What goes on

Pressure will show up at some point in any high performance environment. If success or failure is on the line, then pressure is inevitable. People spend a lot of time trying to avoid pressure or wishing that the pressure wasn’t there. That’s a bit like pilots wishing turbulence didn’t exist. So, instead of spending time wishing for things that are never going to happen, the best just get on with working out how to use pressure when it does show up. That’s much more useful and wastes far less energy. Simple.

Five performance truths

The brutal reality of high performance life – this is what you need to know

  1. Pressure is always going to show up at some point, so you need to have a plan for how you want to use it when it arrives.
  2. Great performers often end up performing their best in pressure situations. Pressure becomes more friend than foe.
  3. You can predict when pressure is going to be around and the better you are at predicting moments of pressure, the better prepared you’ll be for them.
  4. When the pressure’s on, people are more likely to worry about a result and this is normally the worst thing that you can do.
  5. If you practise how you want to think during pressure situations, you’ll soon stop fearing those situations.

Three things to do

  1. Start looking ahead and working out the different kind of pressure situations you’ll be facing over the coming weeks. Make your best guess and start planning for them now.
  2. Stop taking part in any conversations about pressure and how bad it is and how you wish you didn’t have to face it. Just stop it. It’s normally not very helpful.
  3. Start thinking about how you want to use pressure. Next time the pressure is around, what is it going to remind you to think about? How will you use it to remind you to do things that help you get ready to perform?


Gina’s story

Gina was a worrier and when she found herself in really important situations, she’d worry even more. She’d worry about letting other people down. She’d worry she wouldn’t get the outcome everyone wanted her to get. She’d worry she’d forget something really simple. She’d start feeling short of breath even just thinking about those pressure situations. She’d worry that she’d blush and everyone would know that she was struggling under the pressure. She’d worry a lot.

As luck would have it, Gina had someone join her team who used to be a worrier, but was quite different now. Gina’s colleague gave her a challenge of doing a few things each time she was going into a pressure situation. First, to focus on her breathing and breath really slowly and deeply. Second, she challenged Gina to slow her thinking down and just think of the first thing that needed to be done really well in that situation. Third, she told Gina to slow everything down, by speaking slowly and making sure she didn’t feel at all rushed to just stop the pressure.

Over the next few weeks, Gina and her talked a lot about breathing slowly, thinking slowly and speaking slowly whenever the pressure levels cranked up. Gina began to notice she was feeling less out of control when the pressure showed up. She also felt more confident that she’d focus on the right thing. It was a really simple recipe, but one that gave Gina the starting point for responding to pressure very differently.