When Should You Use The PerformZen Fear Workbook?
The exercises you’ll find in the PerformZen fear workbook are designed to help performers overcome performance anxiety so they can get in the right physical and mental state to perform at their best.
But you can use the same exercises even if you’re not performing in front of an audience. These exercises will help elevate your mood and promote a calm, confident state of mind that can benefit you in any situation where you have to perform under pressure.
It could be that you’re a public speaker or an athlete. Perhaps you’re getting ready for a big test, the interview for your dream job, or you have a date coming up with that special girl or guy.
We have listed expanded on several of the exercises in the PerformZen fear workbook below.
We originally included these in the workbook but it made formatting and keeping the length of the workbook reasonable a very difficult task, so it made sense to compile additional notes and instructions in a seperate document.
For each exercise, we have included some background information, instructions, and explained how it works to help you perform at your best.
Expanded Notes on Exercise #1: Fear Setting
Fear setting is an exercise based on the philosophy of stoicism, which is highly popular among people who are really good at performing under pressure.
Stoicism is a philosophy designed to increase your wisdom, happiness, virtue, and the ease with which navigate through different aspects of your life.
But instead of positive thinking and visualizing success, stoicism trains you to separate the things you can control from the things you can’t control, and then only performing exercises to focus exclusively on the former.
In fact, Tim Ferris, the bestselling author, entrepreneur, and self-help guru, calls stoicism “an operating system for thriving in high-stress environments, and making better decisions.”
And although Tim Ferris did not invent fear-setting, he did make it popular through his TED Talk. We recommend you take a few minutes to watch this video to learn about his story, and to really understand the power of fear-setting.
How fear-setting works
With fear-setting, you’re separating aspects of your performance you can control (how you prepare, for example) from the ones you can’t control (how the audience reacts).
By identifying what you control, you can then focus your attention only on those aspects, which will increase the likelihood of a better performance.
You would also make plans for the situations in which your worst fears do come true. By imagining what that would be like, you can then again focus on things you control, which is a plan of action to bounce back from those situations.
During this process, you will become better prepared and equipped to overcome fear during your real-life performance.
Let’s take a look at the different steps.
Take time to define your worst fears when it comes to a performance.
Is it humiliation? Is it rejection? Is the fear that you’d be letting someone (or yourself) down? Or is it something else?
Whatever it might be for you, make a list of 3-5 of your worst outcomes from a performance.
Now that you’ve defined your worst outcomes, what can you do about them?
Can you spend more time preparing and practicing? Can you work with a trainer or a coach? Can you talk to someone who has overcome similar fears? What other potential action steps apply to your specific situation?
Again, make a list of 3-5 action steps that would decrease the likelihood of your worst outcomes from happening.
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, things don’t go our way. And in most cases, it’s not the end of the world that we imagined.
Stoicism teaches us to ask that same question – what are you going to do about it? What will you do if your worst outcomes do come true?
You may not even want to think about it. But thinking about it now and making some contingency plans will help you better accept the worst outcome in your mind, which will then help free you from the fear of it, at least partially.
And when you’re not held back by fear, you’ll perform better, and decrease the likelihood of the worst coming true.
So, once again, make a list of 3-5 things you can do to bounce back if the worst comes true.
What would be the first thing you do? Who can you call for help? Who would support you? What other resources are available to you?
Has anyone in the history of your art or profession suffered a similar worst outcome, and then bounced back to achieve great things? (Hint: almost 100 percent of the time, the answer is yes)
What did they do?
List any potential benefits of even partial success.
You’re not assuming that you’ll succeed. You’re only exploring the benefits of even attempting, or partial success at best.
Would you build confidence by taking action? Maybe you’ll develop new skills that would benefit you in other endeavors.
One potentially significant benefit could be that you learn to accept rejection or failure, which could then liberate you from the fear of taking action in the future.
List 3-5 benefits of following through with your performance.
Contemplate the cost of inaction. What happens if you let fear get in the way and you cancel your performance, audition, interview, test, or date?
Have you considered what life will look like if you don’t take any action. What is the emotional, physical, financial cost of the status quo?
The idea is that, through this step, you come to realize that the pain of inaction is greater than your fear of performance, which then leaves you no choice but to move forward.
Once you make the final decision to move forward, you can once again go back to focusing on the things you can control – better preparation, and your plan of action if the worst happens.
Describe in detail all the things and opportunities that you could be missing out as a result of inaction.
When to do fear-setting?
You can do fear-setting any time you have doubts about your ability to perform, or if you feel fearful about an important event coming up in your life.
Just keep in mind that you need to give yourself enough time to take any necessary action steps, as described in step 2.
Regardless of when you go through the entire exercise, you should review your fear-setting answers 1-2 hours before your performance to put your mind at ease.
Expanded Notes on Exercise #2: Entering the zone
You may have heard of the phrase “in the zone” before, when someone is describing a moment when they were performing at a high level.
But what is it?
The zone generally refers to this sweet spot where you’re not thinking about every minute detail of your performance. You’re in this physical and mental state where your best performance is effortlessly flowing out of you.
Maybe you’ve experienced this before. A situation where it feels like your mind and body are in perfect sync and you just can’t make a mistake.
The good news is that you don’t have to leave it to chance. You can perform physical and mental exercises to consistently enter the zone when it matters most. Like before a performance.
How the zone works
Entering the zone is about your mental and physical state shortly before a performance. Maybe within the hour or so before you get on stage, or walk in for the interview.
The zone isn’t so much about practicing more of your performance. Or cramming an extra 30 minutes in before an exam.
Hopefully, you’ve already learned what you need to, practiced thoroughly, or prepared your talking points.
The zone is more about ready-ing your mind to overcome fear and self-doubt, and reaching a calm, confident state where your performance becomes effortless.
You want to step up to the performance with your body and mind in an optimal state.
So, how do you do it?
You start with physical exercises. If you regularly exercise, then you already know the mental and emotional benefits of a sweat-session at the gym.
Your body and mind are not separate. Your body is the vessel where you (and your mind) live.
So, by bringing your body to an elevated state, your mind is automatically more ready for positive input, which is the next step.
Once you’re physically warmed up, then it’s time for positive visualizations.
Focus your mind on your ideal outcome from the performance. Imagine the crowd mesmerized. Imagine that you’re hitting every note with perfection.
What would that sound like? How would that feel? How will your body move when you’re at the peak of your performance?
What will you feel when the audience is up on their feet cheering as loud as you’ve ever heard?
By elevating both physical and mental states, you’ll no longer focus on the fear. Instead, you’ll be pumped up and ready to charge forward and wow your audience like they’ve never seen before.
How to enter the zone
OK, so let’s get into specifics. What can you actually do to enter the zone before a performance?
Start with physical exercises. You have to try it a few times to see what works best for you.
It may also vary depending on your place of preparation, and what you’re preparing for.
For example, if you’re backstage before a concert, then your preparation would be different than if you have to dress up in a suit for an interview.
But you want to do something that gets your blood pumping.
Here are some examples of physical exercises to prime your body:
- Jumping jacks
- Air squats
- Jog around the block
Once you’re in a heightened physical state, it’s time to work on your mind. You want to get your mind to a calm but focused state.
Again, you’ll need to play around with what works best for you, but here are some ideas:
- Visualize – Deep breaths in and out as you imagine the ideal outcome of your performance, as described above.
- Meditate – Sit for 5-15 minutes and focus on your breath going in and out normally. Your mind will wander, and that’s ok. When it happens, just bring your focus back to the breathing.
- Watch comedy – Or listen to music, pray, or play with your dog. You can do anything that puts you in a positive state of mind.
Tips about the zone
Most likely, it’ll take you a few times to discover the ideal combination of physical and mental exercises that works best for you.
Once you do find that combination, make it a consistent routine before a performance.
Eventually, it’ll become a pre-performance routine that your body will subconsciously recognize as the cue to go out and deliver a killer performance.
Expanded Notes on Exercise #3: Pre-performance routine
The objective of this routine is to create a pre performance routine to foster a positive mood during the performance.
You’ll be less fearful if you’re in a positive and calm state of mind, and it will improve your performance.
Research also shows that a positive mood is beneficial for problem solving and creativity.
Brain scans have shown that those in a better mood show increased activity in the part of the brain involved with decision making and emotional control.
On the other hand, a negative frame of mind can impact your performance, and increase your fear and anxiety.
So, the goal of this exercise has two aspects to it:
- Foster a positive mood
- Actively avoid negativity
How to promote a better pre-performance mood
There are two things you should define in your pre-performance routine. Your activities and your environment.
The exact routine would depend on what puts you in a positive mood.
It could be something as simple as watching your favorite puppy videos on YouTube, or having a quick conversation with a loved one. Ideally, however, you don’t want the success of your routine to depend on the availability of another person.
The point being, it could be anything that you enjoy doing and improves your mood.
Here are some popular ones:
- Calisthenics exercises – jumping jacks, pushups, air squats
- Reading, watching, or listening to encouraging and motivating content
- Writing a gratitude journal listing all the things you’re grateful for
- Breathwork or meditation
- Drinking a cup of coffee/tea, or another beverage
You should also actively avoid anything that makes you feel sad, stressed, or fearful.
Don’t dwell on past failures or mistakes. Avoid any content that makes you angry. Also, if possible, avoid any people that puts you in a bad mood.
2. Control your environment
In addition to your activities, your environment is another vital aspect of your pre-performance routine.
Objects around us have an impact on us. This is why you feel good when you walk into certain places, and you don’t feel good at others.
Where is the spot (or various spots) where you feel your best? Where do you feel inspired, and you feel the overall vibe is in alignment with you?
Can you access these places before a performance?
Eventually, once you make it a routine to spend time in a specific place before your performance, the objects in that place will invite a desired behaviour.
Ideally, you can take it one step further, and control the sounds and your activity there before a performance (see previous section).
Then, when you go there before a performance and start your routine, you’ll feel that your body and mind are automatically shifting into a different gear. A gear where you overcome fear and deliver your best performances.
Instructions for creating a pre-performance routine
- Reflect upon the times in the past when you’ve performed at your best
- Describe your state of mind during those performances
- List activities and environments that can replicate that state of mind
- Create a 1-4 hour pre-performance routine/ritual
- Experiment with a few different routines
- Once you find one that works, be consistent with it before every performance
Expanded Notes on Exercise #4: Fostering a challenge response
The purpose of this exercise is to help you shift your perspective when it comes to your fear of performance.
Research has shown that how you view stress weighs heavily on how it impacts you.
In this exercise, you’ll learn to assess your fear as a challenge to overcome, instead of a threat. This is also known as fostering a challenge response.
When you cultivate a challenge response, the fear can become productive. You view it as something you will overcome, and in the process become more resilient and powerful.
You will only focus on things you can control to overcome your fear. When you focus on what you can control, you will feel more empowered, less trapped. You will feel like you have options. As a result, your fear and anxiety about performing will decrease.
You will use your fear as a tool to elevate your intensity and take your performance to new heights.
We’d love to hear your feedback about the Fear Workbook so if you have a moment, please fill out this super-quick feedback form with your thoughts about the workbook and any suggestions on how we can improve it.