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How to Reframe Nerves as Anticipation

I stood on stage in front of 200 people at the Masonic Temple last fall. After spending weeks preparing my 5-minute spiel, I was ready. Not nervous but filled with anticipation.

Want to know how I did it?

Content = Competence

Start with your content: your three (3) key points, the examples you will provide to support your argument, and how you will reinforce the main messages. Provide strong visual images and personal stories as they are great learning tools. They help your audience remember what you said.

Your content provides the foundation for reframing nerves as anticipation. As you memorize and practice your content, you shape what you want to say to suit your intended audience and, concurrently, you develop your own voice.

To be clear, I’m talking about more than public speaking. Anything public facing (e.g. attending meetings) requires content, which simply means subject matter knowledge.

For example, I talk about Shedding Rigidity in HR differently to an HR audience versus a manufacturing industry audience. My key points remain the same but how I deliver the message varies. With HR people, I focus more on the policies themselves while I emphasize the application of policies with the manufacturing industry.

Competence stems from knowing the material so well that you can deliver it in a way your audience understands.

Nervousness —– Anticipation

How you interpret nervous signals from your nervous system depends on your perspective. On a recent Mel Robbins podcast, I heard Mel explain that there’s no physiological difference between nerves and excitement.

In other words, you can perceive any experience with nervousness or anticipation. Your body’s responses remain the same so it’s a matter of which perspective you choose to adopt.

Holistic Reframing

Here’s a healthy way to interpret nerves as anticipation holistically.

Physically, butterflies in your stomach are your body’s way of saying, “Pay attention!” Your vagus nerve, which intersects the stomach, is telling your brain that something important is happening.

Emotionally, you may decode those butterflies as nerves. Depending on your point of view, you will see butterflies as good or bad. What have you learned about binary thinking, though? It can lead to tunnel vision.

Mentally, see your nerves in a positive light. Nerves simply mean you care. Reset your nervous system by translating the body’s signals as a sign of confidence. Your nerves make you focus!

Spiritually, view nerves as your opportunity to grow, to make space for something new, and to share something you’ve learned with others that can potentially help them grow too.

Tools to Shift from Negative to Positive

To move from nervousness to anticipation, or to turn from a negative mindset to a positive one generally, I have a few suggestions:

  1. Consider your physiological response (shallow breathing, butterflies) as an alert not a warning;
  2. Acknowledge your fear by identifying the saboteur. Then choose to see things differently (positively) by shifting to your Leader Within;
  3. Try tapping, also known as the Emotional Freedom Technique;
  4. Do 4-part breathing.

Result? Confidence

Returning to the Masonic Temple for a moment, I switched from negative nerves to positive anticipation with deep breathing. I tapped in the afternoon before I left for the event.

The common thread? I got out of my head and into my body by tapping and doing breathwork in those crucial moments before going live.  

I used the other techniques like mental reframing and spiritual growth when I had the opportunity beforehand.

I hope some of these tools work for you. Let me know what you think!

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