Pressure – friend or foe? You choose.

Everyone faces pressure. Everyone’s personality plays a role in how pressure affects them. If you want to be the best you can, then you need to get pressure to work for you!

Elite athletes know that pressure is part of the game. They’d rather not have much of it. But while it’s around, they get really good at controlling it – not have it control them. That’s a choice we all have.

Reading time: 5 minutes

High performance headlines

  • Rather than worrying about pressure, it’s much more helpful to worry about how good you are at stepping up in pressure moments
  • Knowing your personal approach to pressure will help you enjoy rather than endure pressure
  • Great performers know that when the pressure is really on, they back themselves to step up and thrive in those critical moments

The full viewpoint

We’ve all got a pressure personality. Typically we’re either – 1. The natural lovers of pressure. 2. The natural loathers of pressure . Just because you love it or loathe it though, doesn’t mean you’re naturally going to fly high or crumble as a result. Both pressure personalities still have to work hard to make sure they get a good performance from their natural starting point.

We know people who love pressure, who don’t actually perform to their peak – they just don’t get worried by the approaching pressure. Equally, we know people who loathe pressure, who consistently blow the doors off, in performance terms, more often than not when pressure is all around. Making pressure friend or foe means you need to 1. Be confident you know your natural attitude to pressure and 2. Be great at using that natural attitude as a springboard to a great pressure routine.

In the world of elite sport, athletes and coaches regularly practice performing in pressure situations. This is so that they get less worried about their attitude towards the pressure. It’s also so they get more confident in their ability to use their personality to respond well to pressure.

And here’s how they build their plans:

Pressure lover – “Because I love pressure, I’m not going to take it for granted that I’ll step up. So, I’m going to work hard on showing I love the pressure by staying focused on (top 3 things I’m in control of), staying confident in (top 3 abilities I have) and reminding myself what I want to get out of this opportunity.”

Pressure loather – “Because I don’t naturally enjoy pressure, I’m going work really hard to stay focused on staying in control throughout the build up and into the event. I’m going to keep reminding myself of the hard work I’ve done that gives me confidence and I’m going to keep focused on achieving some performance goals that are important to me.”

The same ingredients of being in control, being confident and approaching the pressure on your own terms are in place… those things really help your brain to be in a great place in pressure moments. Even though the same ingredients are there, you can see the story each person tells themselves is slightly different.

The idea is simple. The results of using the ideas with discipline are effective. You just have to decide how hard you have to work to make pressure your friend from a performance point of view. If you’re serious about performance, you’ll know that it’s critical that when the pressure is on, you can produce your best performances, because that’s when you’re usually most valuable to everyone around you.

In the world of work, people tell us pressure is all around. Leaders need and want the people they lead and the teams they’re on to be able to cope with and thrive when the pressure is on. Yet they seem to do little or nothing to help people do just that. The last time we looked, hope wasn’t much of a strategy.

As the saying goes, if you train hard, you fight easy. How ‘easy’ do you want to be able to fight?