One of the funniest moments as the former agent of world number, Novak Djokovic, was seeing him impersonate his fellow players, following the US Open final in 2007 (You can see it here: Djokovic imitates Sharapova and Nadal). At the time, I thought that my client was simply an extremely funny and gifted actor. What I didn’t realize is this [highlight]”acting is the biggest secrets of high performers”.[/highlight]

The reason for this is that when we want to perform at our best, we need to be able to absorb unexpected emotional turmoil, and remain emotionally alive and positive, despite the immense pressure we may be facing.  Even the very best athletes and high performers get tired and experience feelings of anger and anxiety. This is especially in tennis, where you play tournaments throughout the year, and need to win many long and grueling matches in order to conquer prestigious trophies.

To perform at their best, athletes need to therefore be able to feel confident, focused, relaxed and optimistic on command.  Any form of negativity can trigger natural bodily defense mechanisms that can prevent us from achieving our goals. Negativity reduces our ability to see opportunities, and prevents us from feeling in a relaxed and confident manner. It has the power to make the most skilled and talented people underperform on a consistent basis.

At the same time, we also need to be true towards ourselves, and our feelings. This can only happen if we allow ourselves to experience a full range of emotions, as they give us feedback about our internal conditions. After all, it is our emotions that warn us that certain deficiencies need to be addressed if we want to feel energized, alive and happy, and give us directions as to what we need to do in order to feel at our best. For example, we may be lacking physical needs such as good nutrition or rest, or emotional needs such as a lack of self esteem, and without addressing them, it will be almost impossible to enjoy success and prosperity.

The real skill of a high performer is to learn and direct its’ emotional states on demand so that he will feel positive, confident and relaxed, while reconnecting to his true self when he returns back to real life. But how can he do this?

Recent studies have shown that physical stimulation can evoke specific emotions. For example, a 1988 study by the University of Mannheim asked participants to hold a pen in their mouths in one of two ways, either in the “lips” position, which activates the muscles we use to frown, or in the “teeth” position, which activates the muscles we use to smile. The control group simply held the pen in their hands. The three groups were asked to watch a cartoon and evaluate how funny they found it. The interesting outcome was that the “teeth” group thought that the cartoon was way more amusing than the “lips” and control group.

So the next time you want to perform your best, you can induce the emotions you would like to experience, by using your body. For example, when feeling pressure, act as if you are smiling and feel relaxed. Or when feeling exhausted, just jump up and down and look as if you feel more energized than ever.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: “The virtue you would like to have, assume it is already yours, appropriate it, enter into the part and live the character just as the great actor is absorbed in the part he plays.”

Like every skill, this takes practice to master, but it is something you can start learning immediately.


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