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You can learn to get a grip

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

As a leader, you want to stay cool in a crisis, but overthinking is still the classic way to choke—a way known all too well by professional athletes.

You can go from being hamstrung by fear to being impelled by it, but it takes work.

You can train for a worst-case scenario. You can distract yourself in the moment. You can think about the outcome you want or recite a mantra.

When big-wave surfer Greg Long got caught, unable to breathe, underwater, he stayed calm and slowly climbed his leash line to the surface. He had trained for years to hold his breath past the comfort zone; he knew how it felt.

“There was no panic, no questioning. Just, ‘This is what I’m going to do if I’m going to survive,’ ” he says. “There were no negative thoughts or wasted energy. I was totally focused. Until we let go of our fears, we don’t begin to reach our potential capabilities.”

— Adapted from “The Science of Conquering Your Greatest Fears,” Florence Williams, Outside.

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