He's so chill that he has a zoned-out meme. A photo of golfer Jason Dufner slumped against a classroom wall caught fire in March. His golf game caught up this month when he won the PGA Championship – his laid-back style still on display.
How did Dufner stay so cool under intense pressure to win a major championship? More important, what can YOU learn from Dufner's transformation from a guy struggling to retain his PGA Tour card to a champion hoisting the coveted Wanamaker Trophy?
The first step is to understand that he did feel nervous. "I come across as a pretty cool customer, I guess, but there are definitely some nerves out there," Dufner told the media after his win.
We all churn inside when we face pressure. The key is to balance the moving target of your inner presence. Inner presence is the way you experience yourself. When you begin to feel anxious (such as when you're staring down a make-or-break presentation), don't allow a negative inner voice to throw you off kilter and rob you of an opportunity to shine. Take a lesson from Dufner and deal with the jitters before they spiral out of control.
Here are three quick tips to center yourself when you're facing pressure:
1. Think P&L: Prepared and Loose. Unlike a broad financial statement, this type of P&L is a deliberate restriction. Stop tweaking your material the day before your presentation. The only exception is to update numbers if you're using financials. You'll gain an enormous edge because your brain will be loose enough to focus on the audience's needs and you won't be tripped up trying to remember the late additions to your slide deck.
2. Control Your Cortisol Surge. You've heard of adrenalin, but did you know that your brain releases a powerful surge of the stress hormone cortisol when you're anxious? A flood of cortisol takes over your body and impairs cognitive performance. To counter this, notice where your body radiates physical tension. Is it in your shoulders? Your jaw? Your hands? Your knees? Manage those muscles and you'll control the cortisol.
3. Pump More Oxygen. You've probably never thought of this, but your breathing becomes more shallow when you're stressed out. Shallow respiration is more damaging than you'd think. Your brain, sensing oxygen deprivation, slips into fight-or-flight mode. You can't concentrate. To conquer it, pump oxygen by breathing deeply from your diaphragm. Three deep, cleansing breaths prior to presenting will do wonders for your performance.
Jason Dufner's victory is the third time this year that a first-timer has won a major golf championship. Which goes to show that YOU can conquer any challenge so long as you stay centered in inner presence. Just don't lean up against a wall when you deliver that presentation. Unless, of course, your real goal is to become a viral sensation.