Listen to the full podcast episode to learn about the science-backed practice that has not only changed my life but also the lives of countless people over the last two decades. This is something you can’t ignore if you want to achieve that great goal you identified for this year and write your new future.
I’m sharing one of my favorite tools when you are in a moment of pre-performance anxiety — when the pressure is high, tension is thick, and the need to perform is at maximum capacity. In this episode you will equip yourself with a real strategy the next time you feel pressed to perform and telling yourself to stay calm isn’t working. This practice has research to support its efficacy. Leaders, parents—everyone should have it in their back pocket.
This tool is especially helpful for when you find yourself in a moment of performance anxiety— when the pressure is high, the tension is palpable, and you have no other option except to get the job done.
Occasions you might find yourself battling pre-performance anxiety
We’ve all had these times in our lives:
- You’re set to preside over a budget meeting.
- You’re scheduled to speak to an unusually large audience.
- You happen to be navigating a hefty workload and family life has intensified.
Maybe you find yourself in situations like this more often than not.
When anxiety and nerves are high, what do you typically do?
When most of us find ourselves in these tense situations, we tell ourselves to calm down—relax. And we certainly aren’t alone in thinking that the self-soothing process is our best plan of action.
In a study of over 300 participants…
They were told to imagine they were working in a large organization of about 500 employees. The very next day, they’re scheduled to give a 30-minute keynote speech in front of the whole company—including the CEO and executive board. Predictably, the participants began to feel extremely anxious.
The participants were then asked, “What advice would you give yourself?”
They were given three options:
- Try to relax and calm down
- Try to cancel the speech or find someone else to do it
- Try to be excited instead of anxious
More than 90% believe the best way to manage pre-performance anxiety is to “try to calm down.”
Research has shown there’s a better solution for pre-performance anxiety.
This alternative is as simple as flipping the switch in the opposite direction. It begins with reinterpreting your anxiety and nervousness as excitement.
The research shows that the feeling of anxiety is physiologically almost the same as the feeling of excitement.
- Result in an elevated heart rate
- Create the feeling of butterflies in your stomach
- Make you sweat
Your body is readying itself for action. This is what the body does when it believes there’s a threat to your life at hand.
You can see that while the emotions are quite different—opposites, in fact—they impact the body identically.
While excitement is connected to the emotion of joy, anxiety comes from the emotion of fear.
And it’s important to understand this because when we operate from fear, we are operating from a place of survival and our performance in just about every area is diminished.
But when we are experiencing excitement, our creativity, problem-solving, and intelligence increases. We can therefore take advantage of the opportunities and possibilities available to us.
What researchers have found is that when we reinterpret our anxiety as excitement, our performance improves.
Can you see how important this is especially in those moments when high performance is key? When doing your best matters most?
Let’s put this into practice.
Let’s say it’s a big week at work—more than 6 months of planning are coming together. But your son gets a concussion, and you’re in the ER on Sunday. And then you get called that Monday afternoon to pick up your mother-in-law because they suspect she’s having a stroke—and you’re back in the ER. Oh, and it’s the holiday season and you’ve just been asked to be give a presentation at work where the stakes are high on Tuesday.
It’s critical that you show up and lead—both at home and at work—which you simply cannot do from a fragmented, anxiety-ridden, stressed out, cortisol-dropping, pressured primal place.
(The world already has enough of that.)
The next time you find yourself in a similar, high-pressure, anxiety-inducing situation… do this instead of telling yourself to calm down.
Step 1: Say “I am excited” + the thing that’s making you nervous.
So that could look like:
“I am excited to present at this meeting.”
“I am excited to have this conversation with my colleague.”
“I am excited to balance the additional family projects in progress.”
Make sure you say it out loud and say it proud, like you mean it!
This helps redirect the brain’s attention and emphasis.
Step 2: Say (out loud) why you’re excited.
A few examples of this:
“I’ll be helping the organization resolve a potentially large problem.”
“I’ll be setting myself up for great possibilities and opportunities.”
“I’ll be helping my client/friend/family member.”
As you already know, everything is created from the energy of our feelings.
I recently used this tool in my own life. (Those ER visits, big work projects coming to completion, and the holiday shopping—that was all plucked from my very real experience.)
I was not feeling excited about what was ahead, but there was no time in that pressureful moment to linger in doubt or stress or high tension. If I had done that, all it would’ve done is attracted more of that into the moment.
Instead, I used the 2-step practice to reframe what I was seeing as pressure and stress and simply got excited about these situations.
We all have the opportunity and ability to do this.
You can change your feelings from anxiety to excitement by simply redirecting your interpretation of what you are feeling.
Sometimes high-pressure moments seize us quickly. Sometimes they feel like they just keep lingering.
Regardless, it’s in these moments that we can take charge and generate the energy we want.
This understanding, along with your ability to manage your feelings, is what truly changes the experience and positively impacts the results. It’s what gives you the inner game advantage.
By integrating this practice into your life, you have the ability to go from feelings of stress with low-performance results—to ones of excitement with high performance and greater impact as a result!
Use this tool to calm nerves and anxiety as a manager and leader.
The best part of this exercise is that managers and organizations can utilize it to motivate their employees before important performance tasks or simply to encourage them and increase their confidence.
The practical use-case scenarios and possibilities are endless!
Harness the power of this practice and improve your ability to positively influence others and be your best when it matters most.
Bottom line: Don’t get calm—get excited!
In this episode, I share:
- A simple exercise (backed by research) you can use to calm pre-performance nerves or anxiety.
- What to do when the pressures and stresses seem to be mounting, and you’re driving from survival mode.
- How to use this tool in your work as a manager or leader to motivate employees.
Resources and related episodes:
- Tune in to the previous episode, A Practice to Cultivate Your External Self-Awareness
- Listen to episode 114: How to Eliminate Pressure So You Can Enhance Your Career Anytime You Want
- If you’d like to be notified of when new podcast episodes are released you can do so here Playing Full Out
- Learn more about the Playing Full Out Revolution
- Connect with Rita on LinkedIn
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About Rita Hyland
With over 20 years of experience as an executive and leadership coach, Rita helps leaders — emerging and established — excel in corporate and entrepreneurial environments.
Rita believes if leaders were more clear about how transformation really works and more intentional about creating what they want, their impact, success, and influence in the world would be unstoppable.
Through her coaching programs, private coaching, and masterminds, Rita shows leaders how to win consistently and create the impact and legacy they desire.
Central to Rita’s work is the understanding that you will never outperform your current programming, no matter how strong your willpower.
When you learn to use Rita’s proprietary Neuroleadership Growth Code, a technology that uses the best of neuroscience and transformational psychology to hit the brain’s buttons for change, YOU become both the solution and the strategy.
Her mission is to end talented, hard-working, and self-aware leaders spending another day stuck in self-doubt or confusion and not contributing their brilliant work and talent the world so desperately needs.