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  • Writer's pictureNicholas Pallesen

No Positivity Required

Updated: Jul 28, 2019

The other day, a client and I were talking about an upcoming audition she has. She mentioned that she was feeling pretty negative about it and that she was struggling to find a positive mindset about the audition.

My reply took her by surprise:

"Why do you think you need to feel positive about the audition?"

I hear some of you now: "WTF are you on, Nicholas?! I thought you were pretty crazy already, but now you've really gone off your rocker! Um, why would I need to feel positive about an audition?! Duh, isn't that obvious??"

And you know what, that's fair. I used to think exactly like you. A couple of years ago, I would have probably reacted the same way. My question kinda flies in the face of every piece of advice we get from therapists, sports/performance psychologists, and self-help experts - that we need to think more positive, because a positive mindset leads to positive results. How silly of me to even ask that, right?

But is it really that silly of a question?

Let me ask you this:

Do you need to feel positive to eat breakfast? How about getting dressed? Tying your shoes? Getting to wherever you need to go in the day? Ordering lunch or dinner? Drinking your coffee? Buying something on Amazon? Checking your email? What about driving somewhere or calling an Uber/Lyft? And do you need to feel positive in order to take a shit?

If you're being honest with yourself, the answer to each of those is "no". Your mood or mental state has no correlation with your capacity to do hundreds of things every single day. You've probably done all of those things while feeling pleasant and pissed, right?

So why wouldn't it also be true for auditioning or performing?

The idea that we need to feel positive implies that there is a "right" and "wrong" way to feel, and that feeling positive leads to positive results and feeling negative brings negative results. But I bet when you think about it, you've had auditions and performances where you did pretty well even though you weren't feeling positive and times where you felt like Captain Positive and it didn't go how you hoped. So can it actually be true that we need to feel a certain way in order to do well when our own experience tells us otherwise?

We often take moments when things go well despite us feeling anxious and write them off as getting "lucky" or an exception to the rule. But what if it's actually the rule?

Our state of mind is wildly variable. One minute, we might feel up for anything and the next, we feel good for nothing. And yet, how we feel in any moment is completely independent of our innate capacity to show up in the world and do work we can feel good about. We are just as capable of performing well regardless of our mindset as we are of taking a shit.

Trying to get into the "right" mindset, in my experience, takes us right up into our head and out of the present moment, where in my opinion, the real magic happens as a performer. But here's the really cool thing: the second we stop chasing a "right" way to feel, our mind naturally quiets down and our anxious thinking passes on its own. We effortlessly become more present to what we're doing. And from that no-longer-self-conscious space, our innate creativity, expression, ability, wisdom, authenticity, and aliveness flow through us more freely and powerfully. We effortlessly settle into that space where we're free to be our best, because centered is our default, "home" state.

So, if you're doing auditions or performances in the coming weeks and struggling with how you're feeling, I'd invite you to get curious: What if you didn't need to feel positive? What if you could just show up as you were that day and no matter how you were feeling, you had everything you needed to do good work? What would being able to take "MUST FEEL POSITIVE!!" off your plate free up for you both as an artist and a human being?

Positive and negative are just labels we give to transient states of energy. You, on the other hand, are ready to rock, always.

Love, Nicholas


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