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THE PARADOX OF PERFORMANCE

Updated: Sep 18, 2022

The majority of us have been conditioned to perform on some level, whether you are an athlete or not. Think back to elementary grade school, and when you got an A on a test, or maybe an F on a test... these experiences happened over and over again. Layer upon layer and if you played sports, then even more so. The point of playing sports is to win. Well, it used to be, now it appears everyone gets a trophy just for showing up. The point is that this conditioning all affects us in different ways. These experiences shaped our understanding of performance today. If you happen to be a high performer/achiever, then more than likely you might tie your ability to perform to your identity. Which means there is a lot at stake if you fail. Even if you are not a high achiever, but you simply care about the outcome as most people would, then there is still some weight attached to performance. This amount of "weight", depending upon the degree, leads us to put effort in, but even more so, it causes us to STRIVE, and maybe even stress or become anxious.


Here is where the paradox lies, the more pressure we place on ourselves to perform, the worse we perform. And the more we stress, the more anxious we become. The more anxious we become, the less ability we have to execute the skill or goal to standard. We end up in this cycle of poor performance, bad mouthing ourselves for not being able to do what we KNOW we can do, killing our confidence, and feeding the stress, just repeating the cycle.


WHAT TO DO

The key to this paradox, RELAX. The less pressure we place on ourselves to perform, the better. Great performances are natural outflows of ability, skill, training and preparation. But how do we relax? Many of us jump to the worst-case scenario and we will never be able to just "relax" if we are always concerned about what will happen if we fail! Especially when our performance is connected to our identity. For example..."if I don't pass this one test, then I lose my entire scholarship and have to move back home with my parents", or another example, "if I can't achieve this, then everyone will think I am a failure".... the simplistic way to say this is that we focus too much on the CONSEQUENCE. This fear of loss, contributes to the pressure, which only leads to stress and anxiety.


So, to overcome this, and actually relax, we have to shift focus. Focus on what preparation we have, all of the training and the natural skills we do already have. Put the event in perspective. Remove the catastrophic thinking by allowing your brain to realize there are more opportunities than just this one. And lastly, explore our own identity, develop who we are beyond just our performance (this is a whole other topic for us to discuss), but guaranteed we are more than just our performance! This is the paradox.



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