Three magic words that can transform your mindset
Do you ever get nervous before you present?
Here’s a trick that even science has proved to be effective and it sits within three small words.
Reframing your nerves
When you’re nervous, there’s a little voice in your head that’s often flagging up that very fact. “Cripes, I’m bricking it. Gotta calm down.”
Instead of reminding yourself of how nervous you are, replace thoughts of anxiety for these three words:
“I am excited.”
This technique, ‘anxiety reappraisal’, is based on the principle that the journey from anxiety to calm can be a massive physiological jump, which may be difficult to make without some Valium and a bottle of whiskey. However, excitement is a side shuffle away from anxiety.
Excitement has the same adrenaline boost, cortisol rush and pacing heart beat that you’re already experiencing with nerves. The difference is that it puts you, into what Alison Wood Brooks, professor at Harvard Business School, calls ‘an opportunity mindset’ which shines the light on all the positives in a situation, as opposed to ‘threat’ mindset, where the focus is on what can go wrong.
A quick way to seem more confident
Brooks has studied the effects of anxiety reappraisal, performing a series of three experiments for a study published in 2014.
During this study, participants were asked to sing the song “Don’t Stop Believin” by the band Journey. They were then told to say either:
“I am anxious” or “I am excited” or nothing before breaking into song.
According to a computerised measurement of volume and pitch, the result showed that the participants stating excitement sang better.
Brooks ran the same experiment with a speech test. Those who told themselves they were excited were seen as more persuasive, confident and persistent.
Note that this experiment didn’t lower heart rate or cortisol: the participants felt equally pumped up but had reframed the experience as a positive one.
Not only could you save yourself a fortune on singing lessons but snap into a mindset shift in minutes.
Approaching life goals with more positivity
Looking at concerns away from presenting, a step in mindset from anxiety to excitement could be very useful. For example, you have two goals that are in conflict with one another. One goal is to have more of a social life and the other is to spend more time with your family. Those conflicting goals can cause tension.
However, in a 2015 study led by Jordan Etkin of Duke University, participants who were asked to repeat, “I AM EXCITED!” three times, felt that they had more time on their hands.
Reframing from anxiety to the more positive emotion of excitement can have you noticing the opportunities of an event more than if you were to focus on the downsides.
Boosting the switch
Brooks suggests that if your switch in mind frame needs a little help, make a list of all the ways an upcoming experience will benefit you. Who will be in the audience when you present? How will that make your life better?
Obviously this exercise only works when you’re not reliant on fine motor skills. For instance, I’d not advise surgery under the knife of an excited consultant.
However, the evidence points to more positivity and presence when side-stepping to an excitement reframe from a nervous one.
- Think of an upcoming presentation or other future challenge you have.
- When you think of it, register any anxiety and where it may be in your body e.g. a whirling in your stomach.
- Now you have the snapshot, tell yourself, “I AM EXCITED.” To save yourself getting carried off, do this in your head. It works just as well as out loud…