The late great thespian Laurence Olivier was said to be so nervous before stage performances he needed a bucket in the wings in case he lost his dinner. Robert Pattinson has admitted to hating auditions with a passion because, “I get so nervous, like cripplingly nervous.” And Emma Stone has confided that she often needs to use coping strategies to deal with occasional panic attacks. There are many ways to deal with nerves and anxiety in relation to auditions and acting including deep breathing, positive visualizations, vigilant preparation, listening to soothing music, and consistent sleep, exercise and meditation. But, possibly the simplest and most effective advice in regards to acting nerves comes from the one and only Matt Damon. Matt is an Academy Award winner, and A-lister, and he’s acted alongside many legendary actors in his young life. Not to mention he’s kicked serious butt as the unstoppable Jason Bourne! Matt’s advice to deal with nerves is to simply “make a decision to not be nervous.” This is actually advice he received from Tom Hanks on the set of Saving Private Ryan. In this Australian ABC News interview, Matt shares the first time he heard this helpful approach:

“I was asking [Tom] about the movie he did with Jackie Gleason. I said, ‘What was it like to work with Jackie Gleason?’ And he thought about it for a second and he said, ‘You know, I made a decision to not be nervous.’ And I went, ‘What?’ And he goes, ‘I knew everyone was so nervous around him. And I just said I’m not going to be nervous around him. And once he realized I was treating him like a fellow human being, we really had this great working relationship.'”

Turns out, this was the strategy the star-struck Damon tried to use when interacting with the celebrated Tom Hanks on set as well. After all, we’re all human, and certain people–maybe a big-time producer, major star, or renowned casting director–can trigger a serious case of the butterflies right when you’re hoping to be on top of your game.

This uncomplicated advice illustrates the enormous personal power you possess as an actor. The mind is a powerful thing; consciously controlling your thoughts might make all the difference in the way you approach people and situations. And if you can make a decision to not be nervous, what else can you make a decision to do?

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