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You’re Not Nervous, You’re Excited
Nervousness and excitement carry the same feelings, but require a simple shift of perspective.
Nowadays many coaches spend half their energy trying to convince athletes to do something they’re more than capable of achieving. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve had athletes let me know how nervous they were before a big race, throw, or jump. What’s there to be nervous about in track and field? You’re just running, jumping, vaulting, and throwing as fast and as high as you can. Of course, it’s not that simple. There’s many more technical mechanics that require exact execution to give yourself the best shot at winning as with any other sport.
I get it. I'm a former athlete who experienced those same nervous feelings before a game or race. My experience was the same as a coach going into my first interview or a teacher teaching my first class. I had a rumbling tummy, sweaty palms, a fast-pacing heart rate, and an active mind that was scanning every nook and cranny of my brain to find that one piece of information that will put me at ease. In most of these scenarios, though, I wasn’t nervous. I was excited. And the same is true for you as it is for most of my athletes.
For this reason, we've eliminated the word nervous from the team’s vocabulary. And it is not because the emotional concept of being apprehensive about a significant event is imaginary. Nervousness is real; however, it’s just an often misused term that manipulates the truth of our capabilities when it is time for us to perform.
Nervousness constitutes a state of fear of our abilities. It elevates race-time anxiety and shifts all our thoughts to the worst-case scenarios. Nervousness insinuates we are not equipped or prepared for the task and that the positive opportunities in front of us are just a mess of worst-case scenarios leading to our demise.
However, when we shift our wording from “I’m nervous,” to “I’m excited,” we take the first step in allowing ourselves to embrace the future while living in the moment.
Excitement constitutes a state of assuredness in our training. It elevates our confidence and allows us to think about some of our previous accomplishments as fuel for what we can achieve next. Excitement causes us to reflect on all the practice regiments and the difficulties we’ve already survived as proof we are ready to perform. It allows us to question the worst-case scenarios and strategize how we might turn them into positive opportunities.
Nervousness and excitement carry the same feelings, but require a simple shift of perspective. Simon Sinek points to this in a talk after he watched journalists ask each Olympian after their events, “Were you nervous?” According to Sinek, he heard every athlete answer, “No, I was excited.” “What are the signs of nervousness,” Sinek asks. “Your heart races, you visualize the future, your hands get clammy.” The signs of excitement are similar. Think about a recent time you were excited about something and how it made you feel. Are there similarities?
As for our athletes, the same dynamic is true for coaches, entrepreneurs, or anyone preparing for and anticipating a momentous mission.
I admittedly lose sleep anticipating major events because I second-guess my decisions. I rehash my checklists multiple times over unsure of myself. I am periodically insecure when the reality usually is that I do everything necessary to prepare our athletes to compete.
Now, instead of "losing sleep” I can wake up in the middle of the night like a kid on Christmas Eve in anticipation of unwrapping the gift of coaching—observing athletes see their effort pay off. Instead of scouring through my checklists, I can scroll through them ritualistically—not because I’m unsure of myself—but because I’m visualizing all the extraordinary opportunities that await our athletes.
These are obstacles we maneuver daily. I was even telling myself I was nervous to start this blog! “What are people going to think about me? I’m not always the best Monday Morning Coach. What if someone catches me slipping on one of my rough days? Who am I to be sharing advice?”
Instead, I started telling myself: “I’m excited for the chance to motivate family, friends, colleagues, and people outside of my circle to embrace their opportunity to live. I’m excited to share my life and coaching experiences with others to hopefully motivate them for greatness. I’m excited because I’m not always the most motivational coach on Mondays and maybe this way someone can help me get motivated when I need it most.”
Write down one upcoming challenge you’re nervous about and simply change the word ‘nervous’ to ‘excited’. For example: “I’m nervous about________” to “I’m excited to__________.” Then say it out loud every time you get those feelings, all the way into that challenge.