually did it. Once again, it’s the old and wonderful mind/body connection. This is a great technique that would be really helpful for singers to adapt. Just think of the advantages.
Here is an example of how this might be used by you the singer. Take the time to set up a successful, imaginary audition scenario from the moment of arrival at your audition destination, to walking into the room where it will take place, to actually performing successfully, and then walking out again. By establishing this kind of repetitive process and running through it every day in a mindful manner without distractions, you will create a story that will start to play itself out in reality when it comes time to audition. Remember that our brains don’t know the difference between what is real and what is imagined.
Because most people are more invested in what they think the outcome should be instead of focusing their energies on how they envision themselves before, during and after this process called auditioning, they remain in their thinking brains always trying to make something happen, rather than allowing the process they have practiced to run on auto pilot, and therefore crash and burn and then wonder why. This “making it happen” thinking leads to you being distracted by allowing the self critic, the “Brat” as I like to call it, to accompany you into your auditions. When this occurs, it becomes impossible to focus on anything else. From the get go, you judge and criticize your presentation and performance as it is occurring, all the while trying to mind read or second guess what those listening to you are thinking. And it’s almost impossible to get out of this mode of reacting once you have set it off.
“Play the music, not the instrument.” — Author Unknown
It seems to me that when you break it down into these choices that we make consciously or unconsciously, you can better understand why this method of auditioning doesn’t work that well. The outcome will undoubtedly be more successful when you can allow your attention and intention to be in sync and focused on the process that is has become the habit, the norm, leaving the outcome to be whatever it will be.
As we all know in this industry, everyone has a different, subjective view of what they personally like or dislike in a singer, so you have to have the fortitude to look within and know whether you honestly believe you have the necessary potential in every sense of the word to have a singing career. Each of us has a place within, a core where we know our own truth even if we don’t want to acknowledge it or be responsible for the consequences of trying to “make” an unrealistic outcome happen. Often we would rather keep hammering away at something that will forever be illusive because we are not being truthful with ourselves.
Denis Waitley in his book, “The Psychology of Winning” says, “Life is a do-it-by-myself project. I take the credit or the blame for my performance.”
It’s important to suck it up and take responsibility for how you choose to live your life. Stop telling yourself lies either for or against the real gut level truth within. No one is going to do this kind of inner work for you. You are responsible for reaching your potential and finding ways that work for you to get there. The mind/body connection is real. How you handle it shapes your world day by day. Like everything else we have mastered, mindful and focused practicing is the key. It takes just as much effort and work for a bad life as it does for a good life. It takes just as much effort and work to create a bad audition/performance as it does a good one. These are your thoughts, so you get to make up your own mind about how you choose to handle them.
“Habits begin as harmless thoughts — like flimsy cobwebs — then, with practice, become unbreakable cables to shackle or strengthen our lives.” — Unknown
Here are some ideas to help get you on the right mind/body/emotional path.
• After every audition, performance, networking encounter, or even dealing with friends and family, control your self-talk by sticking to your best self-image of a successful human being in every sense of the word. If it all went well, say something like, “That’s more like it.” If it didn’t go so well, say something like, “That’s not like me. I can do better than that.” Then replay the situation in your imagination the way you would like it to have happened and put that image in your memory bank so the next time around the image and feelings that come up will be ones shouting of success, not the other way around.
• Be relentless and persistent in practicing in an undistracted fashion, the action you would like to take in any of your future endeavors. Be very clear and focused concerning what images and emotions you choose to practice and put into your memory banks. Feel the emotions that accompany your actions and words as you create these images of achieving and enjoying your goals and dreams.
• Words and thoughts are real and so instead of using your compulsive “I have to,” make the decision to replace it with, “I’ve decided to” and notice how using this combination of words let’s you feel more in charge. When you get into a situation where you haven’t had a lot of experience yet, you might find yourself saying, “I’m afraid to.” How about substituting this instead, “I’m more comfortable doing this” and notice that again it puts you in the driver’s seat. You feel in control.
• Whenever you meet someone new in person, online or via the phone, always offer your own name first. Example: “My I’m John. How you today” or “This is Mary Smith. May I please speak with …..” By doing this you are developing the habit of assigning value to yourself as an individual. It’s a step toward you becoming more of your Personal Band.
• You can’t change other people, circumstances or situations. It is your responsibility to consciously offer no resistance to what is, take action or not and don’t become attached to the outcome. The only real control we have is over our own thoughts, emotions and actions. This is the ultimate control over your own destiny.
• Each day, as we journey into the unexplored wilds of our own personal and professional lives, we have countless choices to make. And what are we choosing? Not our next action, but our next thought. Choose the wrong thought and we’re off in the emotional world of blame, complaining and procrastination. But being aware of and practicing the right thoughts leads us to a richer, more fulfilling life and the feelings of pride and accomplishment that come from making productive decisions. The choice is always yours. Even deciding not to choose is making a choice. Realizing this and taking responsibility for your choices is a big step toward making great things happen in your life and your auditions.
“Don’t be fooled by the calendar. There are only as many days in the year as you make use of. One man gets only a week’s value out of a year while another man gets a full year’s value out of a week.” — Charles Richards
So wake up, practice living the life you want by being aware of and harnessing your mind/body/emotions connection. Yes, of course it isn’t easy making changes, but if you start with just one small thought and practice in your imagination with intention what process you want to put in place to accomplish that one small change in thought, you will notice that it takes you to a new, exciting, in charge kind of place that will make you want more. Thoughts are things. They move our physical bodies, and create emotional responses. It’s your choice to start changing how you think. So create the life you want to live that is filled with purpose. Learn to live out loud!
Avanti and ciao until next time,