What Should You Focus On In a Clutch Moment?

From the world of sports psychology, this is an interesting breakdown of three different points of concentration golf putters had in mind during a clutch moment. Concentrating on a single "holistic cue word" like smooth proved most successful:

There are two common explanations for why some athletes perform poorly in the clutch: either the pressure distracts them, or it causes them to focus too intently on usually automatic actions. To test the competing theories, two researchers studied 20 experienced Australian golfers in a low-stakes contest and a high-stakes competition with monetary prizes. The participants played three 10-putt rounds, and they were given different instructions at the start of each: first, they were told to concentrate on three things that were irrelevant to the task; then to focus on three words that related to technical aspects of their swing, such as arms, weight, or acceleration; and finally to concentrate on a single “holistic cue word” describing their intended movement, such as smooth. In the high-pressure situation, participants did worse when thinking about words related to execution; overall, golfers in both situations did best while concentrating on the holistic cue. The authors speculate that focusing on a cue word prevents experts from trying to “consciously control their movements under pressure,” which suggests that overthinking, rather than distraction, may be the greater danger facing athletes in the clutch.

Clutch moments exist in business, and the sports idea of "muscle memory" transfers as well. When I was doing a lot of enterprise software sales calls I had a successful routine. When the stakes were unusually high, it was easy to over think how I delivered my pitch and try to change my routine. Bad approach. I learned this lesson in basketball, too. What successful athletes and CEOs figure out is how to channel heightened adrenaline in a productive way.

Source link is subscribers only; hat tip to Atlantic Monthly’s Primary Sources.

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