Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To
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Choke provides the missing link between brain and body, science and life. Here’s what really happens during mental and physical performance when we crack under pressure, and here are simple ways not to choke in stressful situations.
Why do the smartest students often do poorly on standardized tests?
Why did you tank that interview or miss that golf swing when you should have had it in the bag?
Why do you mess up when it matters the most—and how can you perform your best instead?
It happens to all of us. You’ve prepared for days, weeks, even years for the big day when you will finally show your stuff—in academics, in your career, in sports—but when the big moment arrives, nothing seems to work. You hit the wrong note, drop the ball, get stumped by a simple question. In other words, you choke. It’s not fun to think about, but now there’s good news: This doesn’t have to happen.
Dr. Sian Beilock, an expert on performance and brain science, reveals in Choke the astonishing new science of why we all too often blunder when the stakes are high. What happens in our brain and body when we experience the dreaded performance anxiety? And what are we doing differently when everything magically “clicks” into place and the perfect golf swing, tricky test problem, or high-pressure business pitch becomes easy? In an energetic tour of the latest brain science, with surprising insights on every page, Beilock explains the inescapable links between body and mind; reveals the surprising similarities among the ways performers, students, athletes, and business people choke; and shows how to succeed brilliantly when it matters most.
In lively prose and accessibly rendered science, Beilock examines how attention and working memory guide human performance, how experience and practice and brain development interact to create our abilities, and how stress affects all these factors. She sheds new light on counterintuitive realities, like why the highest performing people are most susceptible to choking under pressure, why we may learn foreign languages best when we’re not paying attention, why early childhood athletic training can backfire, and how our emotions can make us both smarter and dumber. All these fascinating findings about academic, athletic, and creative intelligence come together in Beilock’s new ideas about performance under pressure—and her secrets to never choking again. Whether you’re at the Olympics, in the boardroom, or taking the SAT, Beilock’s clear, prescriptive guidance shows how to remain cool under pressure—the key to performing well when everything’s on the line.
to first base. It was well-known that Knoblauch had an obsessive desire to avoid these throws and this may have ironically increased their occurrence. What should you do if you find yourself thinking about exactly what you are trying to avoid? There are several ways to combat these ironic effects – some of which we have already talked about as tools for combating stress more generally. For instance, meditation may help you learn not to dwell on what you want to avoid, especially when under
few notes jotted down to guide me. Even though I give several talks each year, it can be a bit daunting to be without the security blanket of my computer and the accompanying graphs of research data to guide my speech, especially when I’m not talking to college students who at least have to feign some interest in what I say to earn a grade. Because I research why people fail when they are under stress, if I find myself at a loss for words, I can always joke about doing ‘me-search’, researching
using a version of the game as part of their team training. Many of the 2006 NCAA champion Florida Gators used it and Slam magazine, one of the premier magazines for NBA and college basketball enthusiasts, calls it a ‘workout for the mind’ that is not to be missed. Of course, in training cognitive horsepower, Space Fortress may be improving ballers’ skills and performance on the court and in the classroom. A LOOK AHEAD Despite the fact that people vary in their innate abilities, training
Movements (Oxford: Permagon, 1967). 12. D. V. Collins et al., ‘Examining anxiety associated changes in movement patterns’, International Journal of Sport Psychology, 32:3 (2001), 22342. 13. J. R. Pijpers, R. R. D. Oudejans, F. Holsheimer and F. C. Bakker, ‘Anxiety-performance relationships in climbing: A process-oriented approach’, Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 4:3 (2003), 283304. 14. J. G. Johnson and M. Raab, ‘Take the first: Option-generation and resulting choices’, Organizational
player on the field. But it is now being used to make kickers kick again. Icing 2.0 was put on the map by Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan in the second week of the 2007 NFL season. As Oakland Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski lined up for a game-winning field goal attempt, Coach Shanahan walked up to the official and called time-out just as the kicker looked up for the snap of the ball. Janikowski celebrated his fifty-two-yard coup right up until the officials announced that he would have