What’s the opposite of choking under pressure?
Breathing through it.
‘Choking’ is a metaphor, of course. When you get nervous or flustered, it’s not like your airways close.
But they sometimes tighten a little…
In the moment, it can feel like you can’t breathe.
The remedy for that is to breathe anyway. Take control of your breath cycle and your emotions will fall in line.
Here’s a question, though:
What causes people to buckle under pressure? How is it that a superstar is flawless in practice but can make mistakes in a game? What makes it so hard to talk to a crowd, even though it’s easy to talk to friends?
Well, the context is different. There’s more at stake. There’s pressure.
I get that.
But think about it for a moment:
Let’s say you’re meeting with a client. You know the facts and you’re normally relaxed. And yet, as soon as you meet them, something inside you freezes.
Now imagine you meet with a client. You meet every question and objection with the right answer. You’re smooth, calm and charismatic.
In other words, you’re the real you.
What’s the difference here?
Evolution is a merciless optimisation process. How could evolution lead to a species that’s capable of greatness, except when the stakes are high?
It’s almost as if your conscious mind knows what it wants, while something else inside you is confused…
What evolution created was a part of your mind that tracks social reality. Every person you see, it assessing them as friend or foe, threat or opportunity, rival or mate…
It also tracks your position in the social group. Some part of you knows whether you’re the alpha of this group, the beta or somewhere further down the pecking order.
These roles shift constantly and you’re always, on some level, aware.
Humans without tribes didn’t survive long in our ancestral environment. Your ancestors needed to know what the group thought at every moment.
Meeting a client, giving a speech, playing sports when a thousand eyes watch you – these are unusual social contexts. The part of you that tracks your social rank doesn’t know how to assess it, so gets concerned. If it doesn’t know who the alpha is, it seems safer to stay in the middle of the pack.
This is why visualising your success is so powerful. It primes your mental state to assume you’ll succeed and it calms this social tracking mechanism.
And in the moment, you can always focus on your breathing. Control what you can control to bring everything else in line.
If you want to improve both of these skills at once, learn to meditate. The entire art revolves around controlling your breathing, enriching your mental landscapes and soothing those parts outside your conscious awareness.
And the mental tool that’s optimised for this is self-hypnosis. It’s similar to meditation but, if you want to rise to face your challenges with grace, this is your path. Imagine installing triggers in your mind so that you unleash your best self when the moment calls for it.
My eBook goes even more advanced than this, too.
See for yourself: