I love to feel organized and prepared – to know that I’ve done everything possible to give me a fighting chance to succeed.  Whether it’s a structured training plan in the run up to a sporting event, or pulling together a presentation to pitch to a prospective new client, I always start with the end in mind and work backwards to formulate a plan. Is that a yawn I hear?  Well, let me tell you, this is not your usual preparation. 

I’m not talking about studying content or expertise so that I can discuss a topic with confidence, or tailoring my training regime to target specific muscle groups depending on what I’m training for (although, of course, I do those things too), no, I’m talking about something which is normally overlooked and something which will almost certainly trip you up if you fail to prepare – I’m talking about mental preparation.

Whether you’re getting yourself ready to speak on stage, interview for your dream job, or even run a 10k race, your mental game needs to be spot on.  

Being mentally prepared will set you apart from the rest, and will give you your best chance of success. 

Let’s face it, we’ve all been there – that familiar flush of heat rising in your face, the dry mouth and rapid heart rate – all of this is simply your body’s physiological response to stress.  It’s your body’s way of keeping you out of harm’s reach, and giving you the option to either fight, take flight or to freeze – but in this day and age this response is not always helpful (unless you’re being chased by a bear, in which case your body is doing the right thing and is pumping blood to your legs so you can the hell out of there!).

I used to get this same response in my body before I would step out onto a rugby pitch.  I would be full of nervous energy and my tummy would be fluttering as my body was telling me not to go out there and play (it was literally screaming at me “Wake up Michelle, you’re going to get hurt, so you need to do something to remove yourself from this situation!”) and I would burn myself out before the game and then be utterly exhausted by the time I got onto the pitch – as you can imagine, that response was not particularly helpful to me when faced with 15 elite athletes who were fired up and ready to go into combat on the pitch!

Luckily for me, I had a huge realization after speaking with one of my coaches, and it changed my game forever.  Not only that, but it’s also changed the way I approach many things in life and in particular, it helps me to mentally prepare myself for any event.  What’s more, I’ve found over the years of working with my Coaching clients that these mental preparation tips can be absolute game changers when it comes to getting yourself set up for success for an event. 

So, sit back and enjoy, here are my 3 top tips to help you take back control of your nerves and harness that energy to ensure that you perform at your best;

1. To give yourself a fighting chance of success you need to create your plan of attack

Grab a notebook and pen, you’re going to be asking yourself some questions here.  Start with the end in mind here and ask yourself;

How do you want to feel when you walk out of that *insert scenario/interview/event here*? 

What impression do you want to leave your audience with? 

Now consider where you are at this point in time – what is going to get you from where you are now, to where you want to be? 

So, as an example, you might want to come across as being well prepared and confident – what can you do between now and the event to ensure you show up as the best version of yourself?  How do you make sure you’re prepared in any situation?  When do you usually feel most confident?  Think about specific situations that bring on these feelings for you and think about the specific habits that get you into that state – dust off and practice these habits ahead of the event.

2. Now, let’s now consider what you’re telling yourself in the run up to the big day 

Given that the physiological response to stress is very similar to the physiological response to excitement, a simple reframe can often go a long way to helping you to not only deal with the sensation but will also ensure you experience this response in a completely different way.  Way back when I was playing rugby, my brain was reacting to the scenario and before the game my mind was telling me ‘Oh I’m so nervous, why do I feel like this? I bet no one else is feeling like this’ and so many other negative questions and statements.  What my coach actually said to me that day was ‘Michelle, that’s your body telling you you’re ready for the game’ and, for me, that was a lightbulb moment – I chose to switch out the word ‘nervous’ for the word ‘ready’ and it changed my entire perception of the experience.  I would still get the fluttering in my stomach but my internal voice was saying ‘Awesome, I’m ready’ and in that moment I was able to harness the nervous energy and hold it back until I needed to access it on the pitch. Changing my inner self talk literally changed my game.  Have a listen to your inner chat – is it helping or hindering you?  The great news is that you have a choice – you can change that voice!  Think about what is going to help you to be at your best for your event, what do you need to be telling yourself on the day – remember, you’re in control!

3. My final tip is to get yourself into the optimal state

So many people miss this crucial step, but this one is going to make all the difference and it will also determine your experience on the day.  By that I mean whether you ‘just get through it’ or whether you actually relish the opportunity and enjoy the chance to shine (see what I did there with the reframe?!)!

Now, by ‘state’, what I mean is how you feel in your body, the level of energy you have and how focused you’re feeling.  Revisit your plan and consider how you want to actually FEEL when you walk onto that stage/into that interview/up to the starting line – have you been in that state before and if so, what got you there?  I want you to think outside the box here, if you want to feel energised, move your body beforehand, dance, walk, whatever it is that does that for you…but plan it into your preparation.  Whatever you do don’t skip over this step!

So there you have it – my three top tips to get you mentally prepared to tackle any challenge! And most of all, remember – by having committed to this event you’re already further ahead than you think – you’ve totally got this!

Prepare yourself mentally, then go smash it!