The Art of Overcoming the Choke

It’s not unusual for high pressure moments to get the best of us, watching our performance wither in the face of challenge. Here’s one close-to-home story about overcoming the choke:

Saturday night my sweetie* came home from the first day of a weekend golf tournament feeling anxious.

Not because his game sucked that day, but because it was just the opposite.

He played well enough to be in the hunt for the win, and thus knew it was shaping up to play out like every other high pressure tournament of his where:

He does great in the beginning; and the better he does, the more he chokes.

Case in point is last month’s spring tournament, where he handed over a two stroke lead due to his complete and pure choking the last two holes of the game.

For those international readers not familiar with this slang term, choking is defined as: “to become too tense or nervous to perform well.”

The term may have originated from when women accused as witches were forced to swallow a communion wafer as a test. To choke on the wafer (which, considering the stakes, wouldn’t be surprising) was to fail the test.

Here’s an entertaining list of famous chokes which I don’t recommend reading.

Anyway, Russ recounted several recent stories of his typical “fade out.” In unconscious rehearsal for another one.

He said his golf god and mentor, Rick G., told him he needed to get his head straight if he expected to take home the titles he was capable of winning.

I agreed!

And even knowing he treats my suggestions as a joke (I can still hear him laughing about “making friends with the tree” and rolling his eyes at the “I am a good putter!” mantra I advised) – despite that, I wasn’t deterred in sharing my tip for bringing home this win.

Since it was the pressure of being so close to winning that was messing up his game, I asked when he played his best golf.

He thought for a second and quickly responded, “At work.”

(Yes, he gets to play golf at work. Rough life, I know.)

They have a work league  and the other day someone introduced him as “the best golfer in our league.”

Which is probably accurate, much because playing with these guys doesn’t matter all that much. There are no sought after titles or shiny trophies or big pots at stake. But there is some fun competition for bragging rights. No big deal.

So I suggested he pretend he’s just golfing for work, while he was playing the second day at this tournament.

“When you feel pressure creeping in just say to yourself, ‘It’s just another day at work. No one cares. It’s just the work league.'”

He was polite enough not to roll his eyes.

To bring the point home, I told him my stories about:

  • when I have a big audience on a call I pretend it’s a small one to not get freaked out.
  • I shared about how when one of the animals is at the vet getting a serious test and I’m anxious about the results, I pretend the vet’s already called saying, “Everything’s fine.”
  • and how when I’m on a date with a totally hot guy I pretend it’s already a given that he wants to see me again. (Okay, I didn’t tell him about that one, but I thought it.)

It makes a difference in the vibe to play this pretending game. Even though it’s totally made up.

So without making too much fun of me off he went to play day two, positioned in fifth place after first day standings.

It would require some good golf to pull off that win.

Which is exactly what he did!

He came home with a lovely trophy and a big smile, shooting a 69 to win three strokes ahead of the runner up.

He talked about how on the fourth hole where he duck-hooked it the first day to miss the green by 20 yards – this time he “stuck it three feet.” From bogey on Saturday to birdie on Sunday. (Whatever all that means. All I understood was that it was a nice comeback.)

I asked what made the difference.

He said he slowed his game down and repeated to himself over and over when he started feeling tense, “work league, work league, work league.” He laughed as he told me about it.

I was incredulous. My sweetie?! Listened and applied?! Woo Hoo!!

That’s the true miracle here in this story – don’t give up on our stubborn sweeties.  😉

But the real reason I share this story – besides that Nancy suggested it would make a good blog post after she read about it at GVU – is to point out how simple it can be to turn things around.

In the words of my sweetie (from an email to his son):

I had a completely different mindset on Sunday and tried to relax and think of it as just another work match, where I am considered the best player in the league. It worked – credit goes to Jeannette who gave me the idea on the new thought process. I also slowed everything and tried to be more patient.


My work here is done.  🙂

  • June 8, 2010
  • Maia, that is so inspiring I’m off to find some version of that painting for my office.
    THANK YOU for sharing this! It’s beautiful. 🙂

  • Maia says:

    Portrait of Peace
    Offered by Linda Spitzer ©2001
    There was once a king who offered a prize to the artist who could paint the best picture of peace. Many artists tried. The king looked at all of the pictures. After much deliberation he was down to the last two. He had to choose between them.
    One picture was of a calm lake. The lake was a perfect mirror for the peaceful mountains that towered around it. Overhead, fluffy white clouds floated in a blue sky. Everyone who saw this picture said that it was the perfect picture of peace.
    The second picture had mountains too. These mountains were rugged and bare. Above was an angry gray sky from which rain fell. Lightening flashed. Down the side of the mountain tumbled a foaming waterfall. This did not appear to be a peaceful place at all. But, when the king looked closely, he saw that behind the waterfall was a tiny bush growing in the rock. Inside the bush, a mother bird had built her nest. There, in the midst of the rush of angry water, sat the mother bird on her nest. She was the perfect picture of peace.
    The king chose the second picture. “Because,” he explained, “peace is not only in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. Peace is in the midst of things as they are, when there is calm in your heart. That is the real meaning of peace.”
    You did it Jeannette!
    You managed to keep peace in the stormy weather of your relationship!

  • Julio Blanco says:

    Pure sweetness Jeannette. I know I tend choke when I want to create a relationship with someone whom I view as “superior” in some way (more experienced, move savvy, more suave… my ego just goes to town). Taking your post to heart, maybe I’ll just imagine them as long lost friends who are overwhelmed with joy to see me again.
    And the thought that my sweetie will come around (my dear, beloved wife of 16 years) is sweeter than a pound of chocolate.

  • I think that approach will serve you well, Julio.
    I’m also smiling at the thought of how many people see YOU that way (more experience, savvy, suave) who look up to YOU.

  • I’m glad someone else can relate to that, Parul! It might not sound like a big deal to anyone else, but … WE know! lol
    Thanks for reading and especially for writing, girlfriend.

  • Parul says:

    I agree your work “here” is done, Jeannette!!
    I had a similar breakthrough with my Mom and Dad. From staunch skeptics to LOA practitioners, this is definitely a BIG miracle. 🙂

  • You got connected with Nancy, right, summerflyer?

  • summerflyer says:

    I would to be on the calls for Shift Happens…..I haven’t been able to find the buttons to PM Nancy, so I’m doing it here………..looking forward to it!! Beth

  • Yes, your ocean of abundance post is lighting people up in all sorts of ways, Mary!
    Have you done a blog post on that, by any chance? I’d love to point people here towards it, if so …

  • Yes!! Jeannette, this comment you made to Phil (Dr. PhilGood, ha!) really hit home for me: Like it’s a stronger flow that we can feel “choked” by if we’re not up to speed with it.
    I actually just posted about this in a forum on GVU! A year ago when I tried to do a visualization that involved a stream of abundance flowing towards me, I couldn’t do it. I literally got all blocked in my throat, and I felt like I was choking!
    I must have cleared my blocks out, though, because I’ve been doing a visualization the past few days of having a pipeline connected to an ocean of abundance (courtesy of Ms. Louise Hay) and it feels great!! I can feel all the abundance flowing towards me, pouring in, and as a result abundance is pouring into my life! 🙂

  • Jessica, I love that you can both see your accomplishments and progress as well as your next achievements (with hubby). And that will be another big one to be proud of!
    Well, I already am proud of you. 🙂

  • Jessica says:

    I know I shared with you on FB about my awesome shift going onto stage this past weekend… but this post reminded me of it yet again in another context. AS I was dancing, it came to mind “it’s working!” And I felt myself tense up and “choke”. I mean, even though it was a positive thought, it still almost did me in! haha. Somehow I managed to notice it before I did choke and return to the calm “fun” place I had managed to find while back stage. How funny to go from total panic, to the vortex, to excited-about-to-choke-bliss, back to the vortex… haha. Great.
    This gives me a great example to go by to shift my vibe about my hubby being (or not as the case may be) in the vortex with me. I’m struggling for me to keep my vibe up when he is walking around poo-poo-ing anything. I know I can do it… but it is something I wish to improve upon.

  • Dr. PhilGood, I REALLY like the way you describe the energy dynamic there. Like it’s a stronger flow that we can feel “choked” by if we’re not up to speed with it.
    Now THAT’S a cool way to see it! Huh.
    Looking forward to my next opportunity to remind myself that and consciously get up to speed. Nice one, Phil!
    Thanks, too, Annettie (love it!) for pitching in on this conversation!

  • PhilG says:

    Hey Super J,
    So great that you could influence your future former semi quasi ex-ex in such a positive way! Realtionships are such great opportunities to hone our allowing.
    BTW – I lived with an “ex” for about a year and it was not quite the Vortex like experience – so good on both of you! :o)
    As a musician I can very much relate to dealing with performing “under pressure”. It’s so funny what we do to ourselves, isn’t it? Nothing is more fun than being on stage – yet I’ve had to really work at learning how to relax into it. It feels like steping into a stronger flow and I wonder if the “choking” is not being up to speed with that increased speed/intensity.
    Thanks as always for the thought inspiring words!
    Dr PG

  • Annettie says:

    What I really heard from Russ – loud and clear – was to slow his game down, along with his new mantra.
    SLOW down . . . . make friends with the tree . .
    Smell the roses, stop forcing it.
    And hey, it’s just the work league – no one cares . .

  • He does keep me well connected to the experience that most are having, and for that I think it helps my material be more relevant and practical.
    Although that may smell like a limiting belief in there. ha
    You’re absolutely right that being unattached to whether he embraces it or not goes a long way towards allowing him to. Nice one for me to remember.
    Thanks, Zoe! 🙂

  • Zoe Routh says:

    Hi Jeannette
    I love the fact that you are so unattached to Russ being an LOA fan/deliberate practitioner even though he is living with THE Good Vibe Coach – and how he ends up practising/embracing it anyway! Just goes to show that you don’t need anybody else to shift for you to manage your own vibe and vortex proximity. Heck the guy even broke up with you and you stayed in the Vortex. Now THAT is vibe management.
    Am too looking forward to Nancy’s and Laura’s class 🙂

  • Focusing on the past – that trips us up time and again when the past is not what we want for our future. Well said, Laura.
    Which is why I liked that Abe quote so much about how even the NOW is a result of a prior vibrational signal. In that sense, even NOW is old news.
    A little unrelated, but your comment about the kids made me think of this quote I saw recently: “Adults never understand anything for themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.” -Antoine de Saint Exupery
    Thanks for adding to this conversation, Laura. Looking forward to your Forgiveness call tomorrow!

  • Laura says:

    What hits me about this is that he heard it when he was ready to hear it. Seems he was totally focused on what his past experience was…the fade out. And haven’t we all had that experience at one point or another where we can argue about what IS instead of what we’d like?
    What I love is that you were so matter of fact and playful about it as opposed to saying something like “do you know WHO you are talking to? The most Mawsome Manifester and you are rolling your eyes at me?” 🙂 You were so gentle in your approach and he knew the (playing at work feeling)so well that it was not a stretch for him. He knew what it felt like to play at work and not care about the outcome that he could just slide right into that vibe. If you had asked him to imagine winning the US Open (that IS what it is called in golf, no?) that would not necessarily be an easy place for him to get to.
    It is so interesting to me that most people’s default setting is “I can’t do something” until they learn to direct their thoughts elsewhere…it reminds me of the book by Don Miguel Ruiz (The Four Agreements) where he talks about the domestication of humans. I love that concept…where as children we are completely free and can be who we are and then we are told no, you can’t, etc. and that is where self-imposed limitations are born. So many times we aren’t even aware of the stories we are telling ourselves about ourselves…we just need to get out of our own way.
    Kudos to you AND to Russ!

  • Iyabo Asani says:

    I think Tia nailed it – Russ is your ex – ex! I love it. You know how much love I have for Russ – He is my hero! He experienced the same breakthrough in the vortex with you and I love it.
    Yes, Jeanette, you make LOA as simple as taking a breath!

  • I thought this post was primarily about changing our sabotaging thoughts for performing, but I’m happy to talk about my sweetie, too.
    He does get HUGE credit for being up for the ride into the vortex. Truth be told, he’s pretty quick to get us back in there when there’s opportunity to go otherwise. Appreciation is running full force in this household these days!
    Thanks for posting, Iyabo. 🙂

  • Nancy, that’s exactly what one of Russ’ big challenges has been. (I apparently prefer to talk about him than myself. ha)
    But last year he consistently referred to himself as a – I think he called it – “spotty” putter. Where sometimes he’s on, and sometimes off. No consistency whatsoever.
    I told him he didn’t have a hope or prayer of changing his putting game as long as that’s how he thought of himself.
    “But I AM inconsistent!” he would counter. lol
    REALLY looking forward to your class. 🙂

  • I love this story, Jeannette! Perfect example of how shifting our self-image *shifts* how we show up in the world. We’ll be discussing THAT and MUCH more in the six week teleclass (SHIFT HAPPENS: Consciously Creating New Thought Patterns) and the bonus call to discuss volunteer experiences.
    Anyone interested in being part of this teleclass with Laura Gevanter, you, and myself will want to go to:
    Of course, existing GVU annual members can just PM me directly!
    Looking forward to it! 😀
    Many blessings,

  • You know, someone called it my “breakthrough” in the Vortex, MissyB, which feels super appropriate since we ended up in a better place than before.
    I of all people should know not to be surprised by that, but … indeed, it did.
    Thanks for reading and for posting, MissyB!

  • MissyB says:

    Oh my GVG – how I love how you can look at everyday life and give it the LOA treatment. A total scream !
    Thanks for the tips in here. And as for the break-up in the Vortex, can we now change it to the make-up in the Vortex ?!!?

  • You are a hoot, Tia!
    And thanks for making GVU the party that it is. Your energy really epitomizes the best of that place: enthusiastic, fun loving, appreciative, supportive, willing to question (others as well as self), open, authentic, REAL, inspiring and did I say fun?
    Big love, girlfriend. 🙂

  • Tia Singh says:

    Anyone reading this who’s not a member of GVU yet – you really want to join this party! GVU’s such a huge part of my life and I’m eternally grateful to be a part of it.
    Congrats to Russ, your ex-ex, what a powerful manifestation that was and a great reminder to watch the vibe and turn it on a dime. Love the title of this post byw – I almost choked when I read it.. LOL

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