Perform at your best under pressure – Performance Smart

“Your mind is powerful, master it and  you become performance smart”

VSI Sporting Director Tony Faulkner talks about performing smart in sport, in business, in life

The ability to perform your best when it matters is a skill that you can learn, be it in the sporting world, whilst giving an interview live on TV, taking an exam or attending an interview these are all life experiences that require you to master your mind.

Your ability to perform under pressure is predominately mental and the basic principles of performance are the same be it as an athlete, in the corporate world and generally going about your every day life.

Consciously and sub-consciously we go about our day managing our emotional state. Our brains are a constant argument between our emotional centre and our thinking brain. In order to be performance smart we need to develop the 3 R’s

Recognise your thinking

This is the ability of developing your self-awareness, understanding what state you are in. If a manager of a sports team whilst giving an interview live on TV is asked a question that promotes a feeling of frustration, fear, frantic etc you are being driven by negative emotions. If you do not recognise this, your behaviour will generally be emotive, impulsive and somewhat irrational.

How to train the ability to recognise your state: One way is to engage in a technique called cognitive re-appraisal, this is a change strategy for regulating emotions.

Refocus your thinking

At this point you are aware of your state and you now have a choice. You can choose to stay in the emotional state ie, your emotions are controlling you or you can choose to control your emotions. This is not always the easiest thing to do but through practice with the routines below you will find it becomes easier just like learning any skill does.

How do I train the ability to refocus: A clever trick is to try ‘NOT to suppress’ the emotion, if you do the intensity of the emotion due to the chemical response from the brain will get stronger, so accept you are frustrated, angered etc and by doing this you activate the thinking brain dampening the emotion and allowing you to take control of your thinking.

Another technique is ANTS: Automatic negative thought stopping.


Just like learning any new skill it takes practice, the correct practice under the correct conditions to refine and develop. This process is about creating new habits………Try it.

The three drivers of Performance smart are:

  • Your mind is powerful
  • You can control your mind
  • You have a choice

It must be expressed that certain techniques work for some people and not for others. Certain emotional experiences carry a far greater intensity and therefore require other approaches.

More info: Neuroscience underpins the Master in Sporting Directorship degree at MMUBS as well as the Sporting Brain programme from