#028 TCF: How I used this mindset trick to overcome my biggest fear
Listening to Huberman podcast this week I was reminded of a tool I used for years in Biotech anytime I was faced with a challenging or intimidating task.
And it worked EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.
The task usually centered around public speaking. I used to be absolutely terrified of it.
My first experience with public speaking was a course in college. I thought it would be super easy. It was not. I'll never forget our last assignment was giving a speech to the class. The class only had about 8 people in it.
For some reason I chose a really difficult subject, The Trail of Tears, when everyone else chose topics like getting their first pony.
I practiced a ton and had my note cards perfectly outlined in case I got stuck. I thought I was ready. But the second I got up there, I absolutely froze. My heart was pounding out of my chest, my vision got wonky and fuzzy. For the life of me, I couldn't control my breath. I was barely able to get the words out.
Then the tears started rolling.
I'll never forget the look of pity on everyone's face. It felt so humiliating.
Fast forward, 5-6 years and I had my first big shot at leading a Clinical Investigator meeting. I had been assisting but this was my first chance at lead. It also happened to be the pivotal phase 3 study, one that could literally make or break the company. I was charged with giving the protocol and data management presentation. The LONGEST presentation of the day, nearly a 2 hour talk to over 200 people: including my boss, my bosses boss and my bosses, bosses boss! Eek.
The last presentation I had given was the absolute catastrophe in college. I had managed to avoid public speaking up until this point. I was terrified.
Thankfully, I had an incredible manager. She demanded excellence and preparedness. We practiced 3-4 times a week for a month. She would interrupt me mid-presentation with a difficult question, as the Dr's loved to do. By the end, I knew the material inside and out. But that did nothing for easing my fear.
Because fear is not rational. I couldn't prepare my way out of it.
Then I stumbled upon the missing component, a mindset technique. I don't even remember where or how I learned about it. I do remember feeling desperate and willing to try anything short of beta-blockers.😊 And this simple technique changed everything.
Huberman termed it "The Line" and it works like this.
You create an imaginary line and when you cross that line, IT'S BUSINESS TIME.
You're singularly focused on the task at hand.
But here's the important part, you take on the persona of a person who epitomizes how you want to perform.
For my presentation, I wanted to be knowledgeable but also approachable and at ease. I didn't want to just blow through the material. I had to control the pace and encourage questions, discussion, and interaction, even if critical but still move it along.
Well, I didn't sleep for 3 days prior to that presentation. But I used those sleepless nights to visualize leading that meeting, controlling the pace, handling criticism and challenges with ease.
And on the morning of the meeting, I drew my line.
The second the alarm went off and my feet hit the floor; it was business time.
I'm not going to lie when I entered the auditorium and there was a jumbotron because attendance was so large, I had an oh sh*t moment. But I refocused on my breath, smiled, and greeted everyone like this was going to be the funnest, absolute best part of the meeting. And I nailed the presentation.
The big takeaway for me was success is equal parts preparation and mindset. You need both.
Today my life looks a lot different, but I still use 'the Line'.
- When I'm lacking willpower to get in my workout, I use the line.
- When I need to have a difficult conversation and want to stay in a place of empathy and compassion, I use the line.
- When I need to focus and finish a project, I use the line.
- When I want to be fully present and engaged with my husband, family or friends.
The key is, you're not trying to maintain that persona. That would be impossible.
You're just saying for the next hour, it's business time. If you're feeling stuck, intimidated by a task or just want to bring your best. I encourage you to use 'the line'. The possibilities are endless.