How well do you handle yours?  There is a rumor out there that public speaking may be the #2 fear for most of us, second only to death.  That’s some serious fear. One of the reasons is that when our “nerves” get to work and we experience pre-performance “anxiety” our physiology takes over and can be hard to control.

But professionals don’t try to “control” their nerves, they channel them.  They embrace them.  “Nerves” are truly our natural nervous systems kicking in to help us do what we are built for as humans:  To get to work!

Think of a time when you were nervous.  What happened in your body?  Fast pulse?  Shallow breathing?  Increased blood pressure?  Flushing of the face?  Dry mouth?  All of these may describe symptoms of fear, but if we think about it, they also describe what happens when we are excited!  

Now think of a time when you were Joyful, over-the-moon with happiness.  What happened in your body?  Shaky leg syndrome?  Fast breathing?  Heart racing?  Increased blood pressure?  Sounds about the same as being nervous, doesn’t it?

That’s because it is.  And professionals across all industries know this performance secret and use it to their advantage.  When the sweaty palms show up, when the heart is beating out of the chest, when they can’t catch a breath, they do not shrink in resistance.  

Professional performers at the top of their game, whether skiing in a competitive slalom race in the Olympics, or speaking to a group of investors, do not interpret these physiologic changes as a threat, but as a sign that something fantastic is about to take place.  Declaring the simple mantra “I’m excited!” or “Let’s do this!” can assure the brain, that the body is performing exactly as it has been trained to do.

As usual, accepting what is, rather than resisting it, is a powerful habit to undertake.  In this case, it is the difference between trying to talk our bodies out of their natural course and letting them rip with the magic they were built with.  Next time you sense your physiology taking over, try interpreting this as a positive sign that “This is getting exciting!”  Rather than “Oh no, I am so nervous!”  And watch your body and mind carry you handily right across the threshold of your performance goals!

For a little more on this see Alison Woods Brooks work from the Harvard Business School.

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