A gold medal was slipping out of reach. A champion sailor was about to be overtaken from his already second place position in a recent Olympics competition. He had tightened up and lost his natural more open, risk-taking style – the style that got him to the games in the first place. As failure loomed, it only got worse.

Fortunately, there was time for a reset.

We were able talk on the phone between races. I think I surprised him at first by saying, “This is exactly where you want to be at this point.”

As his mental performance coach, I had to bring the athlete back to the “now” and guide him to get in touch with who he is as a competitive athlete. From our work to that point, we knew that he was a come-from-behind racer. So maybe lagging back from the lead wasn’t the problem.

What was being missed in that moment? Trusting himself and his preparation. Belief in himself was waning; he was suddenly feeling very average.

“My momentum at that point was not so good, but that conversation put me in the now,” I was told. “It brought me back to all the exciting times I had getting up to that point. It reminds you why you enjoy it all and why you’re there in the first place.”

Eventually the gold medal went to Canada.

This same situation plays out in business all the time. An executive finds themselves frozen, stymied, flailing, confused – indecisive – right when they need to be homing in on a big win. And my coaching is the same as with athletes: get them back to the mental state that earned their high performing job.

Mental performance coaching shows the way back to “the now” and to who you are as a competitor to find the ideal state of physiological ease, focus and motivation.

How can you fight this fail factor when it happens? It all starts with self awareness.

1) Stop or slow down. Not too long, but just drop back a little. Take a breath, and remember that space brings accuracy. All coaches get a few timeouts. Where do you use yours?

2) Connect with how you feel in the moment and then how you’d like to feel. Remember previous wins and compare the feeling. Reverse engineer that feeling.

3) Accept the discomfort with the situation. Having a plan for what to do in such moments is important – we call this a “mental performance plan.”

You can do this yourself, and with a coach you can make it more of a “practice and preparation” part of your continuing performance in just about any role.