Excitement Over Nerves: Transforming Performance Anxiety into Success

Welcome to the electrifying world of learning and development, where the thrill of teaching meets the passion for growth. In today's journey, we're diving into a groundbreaking approach that's reshaping how we tackle performance anxiety, especially in high-pressure situations like public speaking, teaching, or even mathematical challenges. This isn't just another pep talk; it's a science-backed strategy that will revolutionize your perspective on nerves and excitement.

The Misguided Advice Epidemic
For years, the go-to advice for calming nerves has been, well, to "calm down." Sounds logical, right? Wrong. This well-meaning but misguided counsel is based on the assumption that suppressing your nerves will lead to better performance. But what if we've been looking at it all wrong? What if the key isn't to dampen those jitters but to reframe and embrace them?

The Science of Excitement
Enter the illuminating research of Alison Wood Brooks from Harvard Business School, whose studies provide us with a fascinating insight. And as you can hear in the podcast episode, those insights filled me with shock! She discovered that when individuals reinterpret their nervous energy as excitement, their performance dramatically improves, whether it's delivering a speech, singing karaoke, or solving math problems under pressure.

The Experiment That Changed Everything
Imagine being told you have to perform in front of a large audience. Your palms are sweaty, heart racing. The instinctive advice might be to calm down. However, Brooks' research suggests a revolutionary alternative: tell yourself "I am excited." This simple mindset shift can significantly enhance performance, accuracy, and even the audience's response.

Why This Works
The explanation is as intriguing as it is practical. Both nervousness and excitement trigger similar physiological responses: increased heart rate, rapid breathing. By labeling these symptoms as excitement, we align our mental state with these physical sensations, leading to improved focus, clarity, and performance.

Applying This Insight
For learning and development professionals, this insight is gold. Next time a trainee expresses nerves, encourage them to reinterpret those feelings as excitement. "You're not nervous; you're excited!" This isn't just positive thinking; it's a strategic reprogramming of our instinctual responses, grounded in scientific evidence.

So, dear trainers, L&D professionals, speakers, and learners worldwide, let's shift our narrative. Embrace the rapid heartbeat as a sign of anticipation, not anxiety. Teach others to do the same. This approach doesn't just transform our performance; it changes our relationship with fear and anxiety, turning them into powerful allies in our quest for success.

Remember, excitement is your superpower. Use it wisely, and watch as you and those you teach soar to new heights, unfettered by the chains of nervousness. Here's to No More Boring Learning, but a future brimming with excitement and achievement!

Still hungry?
Here are a few references to studies that have proven the effectiveness of transforming performance anxiety into success by adopting an excitement perspective:

1. Alison Wood Brooks - "Get Excited
Reappraising Pre-Performance Anxiety as Excitement": This study, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, explores how individuals who reappraise their anxious arousal as excitement feel more excited and perform better. The research suggests minimal strategies such as self-talk (e.g., saying "I am excited" out loud) can lead to improved performance outcomes.

2. Harvard Business School Research
Alison Wood Brooks conducted various studies that show individuals who interpret their nervousness as excitement perform better in tasks such as public speaking, singing karaoke, or solving math problems under pressure.

3. Journal of Experimental Psychology
General, June 2014: The article "Get Excited: Reappraising Pre-Performance Anxiety as Excitement" by A.W. Brooks in this journal discusses the benefits of reappraising pre-performance anxiety as excitement. The study received the Outstanding Dissertation Award by the International Association for Conflict Management in 2013.




Excitement Over Nerves: Transforming Performance Anxiety into Success

12 min