Nick Foles had all kinds of weapons at his disposal for the Super Bowl in what turned out to be a total team performance. Two incredibly skilled running backs to hand the ball off to; a daring, determined coach; a cadre of talented receivers; a fantastic offensive line; and an athletic defense.
But no weapon may have been as potent as a pre-game text he received from his friend, New Orleans Saints quarterback (and future hall-of-famer) Drew Brees. The two quarterbacks went to the same Texas high school (a decade apart) and became fast friends because of the tie. Foles told the press about the text he got from Brees:
"A lot of the messages I'll keep to myself, but the big thing was going into this game, he just reminded me that it's just football. There's a lot going on, pre-game, a longer pre-game, a big half-time show, but at the end of the day when you're out there, the game will settle down, and it'll just be football."
It's just football.
Even on the biggest stage of Foles's life, with literally millions of armchair quarterbacks waiting to throw their beer cans at the screen, it's just football. Given what Foles has been going through with his wife having serious health problems and a terrible prior year with the St. Louis Rams that nearly made him retire, it's just football.
Foles went on to say that the sentiment of the text was true and that it settled him down. A settled Foles meant he leveraged one of his greatest strengths, what fellow Eagle players have called "tremendous poise." That poise led Foles to Super Bowl MVP honors.
That's the power of keeping things in perspective.
The fact is, Brees's advice is a powerful reminder to keep things in perspective before any big event you're facing. The sentiment "it's just football" underscores the point that we can't elevate any event in our life, no matter how seemingly big, to a point where it impedes our performance in that very event or destroys our ability to enjoy it.
Big speech to give? It's just a speech.
Big meeting next week? It's just a meeting.
Big interview tomorrow? Well, you know...
Now, I get that this is easier said than done. Even if it's just a meeting, it's an important one and you still want to do your best, no? So what else can you do to calm your mind and help keep things in perspective in advance of (and during) a big event so that you can just...perform?
1. Create muscle memory.
Nothing stills the mind like knowing you're prepared. I mean like preparing to the point where rehearsal, repetition, and background work has your "output" so ingrained that muscle memory kicks in even when stress is running high. Not surprisingly, Foles prepared like a fiend for the big game.
As a professional speaker, I always employ this tactic. I rehearse until I could do the talk backward. Then, even if I'm nervous before getting on a stage in front of thousands, I know I'm ready and a calm takes over because I've done everything I can to be ready. At that point, it's easy to say to myself, "It's just a speech," because I know it's just a speech where very little is likely to go wrong.
2. Find your anchor.
New, scary experiences make us feel like we're untethered; like we're drifting in the wind when we yearn to have our feet on the ground. In such times, recall what won't change, even from a bad outcome, like your connection with your family, your core values, your desire to become the best version of yourself, etc. In other words, all the things that really matter.
Foles was clear that his wife and daughter were his anchors all the way up to game time.
3. Come from a place of service.
It's easier to focus on executing with excellence when you're worried about how the outcome will serve others rather than being distracted by how it will reflect on you.
Big speech to give? It's not about you, it's about the audience.
Big meeting? It's about serving the team and helping them succeed or advancing a higher-order goal, not just about looking good.
Big interview? Are you focused on how you could best serve the job/company versus yourself?
When you're focused on bringing an attitude of being in service to an event you're more forgiving of and less distracted by errors you're making along the way and will less harshly judge yourself--people appreciate being served after all. Foles is so focused on serving others that he's talked about being a pastor after football.
So if you want to crush your next pressure cooker outing like Nick Foles did, give yourself some pre-game MVP messaging (Most Valued Perspective).