One of the most humiliating things
that you can say about someone is "they choked."
And boy, do I know that feeling.
Growing up, I was an avid athlete.
My main sport was soccer, and I was a goalkeeper,
which is both the best and the worst position on the field.
You see, when you’re a goalie, you get this special uniform,
you get all the glory for a great shot saved,
but you also get the grief when you land a shot in the goal.
When you’re a goalie,
all eyes are on you,
and with that comes the pressure.
I distinctly remember one game in high school.
I was playing for the California state team
which is part of the Olympic Development Program.
I was having a great game ...
until I realized that the national coach was standing right behind me.
That’s when everything changed.
In a matter of seconds,
I went from playing at the top to the bottom of my ability.
Just knowing that I was being evaluated changed my performance
and forever how I thought about the mental aspect of how we perform.
All of a sudden the ball seemed to go in slow motion,
and I was fixated on my every move.
The next shot that came I bobbled,
but thankfully it didn’t land in the goal.
The shot after that,
I wasn’t so lucky:
I tipped it right into the net.
My team lost;
the national coach walked away.
I choked under the pressure of those evaluative eyes on me.
Just about everyone does it from time to time --
there are so many opportunities,
whether it’s taking a test,
giving a talk,
pitching to a client
or that special form of torture I like to call the job interview.
But the question is why.
Why do we sometimes fail to perform up to our potential under pressure?
It’s especially bewildering in the case of athletes
who spend so much time physically honing their craft.
But what about their minds?
Not as much.
This is true o