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This is the second addition of the training your mindset skills, if you missed the first article be sure to check it out here.
We went on a deep dive into focus and how you can train your focus muscle to have a massive increase on your win rate.
Today we are going to talk about an equally important mindset skill - Emotional Control.
I use the term emotional control to define the ability to regulate your emotional state and to be able to use your emotions to your benefit.
Now one thing is for sure, as a poker player you are going to experience a rollercoaster of emotions, often on a daily basis.
The goal is not to stop your emotions or remove them, it’s to be able to ride the emotional wave whilst always staying in control.
To become a master of your emotions, you only need to understand three concepts and then be able to use the correct tool at the right time.
I’ll first go through the three concepts and then I’ll give you a tool to use for each of them.
Concept #1: Affect
This simply refers to how you feel in any given moment.
It’s an easy one to grasp as we know that we go through a range of emotions on a daily basis.
We often label our feelings as being either “good” or “bad” and this has a big impact on our experience.
What we don’t realise is that these feelings are very subjective and that we have a lot more control over them than we think.
More on this later when I give you some tools you can use, for now let’s move onto the next concept you need to know about.
Concept #2: Introspection vs Extrospection
What we are referring to here is where you place your attention.
If your attention is focused inward (in your thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations etc) this is called “introspection”.
On the flip side, if your attention is focused outward (on your external environment, your senses etc) this is called “extrospection”.
When it comes to your emotions, the ability to move effortlessly between the two becomes a superpower.
Concept #3: Autonomic Arousal
In simple terms, this is your level of alertness on one side and how calm you are on the other.
For example, if you have a high level of autonomic arousal you are likely to be highly alert.
Whereas if you have a low level of autonomic arousal, you will be more calm and relaxed, perhaps even subdued.
The goal is to be able to match your level of autonomic arousal with the activity you are doing, not too high, not too low.
So if you have read this far, you now understand there are three concepts that you need to master in order to have full emotional control.
Now comes the fun part where you will learn an actionable tool for each of them.
Tool # 1: Perception
As I mentioned earlier, we have a lot more control over how we feel then we often think.
Situations aren’t inherently good or bad (although they often feel that way) and by changing the way we look at things we can disarm our emotional responses.
Let’s say you’ve just lost a big pot on the river after your opponent hit a 2 outer and you are feeling angry.
You have labelled this situation as “bad” and as result you are feeling bad.
But what if you could consciously look for a different meaning to the situation and lower that emotional intensity?
Now it’s pretty hard to go from angry to happy in once clean swoop (unless you are a true emotional wizard), but you can quite quickly move to a more neutral emotional state.
How? I’m glad you asked!
The first way is to install a powerful belief system that will allow you to see the good in almost any situation.
One of the ones I use is “everything is working for my greater benefit”.
Another one I have installed is “I can deal with anything life throws at me”.
At times life still feels really unfair, but because I’ve installed these two operating systems into how I see the world, I’m always able to see some good in every situation.
This quickly disarms your negative emotional responses.
What belief system could you consciously install to help you deal with challenging situations?
The next thing you can do is to ask empowering questions that again get you to see things from a more positive perspective.
When things go bad, one of my favourite questions to ask myself is “what lesson am I learning here?”
Another question I ask often is “Is this situation going to bother me 6 months from now?”
You soon build the habit of asking these types of questions in every situation and it’s amazing how much they alter your emotional state.
What questions could you start asking yourself when things aren’t going your way?
Tool #2: Attention
Earlier you learnt that your attention can be directed inward (introspection) or outward (extrospection) and now you are going to learn a tool to take back control.
Most people don’t realise that we have the ability to direct our attention wherever we want at any given moment.
When we have a heightened negative emotion, our attention is often sucked into it and we are either lost in our thoughts or lost in external events.
However, it doesn’t have to be this way and you can consciously redirect your attention to alter how you feel.
You do this by switching your attention between your internal world and your external world.
Let’s say you are feeling frustrated during a poker session.
As things aren’t going your way, your attention is on your external world and all the things you don’t control.
In this moment, you should redirect your attention to your internal world and do a quick check in with how you are feeling.
Scan through your body and notice what sensations you feel.
Perhaps your heart is beating fast, your fists are clenched slightly and you can feel tension in your neck.
Allow for all feelings to come and go naturally, slow down your exhales and allow yourself to relax and stop fighting the moment.
You can then switch your attention back to your external world with a different perspective.
Continue to toggle your attention between your internal and external world throughout your session and notice how much more in control your start to feel.
Tool #3: Channelling
This is a tool that you can use when you have heightened emotions (high autonomic arousal) in order to take your performance to the next level.
If you watched the Netflix documentary The Last Dance, you would see that Michael Jordan was a master at this.
Any situation that annoyed him he would use as fuel that would bring out his best performances.
So much so that he’d often create bad situations in his own head (like this guys out to get me) in order to tap into this fuel source.
Now I’m not saying you need to go that far, but it’s important that you are able to channel heightened emotions that come up naturally into your performance.
Let’s say you are feeling angry at the poker tables and you wanted to channel that energy into your performance.
The first thing you would do is to acknowledge what is happening in your body, such as your heart rate has increased, your palms are sweaty and you have a flush of energy through your body.
The second step is to see all these biological changes as a good thing and to embrace the fact that your body is preparing you to perform at your best.
You now have more blood flow going to the brain, your hyper alert, adrenaline is pumping through your body which is ramping up your focus.
All of these things can help you perform at an even higher level than before.
By consciously channeling this energy into your performance (choosing to see the changes as positive) you can bring out your inner Michael Jordan at the poker tables.
So get using these three tools over the coming weeks, take back control of your emotions and start training your mental muscles.
The results will be well worth the effort, trust me.
Your mindset and performance coach,
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