To turn performance anxiety into ecstasy, all focused practice and performance must be fueled with enthusiasm. The definition of enthusiasm comes from the early 17th century, from the French word enthousiasme, or via late Latin from Greek enthousiasmos, from enthous meaning, ‘possessed by a god, inspired’, or as I say, that which has God in it. This is not meant to be religious in nature. It has little to do with theology. It’s about connecting to your deepest desires and purpose. Being sure as to, “why am I here?” This is ensouling the work, believing and approaching your work and goals with a complete sense of spiritual trust and whole-hearted commitment. The great Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist, and Holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl wrote,
“A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth – that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which Man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of Man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when Man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way – an honorable way – in such a position Man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment. For the first time in my life I was able to understand the meaning of the words, ‘The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory’.”
This is a contract with what you truly believe and desire. Ralph Waldo Emerson once stated, “Enthusiasm is the mother of effort, and without it nothing great was ever achieved.” Winston Churchill said, “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” All masterful work that I know is fueled by this soulful presence and drive. This is not only important to ignite passion in your own work and life but can also encourage passion and inspired commitment in your family, fellow colleagues, performers, and audiences. One will not succumb to any hardship or setback when focused on the illuminated image of one’s beloved desire.
To have and maintain this inspirational drive one must believe what one is doing is worthwhile and important. It’s critical to create an atmosphere in which this enthusiasm can grow and flourish. This comes from feeling safe to try new things and a belief in what you’re doing to be useful and important to your yourself and your community. There must be a loyalty, a self contract with your craft.
Have you ever had a particular task that was somewhat daunting and seemingly unpleasant become addictive and extremely satisfying by virtue of consistent, ritual-like repetition? Once established and embedded in the body and soul these seemingly difficult tasks become purposeful and important to maintaining, not only our work but also our overall health and well-being. It’s like when you first begin to train your body at the gym and, once your body has adjusted to the workout it becomes pleasurable because of the rigueur, stress and difficulty. There is a feeling of true maintenance, accomplishment and growth.
This is the same for your approach to your craft as a performer. Just because we are blessed with the understanding and assuredness of our calling does not mean it’s going to be easier or less dangerous. We just become more willing to keep showing up to our work when we know in our hearts that what we’re doing is what we were sent here to do. This creates useful discipline. We must become soulful disciples to our craft. When I am enthusiastic about my performance, I can use my spiritual excitement and purpose to positively redirect my anxiety into performance power.