Performing under pressure: Befriend the moment
“Nobody performs better under pressure. Regardless of the task, pressure ruthlessly diminishes our judgment, decision making, attention, dexterity and performance in every professional and personal arena,” assert Performing Under Pressure coauthors Weisinger and Pawliw-Fry.
Leaders in the nonprofit sector are no strangers to feeling the pressure of furthering a mission with lean resources and limited staff. After learning more about the authors’ conclusive research, you can’t help but realize that pressure management should be a baseline competency for every leader.
Why do we feel the pressure?
Many factors have increased the perceived pressure on our lives: recent economic downturn; higher competition for jobs; advent of the global economy; lack of job stability; and growing competition to get into top colleges, universities and graduate programs.
Pressure is the enemy of success
The authors explain the bottom line is simply that pressure is the enemy of success. Since it is impossible to live a life without pressure, the key is to understand your reactions to it and how those reactions put you at risk. Then you must engage in what the authors call pressure management.
Weisinger: If you want to perform your best in a pressure moment, it is essential to “befriend the moment.” That means perceiving the pressure moment, whether it is giving a presentation, a crucial conversation, an interview or sports contest, as an “opportunity” or “fun” rather than a threatening situation.
Befriending the moment allows you to approach the situation with confidence and optimism, two natural pressure reducers, while viewing the pressure moment as threatening causes you to approach the situation with trepidation and anxiety.
The most important point for individuals to know for reducing daily feelings of pressure is to rid themselves of a ranking mindset —one that causes one to compare himself with others, which fosters competition. Competition is a natural pressure inducer so when you are always competing with others and trying to be the best, you experience continual pressure because you are chasing an impossible goal.
Plus, you can’t control the actions of others. There is always going to be someone that is better, richer and smarter. In contrast, developing a mindset of “excellence” helps you focus on what you can control –doing your best. When you focus on doing your best rather than trying to “beat” the others, you experience less daily feelings of pressure.
Pawliw-Fry: Lose the story you tell yourself that in order to be successful you need to be perfect. You won’t be perfect and that is OK. The people who perform under pressure don’t go in expecting to be better than they have ever been before or perfect. They go in expecting the unexpected, that things might not go well at times and what they need to do is not react to their imperfection.
Michael Jordan performed worse under pressure, not better, but when he missed a big shot or made a mistake, he limited the duration the mistake stayed on his outlook. He wanted the ball back faster than others. That was the secret of his success.
Why you should buy this book
Performing Under Pressure is a guidebook with strategies—22 to be exact—that you can quickly apply in your workplace and in life. This book is grounded in Weisinger’s and Pawliw-Fry’s years of field experience and a multiyear study of more than 12,000 people who experience pressure.
For those of you who need immediate help, you can review part two where the authors share nearly two dozen how-to’s on pressure management. For others who want to better understand why they experience pressure to begin with, part one is extremely enlightening. Part three is a fitting conclusion with a delivery of techniques for managing pressure over the long-term.
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Image credits: Crown Business (2015), theatlantic.com, The Lucy Show