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A Little Bit Nervous? Perfect!

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Nervousness can result from many things – a certain situation, a concern about being embarrassed, or a worry about forgetting information (remember having pre-exam fears that you’d forget everything you’d learned for a big test?) Most adults dread feeling nervous and are therefore tempted to eliminate situations that prompt nervousness and the sense of unease that goes along with it. I’m here to tell you that’s a bad idea.

I want you to embrace a little bit of nervousness – and even become friends with it. Expect to have some butterflies on a regular basis because it’s a sign that you are growing and challenging yourself. Total terror is not what I’m recommending. In fact, I am extremely supportive of staying far, far away from terrifying situations. What I am recommending is that you honestly evaluate why some situations make you a bit uncomfortable and a tiny bit anxious – possibly these situations are opportunities for growth and fulfillment. Below are a few examples of how your personal and professional lives can be enriched by overcoming those little butterflies that may be holding you back from some terrific experiences.

Challenge Yourself Physically: Whether you take on your first 5-K race or want to tackle an Ironman, physical challenges require you to harness your physical and mental energies. I ran my first 10-K as a senior in college when my freshman running partner (who had loads of racing experiences behind her) insisted we sign up for a race together. I was nervous; I didn’t know what to expect; and I wasn’t sure it was a great idea. But I reveled in the accomplishment and a few months later ran my first half marathon – all by myself.

Learn a Professional Skill: Looking stupid at work makes most people fairly nervous. Happily there is an entire training industry geared to helping professionals learn new skills while keeping embarrassing moments to a minimum. Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg, writes in her book Lean In that early in her career a colleague was horrified to learn that she did not know the computer program Lotus. She feared being fired. Well guess what? Even Harvard graduates don’t know everything. Challenge yourself to learn a skill that can be added to your professional resume – public speaking classes, computer courses, and certifications in your field await you. Exploring new professional opportunities is a bit nerve-wracking but has many potential benefits.

Travel to a Place that Raises your Curiosity: Breaking out of your daily routine and testing the waters found in a different location can feel a bit uncomfortable. In fact, culture shock is a condition that refers to the physical and psychological symptoms that can occur if someone is abruptly placed in a foreign culture. Immersing yourself in a different culture – wherever that culture may be found – big city, tiny country town, seaside village, or far-flung tropical destination – can enrich your understanding of how your culture impacts your daily habits. Breaking old habits and trying out new habits – like testing out if you actually prefer tea to coffee in the morning – can open your eyes to a brand new world.

Take a leap!  The water’s fine!

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