As an athlete, when you enter a competition, do you ever think of yourself as giving a performance? In a great little classic book called, The New Toughness Training for Sports, the author, James Loehr, makes the connection between great acting and “performing on demand”, a common catch phrase in sports these days.
When the best actors and actresses show up for work to do a scene, if they feel off, tired, have a headache, or are just under the weather, they still have to bring all their physical presence and emotions to the part they need to play! Great performers can act their way to the precise emotions they need to portray. There is plenty of research showing that by simply moving the muscles of your face in the direction of the desired emotion, genuine emotional responses can be elicited.
I’ve personally experienced this when mountain biking. As a beginner, I would often tense up when riding something that scared me. While I didn’t feel like it, if I forced myself to keep smiling while riding, my body would soon follow by beginning to feel genuinely more relaxed and happy and in turn ride more smoothly and more confidently! In other words, the physiological changes from acted-out or faked emotion are the same that occur in spontaneous, genuine emotion!
As an athlete, you may have many descriptions for how you are need to feel to perform your best such as confident, energetic, relaxed, excited, positive and challenged. If you are a bad actor on the athletic stage you probably just act out whatever emotions you happen to be feeling at the moment even if they are detrimental to your performance such as anger, frustration, disappointment, helplessness or high nervousness. On the other hand, if you have worked hard at mastering your “performer skills”, you can act out the positive emotions you need bring to the performance regardless of circumstances. And this takes practice, as James Loehr writes, “Emotions respond much as muscles do. The ones you stimulate the most become the strongest and most accessible.”
Just remember if you feel like doing this…
Act like this, and you will feel AND perform better…
The difference between nailing a scene and turning in a mediocre performance is all about “being present in the moment” while “really being outside of yourself.” – Judith Light, Actor and Activist