Throwing My Loop…
By: Michael Johnson
“I’m not sure I can do
this,” said the child.
“You can,” replied the teacher.
“I’m having trouble believing that.”
“At this stage in your development, it’s not really so
important whether you believe you can or not,” said the
teacher. Then she added, “What is important…is that I know
Are you nervous when you give a
speech? Are you one of those people who can’t seem to make
a three-foot putt when the chips are on the line? Do you
rope the same in the final round for the big money as you
did in the first three rounds? We all know people who seem
to come through in the clutch…always. And it appears
pressure not only fails to bother them – they thrive on that
pressure. They seem to be in the groove, in the zone – what
some psychologists call “in the flow.” If only we could be
like them. If only we could rid ourselves of the sweaty
palms, racing heart, and shaky weakness. How could we
improve our ability to perform at a higher level come crunch
time? There are ways.
No. 1 – STOP SAYING YOU CANNOT!
When it comes to remembering names, most
everyone says the same line. “I can remember everyone’s
face, but I can’t remember anyone’s name.” Here is a tip to
become better at remembering names – quit saying that!
First of all, it’s ridiculous. Experts in such matters tell
us on average most of us know about 1300 names. We know the
names of our parents, children, everyone we went to school
with, and our friends. Obviously we can remember names.
One key to remembering more of them is to stop saying we
cannot. As with most other activities in life, if we work
at it – we will improve.
Handling pressure situations is much the same. How
many of these negative statements have you heard? “I just
can’t seem to make the short putt when I need it.” “I
always miss the money steer – what am I doing wrong?” “I
have a prospect who seems really interested, but I can’t
ever seem to close the sale.” “I just can’t do fractions!”
Psychologists say the “self” has great
difficulty holding contradictory beliefs. We all strive to
be congruent inside. If we make negative statements, we
work in many ways to make those beliefs come true. To
improve your ability to deal with pressure, cease saying
negative things to your self. Am I suggesting we become
arrogant and boastful? Certainly not. Just stop making
internal negative statements. That’s the first step to
improving your performance in pressure situations.
No. 2 – REMEMBER HEROES ARE HUMAN.
I really like heroes and think we need them, and I mean
no disrespect, but…we need to remember they are human. Even
the greatest golfers don’t make every putt, the best cowboys
don’t ride every bronc, and the most successful salesmen
don’t close every deal. My favorite sports commercial
showed the great Michael Jordan’s many game winning shots,
and then his voice-over added how many times he had
missed the game winning shot. The misses far
outnumbered the heroic buzzer-beaters. “I’ve failed more
times than I’ve succeeded,” Michael said at the end of the
commercial, and then added, “But…I’ll keep trying.”
If Tiger, Speed Williams, and Bill Gates fail on
occasion that should tell the rest of us something. Really,
no one is a polished smooth professional free from trials
and tribulations. When you face a pressure situation,
remember the best in the world feel the same way you do.
Lee Trevino said once, “It doesn’t matter if it’s a five
dollar putt or a five-thousand dollar putt…we all leak
Placing heroes on an unreachable pedestal causes us to
feel inadequate and incapable when comparing ourselves to
them. We do this with sports stars, the fellow in our golf
foursome, and business associates. We unconsciously assume
others never have a bad day. Everyone does. They just
don’t tell us about it. Winners get over losses and
failures. Winners don’t let one defeat – or ten – affect
their next effort. When you fail in a pressure situation,
forgive yourself. Calm your thoughts and mind…and try
again. Eventually your time will come.
No. 3 – BITE OFF ONLY WHAT YOU CAN CHEW!
Perhaps the biggest impediment to our improvement comes
from our intense desire to do so well. We see Tiger crush
it 340 off the tee, we see Speed throw his rope like a Zebco
33, and we watch Robert Schuller address an audience of
thousands at the Crystal Cathedral. So we want to be like
When we hit the golf ball, we explode from the toes.
We throw our rope as quickly as we can, or we might decide
our first public address will be a testimony given to the
entire congregation. The problem is…we are not ready.
There is nothing wrong with reaching for the moon, but we
should be prepared for the trip. When we are not ready,
chances are good we won’t look too stylish. When we try to
play or perform at a higher level, and the results are poor,
we conclude we cannot do the thing – and we give up. “I
tried speaking in front of groups. I just can’t do it.”
Here is another approach…
What if we asked the Sunday School teacher if we could
read a single line of scripture at the next class meeting?
Practice that one line all week – then when you deliver your
“mini-address,” chances are excellent things will go well
indeed. You’ve just had a success – a small one – but a
success. Repeat this behavior several weeks until you are
ready to read a psalm, or even teach a complete class one
Sunday. Such experiences breed confidence, and there will
come a day when we can stand in front of the entire church
body and share what’s in our heart with a relaxed calmness,
free from fear and completely focused on what we originally
If we seek help from a pro, he probably won’t
recommend we go play a round. Rather, he or she will have
you hit many practice balls, and talk to us about tempo, and
“staying within yourself,” and how we are not so interested
in distance as we are in keeping the ball in play.
First time you rope, your red-neck beer drinking
buddies will put you on a bronc, and have you run the
fastest cows in the pen. The professional trainer, on the
other hand, will ask you to rope the dummy many times, all
the while talking to you about building a solid foundation,
and having you repeat sound fundamentals countless times…all
before you ever mount a horse. Your body will have such a
much better opportunity to execute using the second method.
This second approach is also a way to save fingers. The
first is not.
If only we could be like them. If only we could be
cool and calm and be in the flow. My friend and
superb novelist, Jim Ainsworth, defines flow as, “…the
difference between the way things are, and the way they
ought to be.” In the early 90’s, psychologist, Mihaly
Csikszentmihalyi (Chik-sen-me-hi), wrote a book called
Flow. In that book, he describes how and why some
people experience life satisfaction more often than others.
“Cars, yachts, condos, money, and planes will not
create a “flow experience,” he says. “Rather, selecting a
task, and learning how to do the thing offers the best
opportunity. When we feel ourselves improving, we find
ourselves ‘in the flow.’ The awareness of improvement comes
from friends who encourage and applaud our efforts, and from
an inner certainty.”
And Mihaly even offers a road map to one on the most
pleasured states of living. “When we work on a thing for an
extended time and on some occasion, do the thing better than
we ever dreamed we could – when we exceed what we thought
was our potential - the result is intense
Can we really improve our ability come “crunch time?”
Or are we sentenced to be a woefully inadequate,
uncoordinated, worthless lump all our days? Could it be
that we are not really incompetent, but maybe we haven’t
clearly identified our target? And perhaps we have not
sought a mentor and listened to him with every bone in our
body. Have you worked hard on and toward the thing for an
extended period of time? If we will stop berating our self,
and remember heroes are human too, we immediately increase
our chances to do well. That is a key first step in
allowing our mind to relax, and begin the most important
process of getting out of our own way. Such a good and
And if we provide an opportunity for
our self to experience small successes that can grow into
dreams we never thought possible, we too are just as
entitled as anyone to be in the flow. Do you believe that?
When you first begin, it doesn’t really matter if you
believe you can or not…
I know you can.