the expectation is often worse than the event: banish the nerves!

“Disappointment takes adequate planning” – Richard Bandler

I was running a training last week, it was supposed to be a simple communication training, like the type I have run hundreds of times before, but the client kept changing their minds, changing the remit and asking for different things. It came to the point where I had no idea what I was meant to be doing, or what the client wanted (they probably didn’t know either).

I started running nightmare scenarios in my mind that I would deliver the wrong training to a hostile crowd and hardly slept the night before due to nerves (something that hasn’t happened to me for years).

I sorted out the nerves, but still didn’t know what to expect from the training. It ended up being fine, in fact it was good fun, with plenty of interaction and positive feedback.

The event went well, but my expectation of the event turned me into a bundle of nerves.

I can think of dozens of examples where this is the case in my life, from holidays to exams to work.

I have spent days beforehand with that churning in my stomach, running through all the worst possible scenarios and telling myself over and over again “I am really not looking forward to this, I really don’t want to do this” (which of course is the best possible way to get myself in a positive and useful state!), just for the actual event to be good fun or at worst no where near as bad as I was expecting!

Can you think, now, of some examples where this has happened to you?

do this thought experiment:

  1. Think of a time when you were not looking forward to an event, yet it actually went fine (or better than expected), notice the feelings of relief that it went OK.
  2. As you think about it, squeeze your thumb and forefinger together for a few seconds.
  3. Relax for a moment and squeeze your fingers together. Does it bring back the sense of relief? If not repeat steps 1 and 2 until it does.
  4. Think of something you aren’t looking forward to, that you are worrying about. Do you make a picture? Talk to yourself?
  5. If you make pictures of the all the catastrophic things that may go wrong, “push” it off into the distance while squeezing your thumb and forefinger. Does it change the feeling?
  6. If you talk to yourself, change the voice to someone you think is silly (Homer Simpson for example) while squeezing your thumb and forefinger. Does it change the feeling?
  7. Experiment with different combinations of the above to see what works for you.

About Matt Caulfield