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Don’t Choke! Confidence Is The Key To Getting Ahead In Your Career

Photo by Jennifer Ryan Jones

Is your career in a slump? Are you Monday morning quarterbacking every business decision you’re making? How are you handling the pressure? It’s time to get your head back in the game, be confident and channel your inner winner. Success happens when you’re focused, prepared and mentally tough. What do you think allows a pro-golfer to sink that winning putt with all those fans breathing down his neck? And what about the cleanup batter that knocks it out of the park in the bottom of the ninth? They don’t shit the bed. Confidence is key. When you learn to channel your inner clutch player you’ll succeed the same way.

We reached out to Dr. John F. Murray, Sports Psychologist for the plays that can take you from zero to hero. Dr. Murray has provided clinical and sports psychology services to executives and teams for more than 17 years. He’s a MVP on a mission to empower individuals and organizations to enhance their profitability and achieve breakthroughs in performance. He’s been described as “The Freud of Football” by the Washington Post, the “Roger Federer of Sports Psychology “ by Tennis Week Magazine and as “One of the Major Psychologists in Sports” by Fox Sports. He’s a best-selling author and columnist. Here are Dr. Murray’s insights on how to be the company all-star.


We’re all the starting quarterbacks of our careers. How can tapping into sports psychology take us to the Super Bowl or at least the corner office?

In business, the way we manage our thoughts, feelings and actions can be symbolized very well by the quarterback position in football. We indeed conduct ourselves the way a quarterback directs an offense. How well we do it all determines our choices, forms our habits and dictates our future. Whether we complete that pass and drive our teams to a confident victory, or throw into tight coverage irresponsibly, as well as the constant decisions we make in business, are all the sum total of our mental skills in action. To become more successful in any endeavor, people are wise to build up mental performance to the highest level possible.


MVP’s always seem self-assured. Are some people just wired that way? Or can you learn how to be confident?

Confidence is just one of many needed mental skills. Many who seem to be born with it can lose it in a flash through bad experiences or trauma. Those who never had it before can become extremely self-assured and expect only the best with good training. This is the exciting thing about mental coaching. The skills can be learned. They need to be constantly refined to ensure consistency. Nobody is perfect and yet everybody needs confidence.


How can we set ourselves up to win under pressure and perform in that clutch moment?

We create our own pressure and we often do this in a very predictable manner. There are several aspects to competing well in pressure moments. Each person is unique, so the solution will also vary a lot. Despite this, there is one strategy that is necessary amongst many others. People need to learn to trust themselves in tight situations with practice and imaginary scenarios as much as possible. This helps build resilience in even the most challenging moments when the games actually begin. I cannot emphasize enough, however, that professional guidance works best.


Do you have any tips for the perfectionist that can’t get out of their own way?

Perfectionism comes with the territory when performing at a high level, but it also acts as a clinical disorder and rarely helps. The perfectionist needs to let go of those rigid standards and focus more clearly on excellence and achievement without trying to be perfect. This reduces fear and pressure and frees the person up to be as close to perfect as possible without even knowing it.


Everyone loves a team player. How can you be a good one, while still being the best in the game?

Being a team player goes along with being the best in the game. There are certainly times to shine more individually, but that does not necessarily equate to not helping the team. There are also times when the best thing to do is stay in the background, make the pass, and let someone else shine. That’s often what is needed most when everyone is focusing on you. Being a team player also means caring for your teammates in business and sports, and doing your part to help.


When it comes to managing, is there one coaching style that motivates a team more than others?

There are as many coaching styles as there are coaches and personalities, and no one particular style is best. They key is to be authentic to yourself and to have the respect of your players. Motivation is sometimes best enhanced by a very positive and encouraging approach, but there are also times when being tough or very strict is needed. A good coach is always a good psychologist and I believe that a cookie cutter approach usually fails. In other words, the manager needs to adapt to circumstances and personalities and not think that simple black and white solutions exist. Both the workplace and the arena are complex!


How do you know when its time to just quit and leave the game?

It's important to love what you are doing and have a passion for your activities. Once that dies a lot of other things go with it. Rather than go through the motions, it's time to move on. Be careful that you are not reacting to a temporary state of staleness or burnout, or a clinical condition like depression. Seek advice. But when despite all tries you still have not (no) more love for the challenge, get out.

Dr. John F Murray is a licensed clinical & sports performance psychologist, business consultant, author, and speaker. He works by phone and in his Palm Beach, Florida office and can be reached at 561-596-9898 or His website is at

This article was written and appeared on Grooming Lounge and our Founder, Mike Gilman, were quoted a lot, so we borrowed the article. Giving them credit -- hope it's OK.

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