Why we make mistakes or stumble during a performance – on the field, on the stage or in front of an audience. Here’s how to stop it happening, so you can make an impression for all the right reasons.

Transcript

  • We’ve all had times where we’ve practiced for days or hours to do something, and we know everything we need to know, or we have everything in us to do a brilliant performance because we’ve worked so hard preparing – and then we mess things up. Some people call it ‘choking’, but really, it’s anxiety. It’s happened to all of us, and if it’s happened to you, know that you aren’t alone and that these stories will be gold one day.
  • Understanding why this happens can help to minimise the changes of it happening again.
  • When your mind starts focusing on what could go wrong, your brain starts to organise your body to deal with the potential threat – and embarrassment, humiliation – all counts as a threat. It does this by surging your body with a neurochemical fuel to get you ready to fight the threat or flee from it. This neurochemical surge is designed to make you stronger, faster, more alert, more powerful – more able to deal with the threat. It’s meant to be a good thing, but if there isn’t a real threat then it can really trip you up.
  • When these neurochemicals are surging through you, one of the things that happens is the thinking part of your brain can actually get overwhelmed and it can shut down. This is an instinctive, automatic response designed to keep us safe. If there is an actual danger, your brain (specifically, the amygdala) doesn’t want you to take too much time thinking about the consequences or being too logical or rational. It just wants you to get safe, so it takes over down that thinking part (the pre-frontal cortex).
  • We know you’re not in danger if you, for example, go on stage, take to the field, sit the exam, but your brain doesn’t know that. The part of your brain that is responsible for the fight or flight response is the amygdala.  It’s very primitive and very instinctive. It’s a doer, not a thinker, so it will act first and it will think later.
  • To stop anxiety from getting in your way, it’s important to make sure that thinking part of your brain – the prefrontal cortex – doesn’t go offline. A powerful way to do this is to keep your focus on what you have to gain from the experience and how you want it to end up, rather than the things that could go wrong. 
  • The more you focus on the things that could go wrong, the more likely your brain will get anxious, and the more likely it will send thinking, planning part of your brain offline. This is when you’re more likely to stumble or make mistakes – and we’ve all done this before.
  • So, whenever your mind starts to wander to what could go wrong, bring it back to focusing on all of the things that could go right, and the great things that could come from your experience. 
  • Practice also strengthens the pre-frontal cortex so it can keep working hard for you. It’s important for strengthening your brain so it can do what you need it to do – which is to keep you strong and calm, and to stop anxiety causing trouble for you.

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During adolescence, our teens are more likely to pay attention to the positives of a situation over the negatives. This can be a great thing. The courage that comes from this will help them try new things, explore their independence, and learn the things they need to learn to be happy, healthy adults. But it can also land them in bucketloads of trouble. 

Here’s the thing. Our teens don’t want to do the wrong thing and they don’t want to go behind our backs, but they also don’t want to be controlled by us, or have any sense that we might be stifling their way towards independence. The cold truth of it all is that if they want something badly enough, and if they feel as though we are intruding or that we are making arbitrary decisions just because we can, or that we don’t get how important something is to them, they have the will, the smarts and the means to do it with or without or approval. 

So what do we do? Of course we don’t want to say ‘yes’ to everything, so our job becomes one of influence over control. To keep them as safe as we can, rather than saying ‘no’ (which they might ignore anyway) we want to engage their prefrontal cortex (thinking brain) so they can be more considered in their decision making. 

Our teens are very capable of making good decisions, but because the rational, logical, thinking prefrontal cortex won’t be fully online until their 20s (closer to 30 in boys), we need to wake it up and bring it to the decision party whenever we can. 

Do this by first softening the landing:
‘I can see how important this is for you. You really want to be with your friends. I absolutely get that.’
Then, gently bring that thinking brain to the table:
‘It sounds as though there’s so much to love in this for you. I don’t want to get in your way but I need to know you’ve thought about the risks and planned for them. What are some things that could go wrong?’
Then, we really make the prefrontal cortex kick up a gear by engaging its problem solving capacities:
‘What’s the plan if that happens.’
Remember, during adolescence we switch from managers to consultants. Assume a leadership presence, but in a way that is warm, loving, and collaborative.♥️
Big feelings and big behaviour are a call for us to come closer. They won’t always feel like that, but they are. Not ‘closer’ in an intrusive ‘I need you to stop this’ way, but closer in a ‘I’ve got you, I can handle all of you’ kind of way - no judgement, no need for you to be different - I’m just going to make space for this feeling to find its way through. 

Our kids and teens are no different to us. When we have feelings that fill us to overloaded, the last thing we need is someone telling us that it’s not the way to behave, or to calm down, or that we’re unbearable when we’re like this. Nup. What we need, and what they need, is a safe place to find our out breath, to let the energy connected to that feeling move through us and out of us so we can rest. 
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But how? First, don’t take big feelings personally. They aren’t a reflection on you, your parenting, or your child. Big feelings have wisdom contained in them about what’s needed more, or less, or what feels intolerable right now. Sometimes it might be as basic as a sleep or food. Maybe more power, influence, independence, or connection with you. Maybe there’s too much stress and it’s hitting their ceiling and ricocheting off their edges. Like all wisdom, it doesn’t always find a gentle way through. That’s okay, that will come. Our kids can’t learn to manage big feelings, or respect the wisdom embodied in those big feelings if they don’t have experience with big feelings. 
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We also need to make sure we are responding to them in the moment, not a fear or an inherited ‘should’ of our own. These are the messages we swallowed whole at some point - ‘happy kids should never get sad or angry’, ‘kids should always behave,’ ‘I should be able to protect my kids from feeling bad,’ ‘big feelings are bad feelings’, ‘bad behaviour means bad kids, which means bad parents.’ All these shoulds are feisty show ponies that assume more ‘rightness’ than they deserve. They are usually historic, and when we really examine them, they’re also irrelevant.
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Finally, try not to let the symptoms of big feelings disrupt the connection. Then, when calm comes, we will have the influence we need for the conversations that matter.
"Be patient. We don’t know what we want to do or who we want to be. That feels really bad sometimes. Just keep reminding us that it’s okay that we don’t have it all figured out yet, and maybe remind yourself sometimes too."
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 #parentingteens #neurodevelopment #positiveparenting #parenting #neuronurtured #braindevelopment #adolescence  #neurodevelopment #parentingteens
Would you be more likely to take advice from someone who listened to you first, or someone who insisted they knew best and worked hard to convince you? Our teens are just like us. If we want them to consider our advice and be open to our influence, making sure they feel heard is so important. Being right doesn't count for much at all if we aren't being heard.
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Hear what they think, what they want, why they think they're right, and why it’s important to them. Sometimes we'll want to change our mind, and sometimes we'll want to stand firm. When they feel fully heard, it’s more likely that they’ll be able to trust that our decisions or advice are given fully informed and with all of their needs considered. And we all need that.
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 #positiveparenting #parenting #parenthood #neuronurtured #childdevelopment #adolescence 
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"We’re pretty sure that when you say no to something it’s because you don’t understand why it’s so important to us. Of course you’ll need to say 'no' sometimes, and if you do, let us know that you understand the importance of whatever it is we’re asking for. It will make your ‘no’ much easier to accept. We need to know that you get it. Listen to what we have to say and ask questions to understand, not to prove us wrong. We’re not trying to control you or manipulate you. Some things might not seem important to you but if we’re asking, they’re really important to us.❤️" 
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#neurodevelopment #neuronurtured #childdevelopment #parenting #positiveparenting #mindfulparenting

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