The Simple Mindset Shift Elite Athletes Use in High-Stress Situations to Calm Their Nerves

Channel your inner athlete. Don’t let your nerves get the best of you before a big event or presentation.

Your hands get clammy. Your heart is beating so loudly, you feel like everyone can hear it. You try to take deep breaths.

Whether before a big presentation, dream job interview, or another pivotal moment in your career, nerves can get the best of anyone. All that preparation seems to go out the window when your nerves start to drive.

Elite athletes find themselves in this situation all the time. It could be the biggest game or competition of their lives. They’ve trained and prepared for this Super Bowl game or Olympic event for years. There’s no time to be nervous.

How athletes interpret nervousness.

TED speaker and leadership consultant Simon Sinek noticed that journalists would always ask pro athletes the same question before a big event.

“Are you nervous?”

And every single time, athletes had the same response: “No. I’m excited.”

Sinek observed that the athletes had learned to change their mindset about nervousness. To your body, the signs of nervousness and the signs of excitement are exactly the same. So the athletes chose to embrace the excitement. “They had learned to interpret what their body was telling them not as nerves, but as excitement.”

Changing your mindset for success.

Sinek began to try it himself. When he found himself getting nervous — like when he had to speak before 3,000 chiefs of police — he would try telling himself he was excited about what was ahead.

These days, to reinforce and retrain his mind, he’s also looking for reasons why to be excited. He’s never done this before. It will be a new experience, one that will give him an opportunity to learn some things and ultimately share what he knows.

“Change the narrative,” Sinek urges. Instead of thinking ‘I’m so nervous,” say to yourself “This is so exciting.”

By Betsy Mikel Owner, Aveck @BetsyM