How To Train Your Brain to Choose Excitement Over Fear
Stepping onto the track, your feet slide into the starting blocks. You bend over to place your hands on either side of the white line. Your track number is flapping in the wind, brushing your chin — flap, flap, flap. As you settle in, your heartbeat increases from a flutter to a consistent and strong beat. Thump, Thump, THUMP. Your eyes sharpen and you can see the finish line. Every cell in your body tenses and relaxes, recoiling like a spring ready to be launched. Silence settles in and you wait for the…BANG. You take flight, pushing with all your might. Driving your legs into the starting blocks. Blasting off down the track. In a flash, you cross the finish line…FIRST!
After the race you just won, you feel elated, jumping up and down, pointing your fingers at family and friends in the crowd. You are in frenzy and everyone is feeding off your ENERGY. The rush intensifies as you step onto the podium and accept your reward. Following the event, you are asked a few questions by a reporter. One question sticks out in your mind, “Did you feel nervous?” You quickly answer “NO!” because you have just won and put in hundred of hours of effort and it all paid off with a victory. Nervous could be farther from the truth. In fact, you actually feel excited! Nervousness doesn’t exist in the moment of action because it would prevent your mind and body from letting go, giving you the victory.
While you may never experience a huge athletic victory in your life, we all have opportunities to have victories which result in a feeling of fear or excitement or what I like to call, BANG moments. When broken down scientifically, feelings are a combination of chemical messengers we call hormones. Your body responds to hormones with particular emotions like joy, happiness, or fulfillment under the right mindset. When you tell yourself that you’re nervous, your body will respond by releasing hormones, causing you to feel fear. Similarly, when you tell yourself you’re excited, the body will respond by releasing the SAME hormones, causing you to feel excitement. Essentially, mindset is everything. Our minds are the true master of our emotional body and our bodies will respond by turning our thoughts into feelings. We are feeling-making machines!
According to human evolution, fear is a protection mechanism by the body to prevent you from taking risks that may end your life. Literally, fear comes from a prehistoric genetic imprinting to protect our bodies from death, so that we may live to reproduce. Your brain is in a constant battle (or so it thinks), to protect you from things it perceives as deadly. There are not a lot of things or people out to kill you today, so fear doesn’t have a very productive place in modern society anymore. In order to be in the moment of action, we must learn to access excitement in spite of feeling fear.
So the question is: if fear and excitement both come from very similar places, how do we create more excitement in our lives? The answer is choose different. And what do I mean by that? Be aware in the BANG moments — a moment before a big event in your life or something that may trigger the butterflies — choose to be excited. This choice allows your body to recognize that this is not fear, but instead, this is excitement for something new and great that is about to happen in your life. When you embrace the big moments in this way, you will begin to notice a shift. I am a huge believer that the universe gives you what you are ready for and open to, so be ready to be excited. Have the mindset that you are going to be excited now when your boss gives you an assignment that typically would make you feel fear and unprepared. Get excited for that new job, new relationship, or anything that usually caused you to stop in your tracks in the past and not take action. Hell, fake it till you make it, if you have to. So next time you hear the BANG in your life, choose excitement, get in the starting blocks and GO!
**Simon Sinek’s analogy of nerves and athletics has inspired me to write this article and become more aware of my FEELINGS and how I react. He has decided to choose excitement as his FEELING and reminds himself that fear only results in inaction in his life. You can watch a short clip on Simon’s viewpoint on fear vs. excitement here.