The Power of Holding Your Nerve and How to Do It
Yet another example this week of a client having to hang in there; not powerless, but just needing to stick with it until either a great result emerges, or something shifts, or they can know for sure it hasn’t worked.
Sometimes, just holding your nerve is the only option. Not because you’ve got nothing left to give (although that can also be the case at times) but simply because the situation isn’t ready to receive any more from you. You’ve done what you can, now you have to wait.
This is a common scene in action movies (think Magnificent Seven perhaps): the band of heroes has dug-in, the defenses are prepared, they’ve done what they can, they’ve used the tools they had. Now they just need to wait until the bad guys show up.
It’s at this point that the people who are not going to be part of the solution will bail. That one guy who you thought might help out decides he’s had enough and, while the Seven are lying there in the dark, he sneaks off into the night, unable to take the tension of waiting.
The bad guys ride into town, and now the leader has to ask everybody to wait just a little bit longer. Open fire too soon and those baddies will turn tail and ride around behind you.
Hold your nerve properly, until the time is on your side, and the day is won.
Three things are important for holding your nerve:
- Really having bought into why you’re doing it,
because if the cause isn’t worth fighting for, you’ll bail when the waiting gets too tough
- Knowing that inaction is not the same as being unable to act,
for resourceful people, waiting is hard. It can seem a lot like being powerless but it’s not; you will survive the waiting, you are not powerless
- Accepting that you have no choice but to wait,
I’m clinging onto this cliff-edge, I’m holding my breath down here for one moment longer, because I have no choice; either I hang-on and hold my nerve or that’s it, game-over – and I don’t want game-over.
Zen Buddhists tell a great story of an old monk who spent sixty years in a monastery searching for enlightenment that hadn’t come to him. On the day he sadly decides to give up and return to a lay-person’s life, the Abbott asks him to sweep the courtyard for one last time before he goes.
Unknown to the monks, the Buddha has decided to visit the monastery that very day and is waiting, disguised as a small stone, hidden under some leaves in the courtyard. The old monk agrees to perform this one last service to his brothers before going and although his heart is breaking with the sadness of leaving, he sweeps the courtyard with loving care. On his very last sweep, the broom catches the hidden Buddha-stone and flicks it against a large clay pot. The ‘chink’ sound of the Buddha-stone striking the pot is so exquisite that the old monk is instantly enlightened.