Choking, the ego and the Canucks

The Vancouver Canucks joined the National Hock...

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Performance is something that is hard to predict. We’ve all choked under stress.  Which got me wondering why is it so easy to choke?

On Wednesday morning I watch an interview on Canada AM with a sports psychologist. The interviewer was asking the sports psychologist how the Vancouver Canucks could avoid choking in the crucial 7th and deciding game of the Stanley Cup. The psychologist suggested remaining task-focused, rather than ego-focused. That is, if we focus on specific activities that we must accomplish, rather than how others will see us and what they will think of our performance, we are less likely to choke under stress.

In the same way, work performance can be improved by thinking about the meaning of the work, and enjoying the experience, rather than the possible outcomes, such as a raise, promotion or increases in status. Researchers call the former an intrinsic motivation, while the latter is extrinsic motivation.

I’m at a conference today, about to present to a room full of experts. A few minutes ago I was starting to worry about what they would think of my presentation, how they would judge me, all the ego-focused stuff. In order to do my best, I need to re-focus on the tasks that I need to do to be effective.  The rest just doesn’t matter all that much.


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