Mindset matters in big and small moments. In order to get the best out of yourself in these moments, it's important to pay attention to the messages you are sending to yourself...you have to think about your words AND actions. Both mind and body drive performance so if you aren't sending the right messages to yourself (those that help you to feel confident, ready, prepared, excited, able to take on challenges, and persist no matter what happens), you may be setting yourself up for failure.
In order to put yourself in the best position to perform successfully, check in on the following:
1. What are you saying to yourself? You've probably heard that you should strive to be positive instead of negative and that if you do have negative thoughts you should change them to positive ones. The problem with that is that the "content" of your thoughts (what you say to yourself) is only part of what matters. The most important thing to consider is what impact those thoughts are having on you (the "consequences" of what you say to yourself). So after checking in on what you're saying, the next and more important question to ask is: is this helping or hurting me? You can be saying to yourself "I've got this" but if you don't believe it and it's actually bringing out more doubt than confidence, you're not helping yourself. Likewise, you can be saying to yourself "You're playing terrible today, get it together" and it actually lights a fire under you and helps you focus your attention on performing better. There really is no right way to think in any situation, it's more about understanding what you need so that you're helping rather than hurting your chances for success. (great quick read on the positive power of negative thinking)
2. An even better strategy, and probably not something you've heard as much about or tried before, is to check in on your body language and posture. It's no surprise that what we think and feel shows up in our body language (has anybody ever asked you what's wrong when you're thinking about something? or have you noticed that you're shoulders slump when you're upset or tired?). What's really interesting though is that we can actually shift our thinking and feeling by shifting our body language! The reason this is a better strategy is that it's far easier to make a slight adjustment to your posture than to change your thinking, especially in an important moment or pressure situation. According to Amy Cuddy, a researcher at Harvard, doing even just a few seconds or minutes of power posing (adopting strong, confident body language - think Superman or Superwoman) or making sure you're standing or sitting tall and broad can send the message to your mind that you should feel confident and are ready to meet any challenges. (check out Amy Cuddy's TedTalk about this or her new book Presence)
So the next time you're heading into a performance situation (whether you're a dancer getting ready to go out on stage, an athlete playing in a big game, a coach about to talk to his/her team during halftime, or a business professional about to give an important presentation), 1. make sure that what you're saying to yourself is helping you not hurting you and 2. check you're body language and posture to make sure you are sending strong, confident messages to your mind.
It's all about the messages you are sending to yourself. Your mind and body are listening to you!!