Learn To Not Choke
Insights from 'How To Perform Under Pressure' by Hendrie Weisinger and J. P Pawliw-Fry
Have you ever been in a situation where you knew everything you planned on saying but forgot it all the moment you went on stage?
Or you studied hard for a test but froze when you saw the questions on paper?
This common phenomenon is called “choking.”
The authors of Performing Under Pressure say that choking is not really about failure and success.
Choking is about the effects of pressure on your performance, rather than the outcome of your performance.
You must prepare for pressure to avoid choking.
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But how can you do that?
Start by turning your focus to your memory.
There are two main kinds of memory that affect your performance under pressure.
The first is working memory, which helps you analyze data and make decisions.
It’s also the kind of memory that stores important information, like the answers for a test.
The second type of memory is procedural memory, which determines how you perform tasks you’ve already mastered—like backing up your car or swinging a golf club.
If either type of memory malfunctions under pressure, you’re likely to choke.
To prevent choking, you must learn two skills.
First, stop your anxiety from getting in the way of your working memory.
Obsessing what a client is thinking during a meeting, for instance, can easily make you forget your talking points.
Second, stop getting in the way of your procedural memory.
Imagine you’re a great golfer.
If you slow down and try to focus on the right swing technique before you make it, you may actually mess up something you’ve been doing instinctively for decades!
Directing your memory is easier said than done.
But there are pressure solutions that can help your memory thrive.
These solutions can help you control your behavioral responses.
Lakshmi Balachandra, a research fellow at Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation, studied 185 venture-capital pitches and found that the success of those pitches depended more on the presenter’s behavior, rather than on the content of the pitch.
If the presenter conveyed perceptions of “calmness” and a “lack of awkwardness,” they were more likely to succeed.
When you can control how you behave under pressure, you too will be more likely to succeed at any task at hand.
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