Why we choke when presenting and how to avoid it
The 2018 Champions League Final between Liverpool and Real Madrid was to see not only the greatest ever goal the finals history but one of the worst ever examples of choking too.
In fact it was so bad because the player in question not only choked once….but twice!
Karius, the Liverpool goalkeeper made two huge basic mistakes on the night as the world looked on in disbelief.
Making mistakes like this or choking in high pressure situations is pretty common and it’s only when you find out why we actually do it that you can start to overcome it.
Conscious mind vs unconscious mind
When we practice for something to become great at it, we use our prefrontal cortex or the conscious area of our brain.
Once we have learned the skill, our brain then moves this information to the unconscious area and runs it on autopilot so that the conscious area can focus on learning new skills.
Think about holding your phone. Your brain sorts this for you on its own and you never have to think about actually holding it because it’s in you unconscious mind and its been there since you were a baby.
What is choking?
Choking is when we flip from the brain system used by experts to one used by a novices, unconscious to conscious as a result of severe pressure.
When Karius focused on doing his job too hard, it resulted in the brain making this switch.
The problem is that saving a simple shot like this had been automated when he was a novice and moving it to the conscious mind meant he was now using neural pathways he hadn’t used to save a shot since when he was a child.
They basically had a 5 year old boy in goal.
On top of that, once the conscious system has kicked in is really hard to snap out of which is most likely why he made two huge errors on the night.
So how do you overcome choking when presenting?
In order to stop choking you have to relieve yourself of the pressure to maintain your chill and stay in your unconscious mind.
You have to find something that helps you to relax and avoid extreme focus.
For some people it might just be deep breath. Sportspeople tend to list all the things that are more important than this moment in time to help them remain calm.
If anything, trust your unconscious mind, it won’t fail you and by letting the automation take effect, you’ll make sure you don’t choke.