SQUEEZE A BALL
You find yourself in a pressure moment — often a competitive one — well rehearsed and motivated to perform. Yet, instead of delivering a stellar performance, you unravel, like a golfer losing a big lead; the debater fails to make his scripted points.
When we learn and practice a new skill, we rely on the left frontal lobe of the brain. As we practice the skill and it becomes more automatic, the skill and associated behaviors pass over to the right hemisphere of the brain, where performance is automatically and unselfconsciously controlled. In other words, it’s not just your rehearsed responses that pass over; it is also your voice tone, mannerisms, speech, body posture — all of which become part of your performance.
Choking occurs when a well-rehearsed skill fails; because the person brings self-conscious thinking — “how am I doing?” — to the critical moment he or she has to perform. This self-conscious thinking disrupts the person’s response. A skill that would normally be performed effortlessly misfires because the self-focused left-hemisphere processes interfere with the right side of the brain.
Surprisingly, even a mindless exercise like squeezing a ball with your left hand will give you a better chance to do your best. Juergen Beckmann, PhD, chairman of Sport Psychology at the Technical University in Munich, found that athletes were less likely to choke when they squeezed a ball or clenched their left hand before competition, to activate key parts of the brain.
The next time you have a job interview, before you go in, clench your left fist, or get yourself one of those fuzzy little balls and squeeze it.
This is an excerpt from Performing Under Pressure.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
JP Pawliw-Fry is co-author of the New York Times bestselling book, Performing Under Pressure. He is keynote speaker, and the founder of IHHP, a global research and learning company that specializes in helping organizations and leaders leverage the science of emotional intelligence and performing under pressure. The research and strategies presented in the book, keynotes and in HHP’s training programs have been leveraged by numerous Fortune 100 companies, including long-term relationships with Johnson and Johnson, PWC, Goldman Sachs, HSBC as well as Olympic medal winning athletes. (Co-author: Hendrie Weisinger.)
Co-authored by our own J.P. Pawliw-Fry, Performing Under Pressure will introduce you to the concept of pressure management, offering the latest science on how your brain responds under pressure, and many empirically tested strategies to help you overcome the sabotaging effects of pressure. For this book, we undertook a multiyear study of over twelve thousand people to answer the question: what is it about the top 10 percent of these individuals that helps them handle pressure more effectively and be successful? The book has been featured in featured in Forbes, INC., The Financial Times, Training Magazine and many more, and is a NYT and Amazon bestseller. Order your copy on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Audible or Apple ibooks.