Twenty five years ago and I am sitting in a parked car at the Military Corrective Training Centre (MCTC) in Colchester (some of my older readers will know that the MCTC was known as the ‘Glass House’ where soldiers who had ‘sinned’ were rehabilitated and returned to their units as “better” people) and the person marching towards me is the Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM).  I haven’t done anything wrong – yet!  I am about to take my driving test and the RSM is a Qualified Examiner.  Now, there was a time when I would have been experiencing extreme nerves at the prospect of something like this (an RSM coming towards me and/ or taking my driving test) but now I was calm and in control.  I was even looking forward to getting started.

So what changed and how was I able to control my nerves?

Do you suffer from nerves?  If so, I am hoping my post will help you in the work place (if you are a runner then this will be a bonus too) and before your next event.

Forty minutes before my driving test I went through the normal routine I would perform before an Athletics Race – much to the amusement of my driving instructor who was taking me to the examination centre.  It consisted of:

  • Getting out the car and sitting down on the grass and completing a visualisation exercise, closing my eyes and visualising driving well and passing my test
  • Deep breathing exercises and imagining my heart beat slowing down – and then it does!
  • Stretching exercises from my head to my toes – I know, it must have been a spectacle for anyone passing by, but it worked for me
  • Making sure I was wearing my favourite clothes and they were the right attire for the occasion

A pre-race routine would also involve going for a 1 mile jog, 10 x 100m strides and going to the toilet at least twice!

So what are my 5 top tips for controlling nerves before the big event?

  1. Give yourself a good talking to! Breakdown what it is you are about to do then ask yourself what would you be nervous about?  What is the worst that could happen if you failed?  Have you been through something similar which is important to you, if so how did you get through it?  You can do this.
  2. A Routine. My pre-race routine is not much different from the routine I go through before any presentation I am delivering, or workshop I am facilitating.  Do it often and consistently and it will become the norm.  Having a routine that works for you is also calming.
  3. Change your mental attitude. Rather than saying “I will see how it goes” or “I will do my best and see what happens” change the mantra to “This is the result I am aiming for”.  Writing it down and/or telling others will cement your commitment.
  4. Relentless focus on what you are about to do cuts out any distractions to the point they just become background noise.
  5. I recommend you do this twice before the event.  When you wake up in the morning imagine how your day is going to pan out in a positive and inspiring way.  Then repeat this an hour before the actual event.

A Post It for tackling your nerves:

  • Prior Planning and Preparation Prevents a P**S Poor Performance (the 7 x Ps). Put this down on a ‘post it’ and look at it often

You will neutralise your nerves if you follow a routine that works for you methodically on every occasion.  Beating your nerves is something you can WIN.

Footnote:  I passed my driving test.  Typically of the Army, my Boss knocked on my door and said he had fixed me up with a course on the Tuesday and that my Test would be on the Friday “and you had better pass it!”