Understanding how emotion affects performance

Charles-Barkley-1aAre you a better golfer when you are angry? Do you make terrible trading decisions when you are bored? Are you more productive when you are happy, or sad? Why do you choke under pressure when other people thrive on it?

As a performance coach, my main job is usually to help people overcome emotional barriers that are preventing them from executing their skills to the best of their ability. In poker I help people overcome tilt, which is when anger overwhelms their decision-making. In golf I help people eliminate the ‘yips’, which stops them performing under pressure. In trading I help professionals avoid forcing bad trades, which happens when they become undisciplined. I also help elite athletes and professionals overcome all sorts of issues including fear of failure, low motivation and decreased focus.

These issues all sound varied and independent of each other. However, at their core, all mental game issues affect performance in the same way, and therefore can be fixed in the same way. It all comes down to how I view emotion and how it relates to performance. Many sports psychologists treat emotion like it is the enemy, something that should be numbed. The problem with this attitude is that while you may succeed in the short term suppressing negative emotions, you will also suppress the positive emotions that help you perform in the zone.

Until you embrace emotions, you will never perform at your peak.  Continue reading