Don't Choke! How to Perform Well Under Pressure
October 12, 2010
Many of us deal with tight deadlines or intimidating projects on a regular basis. The pressure can often be overwhelming. Here are some ways to avoid choking and become a clutch performer. High expectations for success can lead to disastrous consequences not only on a soccer field or a golf course, but also in the boardroom. Eventually, each of us encounters a situation where the stakes are high and the outcome is crucial, and even top performers can crumble when faced with extreme pressure. It's tempting to dismiss such failures as simply "nerves." However, according to University of Chicago psychologist Sian Beilock
- Meditate. In lab tests, Beilock and her research team gave people with no meditation experience 10 min. of meditation training before they took a high-stakes test. Students with meditation preparation scored 87 (or B+) versus the 82 (or B-) of those without meditation training. This difference in performance occurred despite the fact that all students were of equal ability. As such, Beilock argues, the best strategy is to take a deep breath, clear your mind, then carefully analyze the problem at hand before trying to resolve it.
- Practice under pressure. Stress can undermine performance in business, where competition for sales, giving high-stakes presentations or even meeting your boss in the elevator are occasions when choking can squander opportunities. Practicing under stress helps people feel comfortable when they find themselves standing in the line of fire, Beilock says. The experience of having dealt with stress makes those situations seem like old hat. The goal is to close the gap between practice and performance.
- Focus positively on the process. Staying positive is always a good idea. "Think about the journey, not the outcome," Beilock advises, adding that staying positive is always a good idea. "Remind yourself that you have the background to succeed and that you are in control of the situation. This can be the confidence boost you need to ace your pitch or to succeed in other ways when facing life's challenges."