Have you ever heard the term, “new level, new devil?” It refers to those times when we stretch beyond our comfort zones and encounter new fears, and everything that goes with them. You know what I’m talking about — the procrastination, the resistance and the justifications to stay where we are so we don’t have to face those fears. This can all happen under the radar of our conscious minds. We are very good at creating quite logical reasons to stay put.
Working through these is part of my work as a coach and trainer. My clients want to deliver their message because it matters to them. They want to be compelling, powerful and authentic, and almost to a person, they need to confront that “new level, new devil.” It’s part of the process. They feel the pressure to be perfect. To make no mistakes. To avoid embarrassing themselves, their boss, or their clients. The list goes on. Even though they want to improve or master the art of speaking, these fears can put up quite a fight! We’re human, after all.
So, how do we prevent the “new level, new devil” from getting the better of us and move into our next level of presence?
Let “sufficiency” be the goal.
I know, it’s not sexy, but it works. When you’re facing something new, let yourself be “sufficient to the task” — not perfect, or even excellent. Sufficient.
Recently, Richard, my songwriting partner, invited me to take a lead vocal role in a new show he was directing. Now, I’ve been on lots of stages, and some pretty big ones, as a speaker, a trainer, a singer and an actress. I feel pretty comfortable most of the time, and when I don’t, I have ways to move through the discomfort so I can bring my authentic self into the performance and serve my audience. This opportunity would take me into a new level of performance — something I hadn’t done in several decades. Add to that, I would be replacing someone a few weeks prior to the show, so didn’t have the benefit of months of rehearsal.
Facing my own “new level, new devil!”
All my fears came to the surface. In spite of them, I decided to give it a try. I only had a couple of days to learn the songs before appearing before the cast and Jean, the producer. I felt so nervous I thought I’d faint. I stood up, took a deep breath, and began singing. I got through the songs, but I certainly didn’t do what I was capable of. I was shaking so badly it was hard to stay present. After I was done, I thought, “No way, I’m not doing this. It’s okay, you don’t have to. You can be content exactly where you are, with what you’re doing. There’s no reason to do this. It’s okay.” Sigh . . .
Those thoughts can be really convincing, but I wanted to do it. I knew it would propel me into a whole new level of confidence and presence. I stuck with it. I used all my stage fright tools. I showed up at the next rehearsal, and I was less nervous. And each rehearsal after that, I was more and more comfortable and delivered more powerfully. I actually had some fun!
As the show approached, those fears started to reemerge, but something else also emerged. I had this thought — I am sufficient to this task. I don’t have to be perfect. I am good enough. This was the key.
On the night of the show, I stepped onto the stage and sang my heart out. I was still a little nervous, but nothing I couldn’t handle. I had realized the power of being “sufficient to the task,” and by doing so, was able to connect heart-fully with my audience. They got what they paid for, and I got to step past that new devil into a new level of performance and presence.
What’s the moral of the story? When you are stretching beyond your comfort zone and find yourself facing that “new level, new devil,” remember this:
- It’s normal. There is nothing wrong. This is the “creative tension” part of the program.
- Those fearful thoughts are only thoughts, not the truth. They are trying to protect you because you’re moving into new territory, but they do not represent your abilities.
- You can do it. When you’re stretching your wings, you don’t have to be perfect, or excellent, or the greatest in the world. You can be “sufficient to the task.” Learn what you need to learn. Do the work. Then, when it’s time to show up, know you are “sufficient to the task” and step into your new level of presence!
When we reframe our goal to be “sufficient,” we can relax. We can open up. We can be natural. We can let go of some of our self-consciousness and be present to our audience. We can put them first and be of real service. What we often find is that we perform at a very high level because the stress is gone! We can move through the fear into our next level of presence!
I would love to support you. You can reach me at Andrea@AndreaBeaulieu.com