You've worked hard. You feel like you've been preparing for this your whole life. And now you're ready.
As nervousness sets in, your feet get chilly. Palms sweaty. "Am I really as ready as I thought?" you ask yourself.
No matter how primed you are for a specific event, it's natural for doubt to set in. As countless variables shift and change, so does your perspective. Did you get a poor night's sleep? Did you make an unusual mistake? Those small occurrences greatly affect mood and morale.
But nothing's really changed. Everyone makes mistakes. You're just as ready as you were before the nerves set in.
So how do you build the resolve and fortitude to get you through?
Here are five tips to get your groove back:
1. Strike a power pose.
I first learned this technique after watching social psychologist and HBS Professor Amy Cuddy's now famous TED talk, Your Body Shapes Who You Are. In it, Cuddy presents research stating that standing up straight with your hands on your hips for two minutes (known as 'the Wonder Woman') can actually increase hormone levels leading to feelings of assertiveness and confidence.
So before you head into that next big moment, take two minutes to perform your own power pose.
As Cuddy says: 'When you pretend to feel powerful, you're more likely to actually feel powerful.'
2. Take time to reflect on your successes.
It's amazing how quickly we forget how good we are at something. If you crush a presentation, or if your project does exceedingly well, take time afterwards to document it. What worked? Why did it work? How could you make it even better?
Your note might look something like this:
Hi me, reminder: Project x was one of the best results you've ever achieved. Everyone raved about how much value it provided, especially the following three points: ____. It was one of the best moments of your career! Next time, do this too: ____. It'll be even better!
Then, set an electronic reminder or put the note where you can't miss it before next time. It'll help you remember how well things went, and bring back the confidence you've already built.
3. Conduct a dry run.
Over the past 20 years, I've given hundreds of presentations. You know what the biggest difference is between a presentation that's good and great?
Practicing out loud.
I may know my subject and material well, but the words always sound different coming out of my mouth than they do in my head. That leads to adjustments, but I feel 10 times more confident with a presentation I recently practiced (even if I've given it before).
It works for others, too: Professional athletes visualize their big moment repeatedly on the field or playground. Airline pilots, heart surgeons, firemen: They all use simulations as a training ground.
Whatever your mission, take time to go through it, step by step. Remember: Practice makes perfect.
And perfect makes confident.
4. Show interest in others.
People love to talk about themselves--its human nature.
Take advantage of that fact, and train yourself to be a good listener. Ask good questions. Don't be superficial, but don't interrogate, either. Make it your goal to learn something interesting about the other person.
If you're genuinely interested in others, others will be genuinely interested in you.
And that breeds confidence, too.
5. Dress for success.
"Give a girl the right pair of shoes and she can conquer the world."
The way we dress can really affect our mood: Think about how you feel when you're wearing your best suit or favorite dress.
So make sure you look good for those big moments. And don't forget the details: Even a new pair of socks or earrings can make a big difference.
Because when you look good, you feel good. And when you feel good, you do good.
It's true what they say: We are our worst critics.
Convince yourself first, and everybody else will be easy.