Embrace The Butterflies: How You Can Use Your Nerves To Get Ahead
I don't get nervous often, but when I do, I find it more exciting than deterring. Growing up we've all felt nervous from time to time — usually when a cool head is most needed. Whether it be dance recitals, plays, sports games or having to speak in front of a class of your peers, we've all been put in a position where we felt the spotlight has landed on us.
Feeling that we're being watched and judged can be distracting to say the least. It's amazing how the gaze of others can have such a profound effect on us and on our performance.
It's this pressure that we feel that causes us to question ourselves and our abilities. But not everyone buckles; there are those who embrace the butterflies and use the pressure to their advantage.
If You're Nervous, Take It As A Positive Sign.
Feeling nervous is the best indicator that what you are doing is — in some way — important to you. Whether it be the result or impressing those that are watching, if you are nervous, then there is a good reason for it. If there were ever a reason to focus and do your best, it's when you are participating in something of importance to you as an individual.
The majority of our lives are filled with experiences of little meaning or importance to us. We sometimes go living through weeks or months in between events that cause excitement. If you find yourself feeling nervous, take that as a signal to hold your composure. You may not be sure as to why performing your best is important to you, but if you are nervous then, for whatever reason, it is.
Nervousness Minimizes Your Response Time.
When we feel nervous, our hearts are pounding. Our palms become moist and our foreheads and armpits dampen with perspiration. Our body is thrown into overdrive and our response time is cut in half. We feel energized, present and — let's be honest — a little scared.
This is our body's natural response. It is usually seen as more of a distraction than a benefit, but the fact is that if we are able to keep ourselves from turning our focus in on ourselves, then nervousness can be a most helpful tool. Nervousness is often accompanied by jitters — we feel the need to keep moving, to keep doing.
The problem isn't this restlessness, the problem is that we lose focus from the task(s) at hand and instead begin to rationalize and inspect how and why we feel in such a way. Nervousness triggers the fight or flight response. You choose whether you want to give into your fears or whether you want to stay and duke it out.
Finding The Right Focus While Feeling Nervous Will Boost Performance.
Once nervousness brings about our fight or flight response, we either proceed to succeed magnificently or fail miserably. For the most part, we have no choice but to continue and perform — we could run off stage and go hide in some corner, but I'm assuming that's not a real option.
If we respond by fleeing, we quickly realize that running is not an option. We are hit with this realization and we choke up. We are not sure how to act, what to do; we want to run, but we know that we can't…so we just stand there.
If we are slightly more experienced, we do our best to catch back up with the moment and finish the best that we can. If, however, our response is to fight, we immediately focus on only the task at hand. The rest of the world seems to fade into the background and we feel more alive than we can remember. We don't just get the job done — we get the job done with style, grace and precision.
It's A Matter Of Practice.
Everyone's fight or flight mechanisms are wired to respond slightly differently. Some of us are more inclined to try and run while others are more inclined to stay and battle. The beautiful thing is that you can train yourself to be a fighter; you can train yourself to respond swinging and not running in the opposite direction. It takes practice.
The more inclined you are to run, the more practice it will take. It's a matter of becoming comfortable being placed in such a position; you have to be comfortable with being nervous. Luckily, we figure out rather quickly what types of situations make us nervous so we can prepare beforehand. If you know that you are about to find yourself in such a position, remove all thoughts from your mind.
Begin to focus on your surroundings and on taking in information rather than on making decisions. Doing so will remove some of the fear that often accompanies nervousness, giving you the best chance at responding in a desirable manner when called upon to act. Whether it be sports, a meeting with your boss or any other type of performance focusing on things outside of you rather on the thoughts inside of you is key. At moments like these, there is no more preparation to be made.
There is no more to plan out and no reason to overthink; it's time to perform, to act. Whether you are ready or not is not important in that moment — what is important is that you do the best that you can possibly do right there and then. You can never do more than you are capable of, but you can always do a lot less. If you aren't prepared then at least you know that you have some work to do. Giving into the nervousness will just make your situation a whole lot worse.