Performance psychology engages psychological theories, principles, and techniques for use in various performance-based settings. In short, performance psychology aims to help people do what they do in better, stronger, and more consistent ways. While this is becoming more common among athletes, these same approaches can be helpful to dancers, musicians, and other performers. Performance psychology can also benefit individuals wanting to improve their performance at school or in the workplace.
Often the goal is to develop skills necessary to perform consistently and to help realize an individual’s potential. This generally involves mental skills training in strategies such as goal-setting, imagery, relaxation training, and methods to improve and maintain focus and motivation.
In addition to focusing directly on performance enhancement, people often benefit from working on personal development and well-being. The things that happen outside a performance setting – the stresses that can affect all of us in our daily lives – can impact people on a personal level and start to affect their performance. Being proactive in addressing these stressors can prevent them from becoming larger problems down the road. Overall, the healthier and more balanced we are mentally and emotionally, the better we tend to perform.
Common topics in performance psychology include:
- Managing anxiety, energy, and arousal
- Visualization and imagery
- Pre-performance routines
- Finding your optimum performance state
- Relaxation, meditation, and/or hypnosis
- Managing perfectionism
- Improving attention and focus
- Performance slump or creative/artistic block
- Maintaining sport-life or work-life balance
- Personal loss (like a difficult break-up or loss of a loved one)
- External pressure (e.g. from family or media)
- Considering retirement
Finally, an important advantage of performance psychology is that many of the techniques and strategies are transferable skills – in addition to benefiting current performance, these same skills can help people navigate future elements of personal and career development.