Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Find Your Green Room Trigger

How do Olympic athletes train their minds for the challenges of such intense competition? Turns out, they work with a "mental coach."

In a 2/10 article on NPR.org, "Mind Games: Making Olympians Mentally Fit," Howard Berkes writes about short track speedskater Katherine Reutter's struggle to overcome insecurity and anxiety.

She turned to Nicole Detting Miller, University of Utah sports psychologist:

...Miller helped Reutter relieve the pressure of Olympic competition by focusing on something that already defines her success. For Reutter, that event actually occurred off the ice, on a mountain slope outside Vancouver, where Reutter and her teammates struggled with an endurance exercise.

"It's so steep, it's so hard, that you can't run it," Reutter says. "You have to, like, lunge up it."

The men on the team had to climb the steep slope twice. Reutter was the only woman to join them on a second attempt. She started five minutes behind the men but beat two of them to the finish.

"I will be proud of that moment for my whole life," Reutter says. "And I never would have known what a huge accomplishment it was if Nicole hadn't forced me to realize it."

That strong sense of success applies to Reutter's upcoming Olympic experience.

"I know that even if I didn't win, I put in enough work that I could've won," Reutter says. "I will always be proud that even when it looks like I can't, even when I feel like I can't, I'm always willing to push a little harder just to see if maybe I can."

At Green Room Speakers, I call this finding your Green Room Trigger.

I can teach you how to identify a past success - a zone moment - and use it as a trigger each time before getting up to speak.

Over time, you will begin to asssociate speaking with that feeling of success and self-actualization.

From the Green Room: Speaking anxiety often stems from negative triggers, such as thinking about a past speaking or performance experience that didn't go so well. The Green Room Trigger helps you break that negative thought pattern and focuses you, instead, on your best self.


Anonymous said...

The skater's trigger -- recalling the accomplishment of a highly demanding training exercise -- was directly related to her upcoming Olympic performance. Do you think that the trigger might have been less effective if it had been something unrelated to skating such as success in a piano recital or on math test? In other words, I'm wondering to what extent the best trigger for reducing the stress of public speaking would be a previously well-executed presentation.

Sarah Gershman said...

Great question. The article deliberately pointed out that this was an experience that took place "off the ice." I think the trigger does not have to have anything directly to do with speaking itself. I once had a client who chose the experience of being at the top of a high mountain. Thinking about the perspective she gained and the feeling of confidence greatly helped her in speaking situations.