Avoiding Mental Meltdowns

Avoiding Mental Meltdowns

Most people choke at one time or another—it happens when you are firmly in command of your performance and you blow it because you psych yourself out. It’s not a big deal unless you let the experience change how you behave moving forward. It’s common to become tentative and lose trust in your skills. You might worry that it will happen again which can undermine your confidence. Try these techniques to deal with your worry.

  • Reframe the experience. Golfer Rory McIlroy had one of the worst days of his life at the 2011 Masters when he blew a six-stroke final round lead. Immediately after the meltdown he said: “You know, it’s going to be hard to take for a few days, but I’ll get over it. I’m fine…. This is my first experience at it, and hopefully the next time I’m in this position, I’ll be able to handle it a little better. I didn’t handle it particularly well today obviously, but it was a character-building day, put it that way. I’ll come out stronger for it.” At the US Open two months later, McIlroy blew away the field and won in record fashion.
  • Focus on what’s in your control. When things don’t go your way even when you try your best, it’s hard to maintain your motivation. Instead of judging your success based on whether your idea gets implemented, focus on doing the best job you can selling it in. That is within your control. There are usually many factors that impact whether a project moves forward–several that you’ll probably never be privy to.
  • If you find yourself overthinking try whistling (softly) or humming as you get ready to start your presentation. This works best on conference calls (remember to mute yourself!) and it’s great when you’re playing sports. Whistling requires just enough brainpower to distract the part of mind prone to overthinking. Consciously pick a tune though—it would be unfortunate if you ended up humming “if I only had a brain!”

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