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July 18, 2023

It Takes Nerve

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When someone acts courageously and boldly, especially in the face of fear, and gets a good outcome from it, people use the expression - “It takes nerve”. Have you ever slowed down to think about what it actually means?

When we encounter fear, distress, or high-stakes opportunities it provokes a host of emotions. In major cases it could be the fear of death or harm. Poor performance could lead to less respect. Those who perform best in these situations have a way of being able to deal with the stress and anxiety of the situation so that it doesn’t affect them.

In other words, these individuals are great at calming down their nervous system. “It takes nerve”. It takes self-control and nervous system regulation so that their skills are not compromised by the emotion of the circumstances.

That’s what emotions do, they hijack the brain. They make us feel a certain way, causing a physiological response that then changes the mind’s environment. This is why people ‘freeze’ from speaking when they’re nervous, or why they’ll agree to (or say) something something they normally wouldn’t if it weren’t for the heat of the moment. Our cognitive ability is impacted by our emotional environment.

Like a surgeon who makes the perfect cut in a complicated procedure, or the pro athlete who hits the shot when the game is on the line, the people who ‘have nerve’ do a great job of not letting spontaneous emotions impact their overall abilities.

Another more formal term for this is equanimity. It’s a stoic philosophy of not getting too invested in your current emotions because it could lead to biased judgment and performance. 

If you want to get better at performing when the stakes are high, so you can maximize the opportunities in front of you, I’m going to share two things to consider for now. 

First, per this expression, the more you can down-regulate your nervous system, the less distracted you’ll be by your emotions. Slow and deep breathing is a great tactic for doing that. 

Second, preparation is a great antidote to underperforming in the moment. With preparation and repetition you create stronger subconscious imprints for yourself, helping you to take action even when your conscious mind is flooded with emotions.

Overall, the better you start handling these challenging moments, the more self-confidence you’ll develop and the easier it will get to have ‘nerve’ and equanimity moving forward.

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