Get Excited: Reappraising Pre-Performance Anxiety as Excitement

Get Excited: Reappraising Pre-Performance Anxiety as Excitement

excitement-620x250Alison Wood Brooks
Harvard Business School

Individuals often feel anxious in anticipation of tasks such as speaking in public or meeting with a boss.I find that an overwhelming majority of people believe trying to calm down is the best way to cope with pre-performance anxiety.However,across several studies involving karaoke singing,public speaking,and math performance,I investigate an alternative strategy:reappraising anxiety as excitement.Compared with those who attempt to calm down,individuals who reappraise their anxious arousal as excitement feel more excited and perform better.Individuals can reappraise anxiety as excitement using minimal strategies such as self-talk (e.g., saying “I am excited”out loud)or simple messages(e.g.,“get excited”),which lead them to feel more excited, adopt an opportunity mind-set (as opposed to a threat mind-set),and improve their subsequent performance.These findings suggest the importance of arousal congruency during the emotional reappraisal process.
During World War II, England’s Ministry of Information commissioned a public safety slogan:“Keep Calm and Carry On.”Sixty years later,the slogan resurfaced and went viral, with hundreds of thousands of retail products and derivative slogans dominating Internet marketplaces by 2007.In an attempt to explain the popularity of the slogan,one New York Times writer conjectured that it “resonated all over the world”(Walker, 2009).In the current
article,I investigate the pervasiveness of this conventional wisdom and test its effectiveness compared with an alternative strategy:reappraising anxiety as excitement.

Get Excited: Reappraising Pre-Performance Anxiety as Excitement

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