Being nervous, anxious, worried, or scared has a predictable affect on your mind. Tunnel vision sets in. You revert to your most rehearsed behaviors for safety. You become literal-minded. Have you ever tried telling a joke or being sarcastic with someone who is in this state of mind? Notice how they don’t quite get what you are talking about right away. These people have difficulty understanding even semi complex material. Creativity and flexible thinking go out the window.

Creativity and flexible thinking are absolutely essential in a sport like wrestling where there is no set routine. On board course corrections become necessary. How well do you think a wrestler in this mindset will make appropriate adjustments in the middle of competition. Again remember, we tend to revert to our most rehearsed behavior while nervous. Now think about taking a final exam. Many tests are difficult because the teacher/professor asks you to apply the knowledge that you know. Multiple choice and fill in the blank questions may be easy if you studied adequately, but what happens when you are presented with familiar material and you are asked to do something novel with it? This often trips people up. Typically when the teacher goes over the test, after the fact, we see the simple adjustments and application that should have been obvious to us beforehand because we did, “know the material.”

When you panic, creativity and flexible thinking are out the window. Imagine now you are on an interview and the interviewer asks how you would react in a novel scenario. How might your nervousness affect the quality of your answer? Keep in mind, this phenomenon occurs regardless of your skill level. Panic, fear, nervousness will block you from achieving your potential. You can still perform well despite this feeling, you can succeed, but wouldn’t you rather bring out the you that you know is within you- your potential?

Here’s the remedy- happiness- being in a good mood. The next time you feel nervous, begin to act the opposite way. Fake it till you make it if you have to. Better yet, fake it till you feel it. Keep the “tense” atmosphere light-hearted. Joke around. Smile. Pre-plan ways to make yourself smile and laugh during these situations. Some coaches and teachers may not like this because they think you are not taking the situation seriously, but they just don’t understand this important lesson. This is crucial to your success, especially in situations that require you to make adjustments and react in novel ways.

Get good at laughing at yourself and mistakes. Stop taking yourself so seriously. Most people don’t care about you, they’re too busy thinking how they look. Practice how you will look and feel before, during, and after a competition, or test, or interview. See yourself smiling and enjoying yourself out there. You will be surprised how well you perform when you stop taking yourself so serious, let go, and have fun. Flexible thinking, adapting, creativity will be open to you from now on.