How to stop choking under pressure

In this blog, we’re going to talk about how to stop choking under pressure. What does that mean? When the pressure’s just too much, sometimes we make these really dumb mistakes where we fall short. We want to stop that moment, whether it’s going for a test, or an interview, or a potential media interview asking for a job or a pitch. We’re in the moment and the pressure affects us so much that we just flop and choke under the pressure.

Choking under pressure is not based on intelligence, or motivation, or experience. Some of the most talented people on the planet suffer from choking under pressure.

I read recently that Barbara Streisand, who’s amazingly talented and she’s one of the best ever, stopped doing live performances because of the fear of choking under pressure. The same is true for Seal. He was afraid he would forget his lines in the middle his performances. So, this idea of choking is not just reserved for those who aren’t good. It’s for anybody where the perceived threat gets the better of them. The fear, doubt, and worry takes over. So, in this blog, I want to go over a couple of things to help you get through that choking moment.

First, I’ve covered this in all of my videos its prep. You have to prep as if you’re in the same conditions. So, it’s always going to be a part of every piece of content that I create. If you’re not over prepared, you’re under prepared.

Aside from preparation, the first thing I want you to focus on is this, try and think of a time when the pressure was massive. It was overwhelming but you got through it. You found your way through. Maybe it was an exam. Maybe you asked somebody out on a date. Maybe it was a sporting event. Maybe it was an audition or an interview. In short it’s a moment when you were so overwhelmed by the pressure, but you won.

I want you to really think about that moment in as much detail as you possibly can. Meaning, what were you saying to yourself in your mind? What were you focusing on? Or what were some of the phrase you used? How did you sit? What were your gestures, what was your posture like? Try and think of that time and create a script for yourself of what you did in that moment when you’re feeling that kind of pressure and how you got through it.

When I work with my clients, I’ll ask them to think of a time when they were successful in that pressure situation. I’ll ask them, what did you do? Then I’ll have them detail their facial expressions, their gestures, their body posture, what they said to themselves, the scenery, in as much detail as possible. Following that description, I’ll have them step into that exact same position. By doing that, it gives them a blueprint or a script for how to get through that pressure moment. After preparation, that’s the first step. Think of a time when you were facing pressure and you beat it, and then, copy that moment.

Step two, in the heat of the moment, sometimes, you don’t have time to go back over what happened last time because you’re in it. So, in this case you have to distract yourself. Specifically, you need to find a way to reduce the perception of the threat in your mind. Your mind is getting overwhelmed with thoughts like, don’t mess up, what are they going to say? I’m not good enough and I can’t do it. That perception that fear, doubt, and worry is reducing your ability. So, distract yourself from that perceived threat.

What do I mean? Maybe you clap your hands. Maybe you smile real big. Maybe you make a big, loud scream. Maybe you turn the music on. I don’t know. Do anything you can think of to distract yourself from that threat. As you do that, it reduces your perception of the threat, and you can get back into your body, and get back to being your best when it matters most.

The third step, develop a mantra. I’m not going to have you do affirmations, but just develop a simple phrase you can rely on to pull you through in the pressure filled moment. A good word might be
“relax”, or “chill”, or “take it easy”. When the heat of the moment is building up and you’re feeling this pressure becoming so overwhelming; you simply say to yourself under your breath quietly some like, “Chill” or “It’s okay. Chill.” Or, “Relax.” Or, “I got this”. That simple mantra will put your focus on that word versus putting your focus on the perceived threat of the moment.

So, the primary ingredient to stop choking under pressure is preparation.

Following the primary ingredient, think of a time when you faced immense pressure and you beat it. Then describe in as much detail as possible what did you do? What’d you say to yourself? How’d you walk? How’d you talk? How’d you gesture? Really get that blueprint for how you beat pressure in the past and copy that model.

Second, you can distract yourself. So, in the heat of the moment, maybe: you clap your hands, turn some music on, you laugh, you smile, you high five somebody or you take a deep breath, do anything to break the perceived threat in your mind.

Third, develop a one-word mantra. For example phrases like: Chill, relax, I got this, or take it easy. Just a simple phrase you could say to yourself quietly in the heat of the moment.

Do those three things, you will stop choking under pressure, and you will find a way to win

Calvin Strachan made the Find a Way to Win programs after becoming a leader in several multi-million dollar sales organizations ranging from: direct sales to pharmaceutical sales to personal development.

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