I’ve just started reading Scatterbrain by Henning Beck, and in his chapter called Blackout he offers a number of strategies for helping us to avoid “choking under pressure”. He calls them Mental Misfires and here’s the first one:
Mental misfire #1: the step-by-step trap.
When we rehearse something over and over and imbed that process into our subconscious why is that when we go to perform we mess-up?
It has to do with our observant and operative systems of action. Our operative system embeds the process and our observant system scans the environment for obstacles. When we are about to perform the observant system starts looking for things that can go wrong – so guess where our focus goes? To help this to not occur Beck suggest the following:
“If you find yourself concentrating too much and thereby tensing up under pressure, it might therefore be wise to try distracting yourself a little with something else. Pause and look out the window briefly, let your thoughts drift to something else, recall a pleasant memory, play it through and linger for a few seconds and then, as you turn back, don’t concentrate on your task deliberately but simply act. Just as my athletics coach always said to me: ‘Henning, you think too much.’ Such a criticism is offered far too seldom in the modern world.”
Beck, H 2019, Scatterbrain : How the Mind’s Mistakes Make Humans Creative, Innovative and Successful, Sydney : NewSouth Publishing.