This lesson is all about how to show up at our best for exams, oral presentations, job interviews, tough conversations, and any other moment that feels large at that time.
Now, first of all, “Big Moments” is in quotations because I flat out don’t believe in them. There is only this moment. But we can talk about that more another time, and we also touch on it in our lessons on Fear of People’s Opinions.
Secondly, I am building today on the Theory of Performance Relativity from Boost Innovation Inc., our new approach to performance for all.
Based on my experiences in coaching, consulting, teaching, and business I have anecdotally and quantitatively seen a trend towards increase need for the ability to control our autonomic nervous response in moments of perceived stress. This is really the emotional regulation, or the ability to increase our emotional response (upregulate) and decrease our emotional response (downregulate) in response to stimuli.
Without getting too lost in the weeds of the physiological and psychological processes involved, while also acknowledging the role that the science of memory plays in being able to recall information, we have developed training centred on the following concepts to help show up for big moments but decreasing the impact of stimuli and allowing you to downregulate with more ease:
1) Prepare in a way that reflects the performance:
Business: Maybe you’re delivering a pitch, a job interview, or a presentation and your body is inevitably going to try to take you over. Preparing by putting yourself in situations that increase your emotional (stress) response will allow you to practice regulating yourself in similar settings. If you have a job interview, have someone ask you questions in a setting that reflects the conditions (such as over Zoom, or in an office). Our data shows a common frustration or anger response to workplace challenges and feedback. This is a MAJOR CONCERN for organizational growth because it blocks the learning. The skill of receiving feedback in stressful scenarios allows for a response that more aligns with growth when challenge comes.
School: So many times I hear of people preparing for written or oral exams by reading their notes. You need to write or respond to stimuli in the exam, so study that way with written and verbal responses to un-predictable questions. The less predictable, and the more performance-like, the better.
Sport: Without going to far into it, more random practice than blocked, more game-like, more unpredictable. Honestly, just go check out Learner Lab for the best content on this.
2)Practice downregulation before the performance:
So many people will try to focus on their breathing, use meditation, trying different relaxation techniques, etc right before a performance. Never shooting a 3-point shot in basketball before you attempt one in a game is not likely to go well, neither will implementing strategies right before. Practice them for even a few minutes a day for aa week or two prior and they will have a larger impact.
3) Manage your physiology (your body) well, in order to manage your psychology (your mind) well:
This part is easy to know, but harder to stay accountable to, so I’ll be blunt. If you don’t eat well, drink water, sleep right, get outside, exercise, and LAUGH before these moments, you will not be as successful.
Business: Memory recall is what builds memory. This means that making people repeat things you’ve shown them will help them remember them. To increase the likelihood of this have them stand when you showing them something that is important. It matters. Trust me.
School: Drink water and sleep well in the nights (plural before). The alcohol and late nights will drastically impact your recall ability.
Sport: If you don’t periodize well, you will be more sore, more injured, and more psychologically fatigued. Respect optimal training windows over a yearly training plan and athletes MUST be willing to ask questions and challenge the YTP if they are feeling over-trained or highly fatigued in a way that is unhealthy. Read “How To Pursue Performance” for more on this.
These three areas are just scratching the surface of what we do in our 1on1 work and are happy to honour the “Get Better Discount” in the How to Pursue Performance article above for all students in university and college, whether you’re an athlete or not.
PS. If you’re ever having challenges with down regulation (or anything else) that are regularly having a negative impact on your life, go to therapy!
If you’re a university or college coach, check out our new data based FLW Project that measures and builds culture in sport based on the concept of Flow.
If you’re a business owner, leader, or manager you should check out the well establish GRW Project that has thousands of data points collected for measuring and building culture in business based on the journeys we’ve all been on.
- Moore, M., Brown, D., Money, N., & Bates, M. (2011). Mind-body skills for regulating the autonomic nervous system. Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury. Retrieved from http://www.dcoe.mil/content/Navigation/Documents/Mind-Body%20Skills%20for%20Regulating%20the%20Autonomic%20Nervous%20System.pdf
- Sharma, A., Madaan, V., & Petty, F. D. (2006). Exercise for mental health. National Center for Biotechnology Information. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1470658
- Yuan, J., McCarthy, M., Holley, S., & Levenson, R. (2010). Physiological down-regulation and positive emotion in marital interaction. UC Berkeley Information Services and Technology. Retrieved from http://www.learningace.com/doc/1047040/bc95860e894457e838c865c3b7297551/206-physio-down-regulation-and-posemo-in-couples