What’s your performance ritual?

What's your performance ritual?

What’s your performance ritual?

Visiting a CEO whose team have been entrusted to me next week, the CEO mentioned that he was sick of his executives being known as a ‘safe pair of hands’. “I want them to be thought leaders” he told me and that means getting out and being seen, being heard and, in summary, I’ll break it to you slowly, that means you have to present.

But we are not trained for performance and work actively against it. I can almost hear you saying “But hey, Louise, I think quiet leadership is the way. I work behind the team” etc etc. Really, aren’t you sick of hearing yourself saying it, while writing away and focusing on each and every specific word, while other leaders you admire are out there ‘doing it’?

Once you have faced the challenge of the modern world to place yourself in the light you are ready to face the challenge of building skills and one of those is ‘the performance ritual’.

Welcome to the game!

Now, remember, there are different times for different strategies. If, for instance, you have a big visualisation exercise, that is fabulous, but not at the time of presenting. This is a time to do something that really overrides the negative things that happen to us at the point of performance. Personally, I don’t have time to listen to the negativity of my unconscious mind, holding of my breath and collapsing of my body. I’m bored with it. I don’t have time for psychotherapy so let’s override it with a ritual of thought and action.

Who has watched Nadal preparing for a serve? 

Rafael Nadal’s routine

His routine ahead of a serve has been observed to follow a pattern that includes adjusting his shorts at the front and back, touching his left shoulder, then right shoulder, before tucking his hair behind his ears and tweaking his nose and touching his cheeks.

A final wipe of the forehead with his forearm appears to signal he’s ready to serve.

On second serves, Nadal will drop the touching of the shoulders.

“It is something you start to do that is like a routine. When I do these things it means I am focused, I am competing – it’s something I don’t need to do but when I do it, it means I’m focused”, he added.

Here are some of Nadal’s other rituals:

      • Nadal takes a freezing cold shower, 45 minutes before the match.

      • He wears both socks at the same height.

      • He carries one racket onto the court, and five rackets in his bag.

      • Takes off the jacket while jumping, facing the audience.

      • He always places his bottles in the same exact position.

      • Jumps at the net during the coin toss.

      • Runs to the baseline for warmups

      • Crosses the sidelines with his right foot only and avoid stepping on it.

      • Nadal uses a towel after every single point.

      • He ensures his opponent crosses the net before he does during a changeover.

      • He sips his energy drink and then his water, always in the same order.

    In explanation he claims “Some call it superstition, but it’s not. If it were superstition, why would I keep doing the same thing over and over whether I win or lose? It’s a way of placing myself in a match, ordering my surroundings to match the order I seek in my head.” said Nadal.

Not unexpectedly, many doubt Rafael Nadal’s rituals and feel that he suffers from OCD – obsessive-compulsive disorder. However, his process is a stark description of an obvious process, a lesson that could be beneficial for you.

Ask yourself, if you don’t want to be Nadal, are you even at step 1 with a ritual.

The steps are to:

      • Work out very specifically your ritual process

      • Practice your ritual

      • Use your ritual in real life 

      • Use it until you own it and it is unconscious 

And here are some ritual ideas:

      • Go to the toilet within 10 minutes of presenting

      • Practice a quick breathing technique of your choice

      • Move your body, perhaps walk, perhaps stamp the ground

      • Move your arms. Some people cross themselves

      • Use your voice. I call out to people

      • Bring your eyes under control

      • Repeat a mantra as you go

And yes, you can make all of these big and private or you can make them socially acceptable. Just ask me how and let me know your ritual steps.

What I've been up to...

Juggling TV interview, keynote, and keeping my furry friends happy – all while staying fit! Life’s a balancing act, but I’m loving every minute of it.








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About Me

Dr Louise Mahler is a body language expert. With a focus on study of the mind-body relationship and business applications; providing practical inspiring improvement to global leaders.

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