Racing can be nerve-wracking. I’m new to it, but of that much I am certain. Days before a race, I used to always find myself with butterflies in my stomach, nervous for what lay ahead. The source of the fear was probably not what you’d expect, however. It was not anticipation for a particular outcome. It was not concern about a flat, or the possibility of a crash. Consistently, my nervousness came down to a fear of the start line.
Seriously, those 40 seconds leading up to the official blowing the whistle to kick off the race felt like my worst enemy. Days before the event, I would wake up from nervous dreams, always of me waiting at the start line. Sometimes in my dreams I would arrive too late, missing the race. Other times, it was just the anticipation and suspense that lay in the wait.
As soon as the whistle sounded and it was go time, however, the nerves always dissipated. Realizing this, it became my mission to get over the anxiety of the start. The answer? A smile. A smile is so simple that it can easily be overlooked. Yet, there is so much power and potential in a positive attitude. I learned I no longer felt nervous about the race start when I adopted a cheerful, happy mindset. It starts with just a smile: suddenly a wave of calm passes over you, which may even help soothe the nerves of those around you.
It may just be placebo, but I do believe there’s something powerful about facing a challenge with a positive attitude. Suddenly, the obstacle in front of you shrinks and seems that much more possible to overcome.
Since realizing this, I tested this approach elsewhere. On and off the bike, there is just so much strength that comes from a positive attitude. At work, in your personal life, you name it. When you smile and think about the positives in a situation, you rewire the way your mind is thinking in that moment to make your nerves fade off into the distance.
Here’s how it works. Let’s say you’re walking into a meeting. It’s a big one and you’ve prepared, but you feel a lot of pressure to deliver. If you’re focusing on the outcome you want (let’s say you want your boss to recognize your hard work), walking into that meeting is going to feel pretty stressful.
However, if you change your mindset to focus on what is within your control at that moment, everything changes. Focus on specific things within your reach that make you feel good: maybe you’re excited about the topic you’re presenting, the chance to express that excitement, or the fact that you know what you’re talking about.
Personally, I like to focus on connections. I love connecting with people and learn that I feel so much better when I embrace my love for connections in situations that could make me nervous. For example, if you’re about to give that presentation and know you’ll be interacting with others, strive to feel good about the ability to make that connection. Importantly, you need to find genuine enjoyment in the process of connecting. Here is what you do: walk in, smile, make positive remarks, and actually mean it. Very quickly, your brain will start trying to figure out the next positive thing you can say, and you’ll turn an entrance that could be nerve-wracking into a friendly exchange. This process allows you to embrace what could otherwise seem scary, making the presentation feel more like a collaboration, less like a judgment. Social collaboration tends to be associated with positive emotions, reinforcing how you feel.
Without the fear bringing you down, you can fully embrace challenges in a confident, strong manner that reminds you that you are capable of so much.
At a race, at work, going out on a date, try it out! All you need is a smile 🙂