Be Aware of Your “Personal Brakes”

Have you ever noticed certain situations that seem to have caused you to put on your “personal brakes”? Sometimes we do not realize it is happening, but we see our results change because we are not our true selves.


We feel different and behave differently in certain situations without understanding the reason. “Personal brakes” can be a good thing when making a decision that could lead to trouble. However, it can be detrimental to our life if circumstances inhibit our performance, and we do not recognize it and take control.

Person putting their hand forward

My “Aha Moment” came into play due to my experience playing on the middle school basketball team. In my hometown of Morristown, sports were a big deal. Every day after school, kids in the neighborhood gathered at my house, and we played basketball until dark. Most of them were boys, so it was pretty competitive. With all of that social activity (disguised as a dedication to practicing), I accidentally became pretty good at hitting shots from the outside.

Unfortunately, in basketball practice where it counted, I could not “hit the broad side of a barn,” as we say in East Tennessee. I did not understand the reason. Somehow, my coach must have known that I was a good shot, or he would not have had such high expectations. When I missed the basket, he yelled, and when he yelled, I missed the shot—talk about a vicious cycle, nearly costing my spot on the starting line-up!


The realization that I was letting outside influences cause me to slam on my “personal brakes” came toward the end of the season. The Coach had a meeting to discuss the upcoming tournament. He said many things, but the only thing I remember was, “Ward (maiden name), I am only letting you start so that you can pass the ball to Watterson.” The insult took a minute to process -it stung a bit.


Relieved that I was still on the starting team, I did not consciously think about it again until the first game of the tournament. At that point, it seemed that my subconscious acknowledgment of his comment came out physically. In revenge, every time I got the ball and had an opening, I shot it, and, most of the time, it was all net. My performance in the last few games of the year was rewarded by being awarded the “All-Tourney” and “Best Offense” trophies for the year. (I still have them in the attic…).


I started telling my boys that story when I thought they could make the connection. We call it my “silly little basketball story.” Anytime I suspected they were putting on their “personal brakes,” I said, “Wanta hear my silly little basketball story?” and they declined. However, I knew they would think about it.


It is amazing how our performance can be “locked up” by a person or circumstance. Being aware of it can be beneficial in managing your performance in any endeavor.


Can you think of examples where you let a person or situation take you out of your zone and not even recognize yourself? It can sneak up on you, regardless of your age or title!