Performance Therapy

When some people hear the word ‘therapy’ they think ‘If I need therapy, there must be something wrong with me’ but actually therapy is just about having a better awareness of yourself.  It’s about understanding what you do and how you do it.  It’s about doing more of the things that work for you and less of the behaviours that impede your progress and performance.

Your business performance is your effectiveness and your ability to meet your goals.  Your personal performance is about being happier, more content, less anxious.

Being ‘in therapy’ isn’t scary – the hardest thing is to pick up the phone and say “I’m struggling and I need some help”.  That’s an act of courage and self-care.

The first recorded use of the word ‘Performance’, was in the 15th Century and it meant ‘the execution of an action’.  The word ‘Therapy’ describes ‘messages that need be decoded and understood regardless of the ‘language’ used.

Those messages come from your experience in both childhood and later life and shape the way you behave in the world.  Those messages also shape the messages that you give yourself.  The chatter you have in your head.

Whether you realise it or not – you’re doing it right now.

The positive messages are, of course, helpful.  The negative ones – will impede your ability to execute an action.

So, What are the actions you need to take and what’s your internal chatter holding you back?

The impact of negative sub-conscious messages

Imagine you are standing at the open door of an aircraft. You are wearing a parachute. Mentally/cognitively/logically you know you are safe, you have the parachute. Still, everything in your body is shouting ‘DON’T DO IT! DON’T JUMP!’ Your subconscious is trying to keep you safe.

You have to overcome your sub-conscious to find your courage to jump and once you jump and your parachute opens, the feeling is elating and you land safely. The sense of achievement is so good you want to do it again.

This is a positive function of your subconscious but often it will try and keep you safe when you don’t need it to.

You want to improve an area of your life or your business.
You know what to do, so why aren’t you doing it?

Maybe you’ve seen a business advisor, a coach, your bank manager, your marketing consultant, a nutritionist, a dietician, a fitness coach etc. You have all the information you need about what you need to do and how you can do it, but you’re just not motivated to do it. Or you think you aren’t. Actually, it’s not your lack of motivation that is the problem. You are mentally motivated but there is another factor at play.

Various images of people performing well
Your brain is designed to keep you safe, your subconscious brain is designed to stop you from doing things that are difficult, scary or uncomfortable. Therein lies the catch. In order to build your business or to perform better, you are going to have to do things that are difficult, scary or uncomfortable. So you’re never going to feel like it. We are only motivated to do things that feel good.

You think, ‘I know doing this will help me’, ‘I know it’s what I need to do’… then ‘I’ll make that phone call when I’ve…’ ‘I’ll tackle that conversation when…’ ‘I’ll commit to that course when…’

You tell yourself ‘I’m not feeling well.’ ‘I’m too tired.’ ‘I don’t have the time.’ ‘I feel down about it.’ ‘I don’t think I can.’ ‘I’ll make a fool of myself’, ‘I’ll fail’ and here’s the big one… ‘I’m not good enough.’ You think these are excuses. They are reasons you create to support your avoidance of danger.

Your thoughts create feelings and your feelings create behaviour, your behaviour creates thoughts, which create feelings that create thoughts and on you go. It is possible that you can deal with your conscious thoughts and change them and then a change in behaviour will follow. This is the basis of therapy such as CBT. However, this is where you might be stuck. You know what you think, you know what you feel and you know the behaviour you need to stop or adopt. But you just don’t get round to it.

When you have a subconscious fear driver, which is designed to keep you safe, this can manifest as a conscious away from motivation. When you identify the subconscious driver and through discovering it and knowing it, bring it into the conscious mind, you then have a means of changing it – it is now known to you and you can then change your behaviour through a conscious choice. Take for instance a subconscious fear of not getting it right. Imagine that you are an architect or a financial trader, a surgeon or a jet engineer – the impact of not getting it right could cost you millions of pounds or even someone’s life. So you will strive to get it right. BUT you are driven by an away-from subconscious motivation. So whilst it may serve you in getting it right – it will cost you in mental, emotional and physical stress. It will feel like a struggle to do it, time will pass slowly and you may dread the time you will have to do it again. Now think of something you love doing. It feels easy, time passes quickly and you are motivated to do it again – in fact, you can’t wait.

By identifying the subconscious fear, bringing it into the conscious mind, letting it go and transforming the fear (of not getting it right) into the towards motivation of a desire to get it right, you remove the stress. The end result is the same – you get it right but the stress impact on your mental, emotional and physical state is removed. When you have a goal or a performance level you want to achieve and you remove the stress, you find yourself doing the everyday little things that you need to do to move forward and achieve your goal or improve your performance.

A word about fear

As I’ve said, fear keeps us safe. Rational fear like the fear of falling or the fear of being eaten by the tiger that is chasing you is appropriate but we are often held back by irrational fear. The ‘what if’ that keeps us from doing the thing we are driven to do. Someone once said that irrational fear is False Evidence Appearing Real. Our logic tells us our fear is just our fear – but it feels real we have a physical response to a mental thought. We still have desire and belief. You are between a rock and a hard place – a rabbit in the headlights, caught between what you are driven to do and the fear.

Remember when you started your business or took a new job. You started with a belief you could succeed. Why would you start a new venture thinking you would fail? You started with a desire to provide a service or a product and a belief that you had something which people would want or an aspiration to do well. So you jumped in.

In order to fulfil your dream or meet your vision, you had to do things which you had not done before – or you had to represent yourself rather than be an employee of a company. It became real – this was you out there in the world, putting yourself on the line, risking criticism or ridicule. You might have had to publish your website, present to a prospective customer, deliver a speech, attend a networking event or ask for the business. It’s at that moment that the fear kicked in and your internal imposter piped up with ‘What if I’m not good enough?’

‘What if I can’t deliver?’ ‘What if I fail?’ – whatever your particular internal voice says. And yes you do have a critical, internal voice – everyone has one. You lost your way.

You thought you needed the confidence to do these things because you felt fear – but you are a confident person – you started a business or took a promotion. What has happened is that you stepped out of your comfort zone, the place where you are doing something you have never done before, the place that feels uncomfortable and unfamiliar. You are waiting to fully commit until you have the confidence to do the thing – actually it’s doing the thing which gives you the confidence. What you actually need is courage. Courage is the starting place of creativity, growth and success.

‘Do the thing and you will have the power.’
Ralph Waldo-Emerson

When you understand that fear is the result of moving forward and find your courage to be truly with the fear, understanding that it is created by you, by your imposter syndrome and by your ‘what if’, then you have self-awareness. Then you can trust yourself because you understand your process, are prepared to feel vulnerable and have the ability to call upon your courage. As you find yourself doing the things which you were previously fearful of, you will have the confidence and desire to get out of your comfort zone again – to do the next thing. You will remember that you are a confident person and you will understand that feeling fear means that you are growing, expanding, becoming more competent and really and truly living. This is where life is, the vibrant edge of our full potential.

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