top of page

Fear Setting

The mindset tool helps musicians unpack fear so they can keep bravely leaping onto the stage

*Welcome to The Musician's Mindset! I'm Katie, a certified life coach and flutist who helps musicians overcome performance anxiety and bring their best selves to the stage. I would love to talk to hear your stories about being a musician and what happens for you on stage. Click HERE and we’ll find some time to chat!*

For most musicians, the fear of the thing - failure, embarrassment, messing up - is worse than the thing actually coming to pass.

  • Yes, having a memory slip on stage feels like hot lava being poured across your cheeks.

  • Investing months into audition preparation only to not advance feels like an unbearable weight on your shoulders.

  • Traveling to take one lesson with your musical idol who tells you that you need to rebuild your embouchure from scratch feels like you’ve literally wasted years of your life.

But, you get through it. You feel the intense discomfort and then you try again.

There is a deep resilience inherent within the character of musicians that is greater than a stumble in performance or a failure in an audition. You have a drive - a purpose - that calls you forward into the beautiful, important work you do. You understand the deep vulnerability of standing on stage, yet you persevere because the world desperately needs art.

But, those fears are … a lot, aren’t they? What if there was a way to bounce back quicker from failure while also having increased confidence when you're doing the scary thing?

Today I'm sharing a mindset tool that takes goal setting and turns it on its head. It's called:

Fear Setting

*This is a great tool created by Tim Ferris.*

Much of the overwhelm that is associated with fear comes from the fact that:

  1. Our fears are vague and amorphous, kind of like the monster beneath your bed;

  2. We don’t take the time to actively problem-solve our fears in advance of the performance;

  3. We are lacking actionable solutions if/when the fear does, in fact, come to pass.

When we take time to put words to all these expansive, shapeless feelings, we are able to create a plan. We give our brains the important opportunity to productively work through the fear rather than running fear on an endless loop when we’re trying to fall asleep.

Can you 100% prevent a memory slip or a bumble in the toughest part of your concerto? No, of course not. BUT, you can create an internal world that knows that, even if the worst does happen, you’ll be ok.

Fear Setting: Step One

Set your What If Question? Your What If question is the thing you fear.

  • What if I walk on stage for my degree recital and I’m so nervous that I can’t produce a good sound?

  • What if I mess up my concerto and the audition committee doesn’t ask to hear any excerpts?

  • What if I play out of tune with the brass section during my solo?

Define. Write down all the worst things that could happen if your What If happens. For one What If, you’re looking for at least 10 things that could happen.

  • I don’t graduate.

  • I feel like a failure.

  • I feel embarrassed.

Prevent. Answer the question: What can I do to prevent or decrease the likelihood of these things happening?

  • I can find a backup time to schedule a new degree recital.

  • I can speak my affirmations daily.

  • I can reconnect with my inherent worthiness.

Repair. If the worst-case scenario happens, what can I do to repair the damage, even just a little bit?

  • I can book a new recital time.

  • I can reframe the experience.

  • I can journal about my feelings or talk to a friend.

Fear Setting: Step Two

Answer this question: What might be the benefits of an attempt or partial success?

  • What might you learn?

  • What do you get to practice doing?

  • How does executing this step, even imperfectly, equip you to meet your longer-term goals?

As musicians, we have exceedingly high standards for ourselves. Sometimes we can fall into the trap of believing that the only path to success is through the door of perfection. Answering this question will help you see the benefits of trying, even if you don't succeed.

Fear Setting: Step Three

Answer this question: What is the cost of inaction? What if instead of putting myself out there, I maintain the status quo?

In 6 months? 12 months? 3 years?

We are very good at thinking about all the things that might go wrong. But, as humans, it is natural to overlook the cost - emotional, financial, physical - of not doing the thing. This step allows you to imagine what would happen if you said: no.

Had I known about Fear Setting and, specifically Step Three, the years before I quit music, it would have changed my life. I would have been able to see that each audition I bailed on, each time I decided to not run excerpts for a colleague, each recital program that never came to fruition were all very meaningful steps toward ending my career.

Our brains are So Good at minimizing decisions like this. We give ourselves the excuses that we find most palatable, most justifiable to keep us from engaging with our fears. They seem so little! Skipping one audition? Canceling one lesson? It’s not big deal, right?

While the choices may be small, what they stand for is not. They stand for choosing fear over bravery, choosing small over expansive, choosing silence over connection. They feed doubt and insecurity, making it doubly hard to move into the next hard thing.

I’ve created a FREE PRINTABLE for you to use as you start your Fear Setting work. Take 20 minutes and give it a shot!

Fear Setting Worksheets
Download PDF • 29KB

Sometimes it can be challenging to create space to work on mindset tools like this. That’s why I’m here! Click Here and we’ll find some time to chat. You don’t have to do this alone. I’d love to support you.

Next Steps and Additional Resources

Here at The Musician's Mindset, we have some incredible resources for developing and implementing mindset practices that will transform how you perform on stage.

  1. First, check out our Personalized Mindset Tools Quiz to discover the mindset strategies perfect for YOU!

  2. Schedule your FREE 30 Minute Call with Katie. It’s free. It’s my pleasure. And it’s the first step to releasing stage fright once and for all.

Katie Frisco

Katie is a certified life coach dedicated to helping musicians overcome stage fright and believe in their own unique artistic voice. She believes live classical music is a powerful antidote for the division, pain, and loneliness pervasive in the culture and strives to support all artists to confidently share their work with the world. She lives in Cincinnati with her husband, three kiddos, a dog, a snake, and a goldfish named Orca.


bottom of page