Why you should embrace being nervous about the ‘first time’

Think back to a time when you were preparing for something new. Maybe it was a trip, or an event, or an experience. Doesn’t matter.

Remember how stoked you were leading up to that day? How concentrating on anything else in life was practically impossible? How intense the anticipation associated with a new experience was?

Why did you feel that way? Because you had no idea what to expect, or how you would react.

You experience a certain amount of what I’ll call “good nervous” when it comes to “first times.” Good nervous is a byproduct of hopeful anticipation. A positive, happy outcome is on the horizon for you. You are unable to predict the future, but you sure as hell know something new and exciting is about to happen. You’re slightly worried at times about certain details, but the day cannot come soon enough.

This is such an amazing feeling, isn’t it?

Good nervous cannot occur if the moment you are preparing for will ultimately result in a negative outcome. Its sibling, “bad nervous,” is a byproduct of anxiety, and we do not enjoy anxiety very much.

Bad nervous wears you down. Good nervous keeps you going.

Which is why you should make it a point to perpetually seek out new and exciting experiences.

To be fair, it’s not all downhill after you experience something for the first time. If anything, your urge to recreate an awesome experience will guide your thought process in the future. Your “first time” merely sets the tempo.

Tell me about the good nervous you felt before you did something for the first time.

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25 comments

  1. During freshman year we friends were traveling to this historic place in western part of India. There’s this old fort ruins by an artificial lake. There were local kids diving off the fort wall about 50-60ft high (looked even higher while jumping) into the lake. Even during that age I hardly lost my sanity to stupidity. Not sure if that was teen adrenaline or the booze, I decided to go for it. And I must say I had a thrill of lifetime and never dared to do it again. I guess first time was a thrill & it was enough.

    Btw: I only got married once (still married); and I think I will never try that again too.

    1. Cliff diving a 50-60 footer is getting a little insane. We used to jump off a 30-40 foot cliff when we were kids, and it was definitely a thrill! I probably wouldn’t even go near that cliff today.

  2. Anytime I travel someplace new, I get that “good nervous” feeling. There’s a lot of build up and preparation. When you finally leave your house and board that airplane, a touch of euphoria sets in. It’s like, “What’s done is done – I’m on my way.” I love that new horizon feeling.
    Cool post!

    1. I know the exact feeling you’re describing! That “on my way” feeling is so great. Especially if you have something big planned and you have no idea what to expect.

  3. I remember my first day teaching. I was nervous about striking out on my own without the guidance of someone. I was nervous about finding my way around, and controlling the atmosphere in the classroom. I ended up having a great first day – and many good ones after that 🙂

    1. I would be terrified if I had to teach a roomful of kids solo. Was it a mixture of “good nervous” and “bad nervous” for you? It sounds like your great first day really helped relax your nerves. Things get a little easier for me if I can just get over that initial hurdle and realize “hey, I can do this.”

      Which grade do you teach? My mom teaches fourth grade. It’s amazing to watch her instantly tame 25 knuckleheads, no problem.

      1. Definately a good nervous as teaching was something I wanted to do. My first day on the job I taught grade 10 to grade 12 English second language. Since then I have taught many other grades.

  4. Stepping off a train at Victoria Station in London, then walking outside to the centre of London.. Both experiences were completely exhilarating and a bit frightening. We knew it was a very big place, very congested and full of people, but had no idea just how insane it was. It is fun being small town hicks from Saskatchewan. I had never been anywhere like that before. Not able to duplicate it. It was good that we picked a country that spoke English though, and would highly recommend that to anyone.

    1. I think what you’re describing—feeling completely exhilarated and frightened at the same time—is exactly what being “good nervous” is all about. You guys really know how to travel, John.

  5. I would disagree with your lead off.
    The first experience has the virtue of being unique, but doing things more (skiing, climbing, diving, etc) brings new thrills in the sense of going farther, or understanding better.

    1. Excellent observation, my friend. I was referring more to the anticipation associated with doing something for the first time. I think this particular feeling is rather intense, and is hard to beat after you have completed the initial experience. The feeling you’re referring to is not an exact replication of your “first time.”

      For example, skydiving the first time has to be more intense on an emotional level than your 100th time. You have a good point, though. The 100th jump will be just as awesome, because you are able to keep pushing yourself forward.

      Maybe you’re right about the headline. How do you define “best”? Yes, the first time I went snowboarding was great because I finally linked turns after bashing my face on the ice all day. But 15 seasons later I’m going steeper and deeper. The fun never quits. The “good nervous” is always present. Was the first day the best? Not exactly. Crap.

      Any suggestions on a new headline?

    2. OK, I just changed the headline to reflect the real purpose of the post. Hope it’s a little better. Thanks for the feedback, Guap.

      1. I was originally going to title it “Whitney Houston dead at 48” but felt that it didn’t properly convey what I was getting at.

  6. Wow…so many to choose from here…

    What comes to mind is when I first flew into Sydney. I had lived in Australia for nearly a year at this point but this was my first opportunity to visit Sydney. Even though I had been to the outback, the Great Barrier Reef, had seen kangaroos (even one in my front yard!), and so many other Australian icons….seeing the Opera House and the Sydney harbor from the plane made me feel like I was just seeing Australia for the very first time! It was an amazing feeling…I can’t describe how excited, and yes nervous (good nervous!) I became. I left the airport, by train, to meet a friend at Circular Quay. On the train I was so damn excited that I had to announce my excitement to the hand-full of bored looking Sydney commuters sharing my train car….who all laughed and welcomed me to Sydney. I so wanted to call someone, ANYONE, and say….’Do you know where the hell I am right now?!!’

    And yes, the original title of this post did kinda throw me off at first. Nice change.

    1. This is a perfect description of good nervous, Alex! Reading it, I can sense your excitement. I love that feeling of just wanting to call anyone!

      I find it interesting that you were already in Australia for nearly a year, but still felt like you were seeing Australia for the first time when you flew into Sydney.

  7. Today, The Viking and I went to a tropical zoo. We were very excited about this, since we knew that half of the animals walk or fly or crawl around free. I touched a snake, a sloth, monkeys, we did some treetop walking (and we suffer from vertigo) with crocodiles beneath us and walked into a very dark cave filled with bats… I am terrified of bats actually and I could feel them flying against my body and head. At some point I thought about leaving the cave, but I didn’t! Quite an experience and I can’t wait to conquer some more fears.

    1. Way to hang in there! The bat cave sounds a little creepy, but you stuck it out. Your good nervous won this time. Well done!

      Sloths are really interesting to watch! I find them amusing. They don’t do much, of course.

  8. Sailing for the first time in Resurrection Bay. Had those kind of nerves that you can translate to excitement. White-knuckling the wheel while docking a 47′ boat…and loved it more and more every second. This summer? The seller of a 35′ sailboat just accepted our offer. Guess we’ll be sailing…can’t wait!
    Greetings from north of the Arctic Circle.

    1. Hey Barbra and Jack! Nice of you to stop by! Sailing is one of those cost-prohibitive hobbies I have always wanted to pursue, so I have to admit I envy what you two are doing. Congratulations on the new sailboat! Any idea where you’re headed this summer?

      1. This summer, we’ll sail around Resurrection Bay in the southern part of Alaska. If all goes well, we plan on jogging the boat on any part of the big blue for 2-3 months every summer. Big ideas and big plans…stay tuned!

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