One of the goals was built on a small hill of sand, I tried to figure out weather or not that would be an advantage.
Walking back home from the practice, I started to think of an important question. Before going to that game I was nervous. And I just thought we were going to be a few people messing around. I did not want to go, it would have been much easier to bale. The question was:
Why are we scared of things that are not dangerous?
The short answer is: You have a monkey brain.
Our brain is designed to survive. Not to be happy and enjoy giving presentations (or practicing a sport you suck at). We are hard wired to notice problems. Real ones and potential ones.
While handy when living on the Savannah, our brain creates problem for us in our urban everyday life.
It makes us sweat and feel bad before presentations, it makes us postpone making that sales call and it makes us avoid the conversation that should have been had with your partner weeks ago.
In all of these scenarios our brains job is to imagine what can go wrong and make you obsess over it.
While well intended, it’s not very helpful. In fact, it’s very unhelpful.
The good news is that we train ourselves to handle our anxious brains.
How to deal with anxiety?
“The coward and the hero feel the same thing, it’s how they act that is the difference” – Cus D’Amato,
There are three steps to dealing with the anxiety.
1) Notice the anxiety
The first thing when we feel anxious is to notice the feeling, to step out of the feeling and observe it.
We need to watch the feeling, and ourselves in order to address it.
You can’t throw the Frisbee if you are the Frisbee, as a wise man once told me.
2) Become grateful
The second step is to decrease the immediate anxiety. You can’t be grateful and worried at the same time.
This is done by making a list. Write down five things that you are grateful for, persons in your life, items you own or the weather. I does not matter what it is. Then close your eyes and visualize the five things on your list.
Now your mind-set has started to shift from anxious to grateful.
3) See the opportunities
When you are in a grateful state of mind, think about what opportunities the challenge brings.
Last week I had to make a presentation in Spanish. My Spanish is not that good and I was nervous. I felt bad for days.
I made a list of opportunities:
- I get to practice public speaking
- I get to practice Spanish
- I get to practice not caring about what other people think
After doing these 3 steps I find that anxiety is decreased every time.
Why do things that are uncomfortable?
Why not strive for a life without anxiety?
The alternative to the approach of dealing with anxiety is to avoid things that are uncomfortable.
To not make the sales call, keep postponing the big talk and bailing on the presentation.
This is a bad idea.
There are three good reasons to why we should keep putting ourselves in uncomfortable situations.
1) Greater comfort-zone
Every time you go through an uncomfortable situation you will have one more experience under the belt. Since I made the presentation in barley understandable Spanish I’m not as nervous about presentations in my mother tongue.
Another way to look at it is as an investment. You invest in increasing your comfort zone. The dividends are less anxiety down the road.
2) Meet interesting people
The best way to meet interesting people is to become interesting. An interesting person is someone who has done interesting things. There are no interesting things in the comfort zone. The interesting stuff is outside. Go get it.
3) Collect good stories
There are no good stories in the comfort zone either. I really wanted to bail out of that football practice in Paje, Zanzibar.
But I’m glad I didn’t. That practice was one of the most memorable experiences of my whole year.
Summary and Next Step
- All of us have a monkey brain. Your brains’ job is to figure out what can go wrong and make you obsess about it.
- You can handle the anxiety in three steps.
- Notice the anxiety. Observe it.
- Make a list five things that you are grateful for
- Make a list of things you will improve if you follow through
- Why not avoid uncomfortable situations?
- You will increase your comfort-zone
- You will become interesting
- You will collect great stories
Use the anxiety as a compass. Go where you feel uncomfortable.
Your goal should not be to avoid anxiety.
Your goal should be to become great at dealing with these negative feelings. Your goal should be to seek out things that make you uncomfortable. You goal should be to never stop growing.
What can you do today?
Think about something that you are worrying about today. Then do these three things:
- Then notice the feeling of discomfort.
- Make a list of things in your life that make you feel grateful.
- Make a list of skills you get to practice if you follow through on the task.
Then go do it.
And don’t forget, if you feel confused – Just look at the faces, man.