A growing legion of scientists are studying soccer shootouts, the free kicks given to each team to break a tie game. A make or a miss can lead to infamy for the kicker. It is an intense psychological moment. In studying penalty kicks, scientists are investigating visual attention – the ability to zero in on specific subject in the midst of a vast amount of sensory information. In soccer, that means being focused on where you want to place the ball and not on the goal keeper.
The fear of public speaking is purported to have passed the fear of death. Jerry Seinfeld picked up on this finding by quipping, "more people would rather be in the casket then give the eulogy". Now why would that be?
The point? Clarity is the antidote to anxiety. In both soccer shootouts and public speaking not being clear and certain about your goal and the outcome you would like to achieve creates great unease. Pressure engenders anxiety and anxiety, in turn, affects performance. If you are under pressure and feel uncertain about your ability to create a positive outcome, you will be unable to control your attention.
In times of pressure, practice the art of attention by being crystal clear, intensely focused on your goals and the outcomes you want to achieve.