Improving performance includes aspects of the other subjects covered in other articles on this website. In many respects, performance represents a culmination of things such as better health and well-being (eg. weight-loss and smoking cessation), effective management of stress, control of anxiety and the overcoming of phobias that can hinder your career advancement and personal growth, and the motivation to succeed. Poor health or compromised vitality can cause lower energy, not to mention the distraction and the preoccupation of trying to get well that can profoundly interfere with the achievement of your personal best. If you are a poor manger of the stress in your life, again, performance can be adversely effected and by negatively impacting health can compound the situation further. Anxieties and phobias can directly interfere with a person’s performance, in fact, they can themselves be brought about by the fear of not performing well. And of course, without the motivation to succeed, well it just “ain’t gonna happen” unless you are fortunate enough to have your success handed to you on a silver platter.
In addition to these areas of work that have already been covered, performance is also a separate area that requires specialized attention. Athletics or sports provides an excellent paradigm of how hypnotherapy can be a valuable tool to enhance performance. When I observe great athletes like Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods I am struck by two obvious facts. First is the enormous work that they have put into their games not only on an ongoing basis to keep them sharp and on top, but also in the long years during which they developed and honed their skills. Second is just how amazingly graceful they are, how easy they make it seem as they do things and perform at levels that are impossible for the average person, not to mention the other athletes that they compete against. When you watch a good golfer make a shot it is artistry. The concentration, the posture, the multiple motions all perfectly in sync and in harmony producing fantastic results that spontaneously and simultaneously evoke the ooos and ahs of admiration from the spectators.
Performance requires long hours of difficult practice on the playing field or preparation in the office or work in the laboratory or on the stage or wherever the work that you choose happens to occur. However, your work also becomes second nature to you. The particular skills or habits that go into successful performance at many points are executed in an almost non-thinking, spontaneous manner. This is not to say that you do not think about what you are doing. The successful person who performs at optimum levels is entirely aware and is capable of shifting course or making corrections when necessary, but as a rule he does not have to constantly “think” about what he is doing each step of the way. This is an example, in the words of the philosopher Gilbert Ryle, of the difference between knowing that and knowing how. Tiger Woods knows as well as anyone the knowing that part of playing golf, the principles of a good swing and of the mechanics of hitting a golf ball, the most appropriate club to use for a particular type of shot, etc. But many experts in golf know that also. Tiger Woods is special in his incomparable knowledge of knowing how to play golf. A beginning golfer or a not too terrific golfer is awkward. You can observe his concentration on trying to hold the club just right and every position of each limb and every motion struggling to flow gracefully but never quite getting there. Tiger just does it. Superb concentration? Absolutely. Thorough thought about all aspects of his game? Yes, when appropriate, but since he knows how