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 makes folk buckle under pressure? How can a superstar be flawless in practice but 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 it gets concerned. If it doesn’t know who the alpha is, it seems safer to stay in the middle of the pack.
You can bypass all that by paying attention to your breathing.
Thinking about what might happen next or what other folk might think feeds this inner social rank assessor. It turns up the volume on its concerns.
But your breathing is present.
It’s natural and within your control.
It’s in this moment and within your field of attention.
Breathe mindfully and your mind can’t wander as much.
Which means it can’t distract you or panic as much.
When you stay in the moment, you do what needs doing and think what needs thinking.
Apply this to your whole life and suddenly everything becomes easier.
You can begin that simple self-improvement technique now.
And enjoy its benefits for the rest of your life.
If you really want to take your mind to new places? To improve more you dreamed possible?
You might want to read about this mind training program: