How To Channel Your Nerves For Success Like An Olympic Ahtlete

by Talia Koren

Can you imagine competing in the Olympics? You have to work your whole life to get there, and you only have one shot to take home a gold medal. The pressure is insane. Yet, life goes on after it's over no matter who wins or loses.

Most of us aren't Olympic athletes, but we all have things in life that make us nervous. Maybe it's a presentation at work, or you have to confront someone. Maybe you're putting on a performance. Or maybe you're trying something new.

Being nervous is a good thing. You can totally make it work for you if you're willing to reframe it, just like Olympic athletes do.

Olympic athletes' bodies are trained to do what they need to do. It's so ingrained in their muscle memories they don't need to think too much. They've practiced for years. But the wrong mindset can totally trip them up.

The same techniques that athletes use before events can be used for anything that causes stress or nerves. It doesn't matter how monumental the event is. Whether it's a raise negotiation, a first date or a presentation in front of hundreds of people, you can control your nerves without forcing yourself to "calm down."

And that's the key: Don't resist the nerves.

Turn your nerves into excitement.

Nervous energy can be seen as a negative thing, while excitement is positive. There have been so many studies that prove when people tell themselves they're excited before doing something stressful, they perform better than those who don't.

Why does this work? Well, trying to calm yourself when you feel anxious is a big jump, emotionally. But think about how anxiety and excitement are more similar. Both anxiety and excitement get your body energized. Being calm gets your body to relax.

Would Olympic athletes want to be calm their bodies before a big event? Probably not. They harness the nervous energy and turn it into something positive.

Reframe your thoughts.

I won't lie to you. There are certainly many things that can go wrong during a performance, presentation or stressful situation. Yes, you could trip over yourself while speaking. Yes, you could have some technical difficulties. But that's not what you should be focusing on.

If you're nervous that you'll trip up words or draw a complete blank during a presentation, those possibilities are more likely to happen if you're focusing on them. Even if they're just thoughts in your head, they can affect what actually happens. Instead, think about doing the best you can.

Studies have shown that people who say "I'm excited" before doing something they're anxious about actually perform better. Instead of being threatened by everything that can go awry, they're thinking about everything good that can come of it. That's powerful and pretty easy to do.

Remember that nerves are good.

If you're nervous, it just means that you care. It means that whatever it is you're facing -- the outcome matters to you. So by trying to calm yourself down, you're also trying to convince yourself that you don't care. And that's just not true. You'd perform worse if you cared less.

Olympic athletes are competing for gold medals because they followed through on their passions. They capitalize on nerves by focusing on how amazing it is to be competing in a sport they love at a historical event.

Don't let nerves hold you back from success and remember to get excited.

Citations: Olympic Athletes: How Do They Deal With The Pressure? (Huffington Post), Feeling Nervous? Don't Try to Calm Down—Get Excited (Bloomberg)