This week I finally launched my book ” Firefighting from within” and with the 2012 London Olympics fast approaching, I am suddenly reminiscent of when I was very young, suffering from bullying, harassment and racism at school, and how I used sports to deal with the anxiety and nervousness caused by the bullying. Picture this:
Imagine you’re going to a popular event but am lost. You drive down a road when you come across a busy intersection. All the cars in front of you turn left. You know others probably want to head where you are going so you also turn left. Mile-by-mile as you drive, cars veer off. It’s not too long until you’re the only person on the road. You feel lost and confused. Your travel and experiences in this story are the same as your journey in finding a cure for nervousness. You are brought up to believe nerves are bad so you go for a drive, following others only to find yourself more lost. Along your journey for a cure to nervousness, you follow others in the belief it must be removed. With many systems, an object is removed when believed it limits the whole. This is fine when you need to kill a bug to grow a plant, but you cannot do the same with emotions and feelings. The danger with thinking you need to remove nervousness is the pathology you are broken and wronged. Don’t you just feel bad thinking something is wrong with you? You can learn a lot about mental and emotional states from sports. I love learning about sports performance and participated in a study recently to do with how music affects basketball. Athletes are told by sports psychologists they need to get in an “optimal state of positiveness, not get angry, and not get nervous”. Well it turns out an individual performs different functions of a sport best in different states. When I competed in athletics I sometimes also played basketball on my active rest days. I discovered my defense in basketball is best when I’m mildly angry. Where as if I’m frustrated when shooting the ball, I make bad choices like not passing the ball when I should have. The idea you must not be nervous is engraved in our culture because of distorted thinking. Public speakers think nerves make them stumble words, athletes think nerves make them choke, and those looking to improve relationships think nerves ruin their ability to meet people. It kind of makes sense, right? I don’t believe these are true. If you’re in conversation, yes, it’s hard to listen to people when fighting nervousness. HOWEVER, it’s not hard to listen when you’re nervous. It’s the fight with nerves that makes you not listen. By monitoring your internal world and trying to control it, I believe you lose out in the external world. ”So you may ask, I’m not suppose to remove my nerves. I hate it. What am I suppose to do?” How you “hold” the experience of nerves is the problem. Or you may ask “how do I fix my anxiety?” If you hate being nervous or if you want to get rid of anxiety, you’re still taking the left-turn at the intersection. Be okay with nerves. Give yourself permission to be anxious. This is the first step to take along your path. One of the greatest golfers, Tiger Woods, said you cannot expect to feel the same on the golf course as you do when watching television. Woods gave himself permission to feel nerves on the first tee. Will you give yourself permission to be nervous when meeting people? An anxiety expert I spoke to recently was an assistant professor of psychology when he had a panic attack in front of colleagues. Yes, an expert of the mind. He used all the popular self-help methods and nothing worked. The breakthrough came when he realized, “If I’m going to have a panic attack, well, they’ll see it.” From that day he hasn’t had a panic attack, but in my interview with him, he said a panic attack is welcome to return any time. That is the acceptance you want.
To find out more about my journey on how to master the tools of life even during tough times — download my book ” Firefighting from within” right here.