The Cure to Choking Under Pressure

As I mentioned in an earlier post that discussed the findings of Adam Grant, writing can go a long way in boosting our happiness, heath and productivity.   Can writing also prevent people from chocking under pressure?

In the book Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To, author Sian Beilock looked at why certain people fail on a big stage, despite having the knowledge and ability to succeed.  As part of her research, Beilock conducted a study that asked a high-achieving group of students to take a difficult math test.

To increase the stress, the students were told that they would be videotaped during the test and teachers and professors would be watching the tapes to gauge the student’s performance.  The students were also told that if they were to pass, they would be rewarded with $20.

After telling the students of the high stakes, some of the students were asked to write for ten minutes about their feelings and concerns regarding the test they were about to take.  The rest of the students were told to wait patiently for ten minutes while the teacher passed out the test materials.

Beilock was amazed at what she found.  The students who wrote for ten minutes before the test performed 15 percent better than the students who were told to wait for ten minutes.

Could writing down your worries really stop you from chocking under pressure?

Beilock determined that “disclosing negative information and labeling it as such frees your mind from unwanted thoughts and helps you focus on something other than the negative.”  Written expression can help people thrive under pressure.

I was not a great test taker as a student.  I would study and be well prepared, but the bigger the stakes, the more I seemed to psych myself out and focus on the magnitude of the test.

I wish I would have known about Beilock’s study back then.  I would be interested to see if my test scores would have been better if I just took ten minutes before the exams to acknowledge my fear and free my mind.

While I may not be able to go back and retake the SAT, I can still apply these findings to my life today.  When presented with a stressful task or job, hopefully I will remember to take time to write down my feelings and concerns.

What is an example of a stressful situation that may occur in your everyday life?  Do you think that writing down your worries and getting them off your chest and onto paper would improve your performance in that situation? Let me know what you think in the comments section below.

Thanks to Master isolated images & for the photo used on the homepage.