How to Perform Under Pressure Review for #Careerlions Part I
One book that had been sitting on my bookshelf for quite some time is How to Perform Under Pressure by Hendrie Weisinger and J.P.Pawliw-Fry. This book is packed with research and experiences of world-class performance in sports and business. The book is set up in three parts. The first part of the book covers the nature and science of pressure. Part two provides you with 22 powerful pressure moment solutions to apply just before and in the heat of the pressure moment. While these are more short-term solutions, part three focuses on long-term strategies to help you build a COTE of Armor. In today’s blog post, I will share with you the knowledge, tips, and tricks that I learned from reading about the nature and science of pressure.
Stress vs. Pressure
There are crucial differences between pressure and stress. Stress in the early ages was defined as “the nonspecific response of the body to any demand for change”. However, there are many responses to a stressful situation that will help you manage the stress in a better way. Pressure situations involve perceiving that something at stake is dependent on the outcome of your performance. Basically, there is only one true response to pressure: get it done. The real difference between pressure and stress is thus the goal. When faced with stress, your goal is a reduction. In the midst of a pressure situation, success is your one true goal.
The function of stress has evolved alerting the body to get in action for the demands made by the environment, such as seeking shelter, making a fire etc. Pressure evolved more as a selection mechanism, where something critical is on the line. Life and death situations among others. While today our lives may not be on the line in pressure situations, our bodies still react in a similar way.
As you can imagine our body’s response to stress and pressure are far from the same. Pressure situations cost a lot more energy and drain our resources. Especially when we start confusing our stress with pressure, we will act disproportional towards the situation physically, mentally, and behaviorally.
So, what are the core ingredients of pressure, the outcome:
- Is important to you,
- Uncertain, and
- Is something you feel you are responsible for and being judged on.
Bad news: the more intense the pressure situation is perceived, the more likely you are to underperform. You will be more likely to choke!
Pressure has the power to throw our thought processes off, make our heartbeat zoom, and disrupt our actions. When the pressure gets to you, your concerns can start to shrink your working memory capacity during your “thinking tasks”. This memory is essential for storing relevant information needed in pressure moments. We choke once we try to deliberately guide our behavior during well-rehearsed tasks. This is why you want to prevent worrying as a result of fear and anxiety making their way to your precious working memory. You also want to restrain yourself from mentally getting in the way while it is doing its magic.
I can totally relate to this. If there is one thing I have learned is to not think and become self-conscious in the midst of my “performance”. Whether it is a dancing competition or display, an important interview, or presentation, everything goes down the drain when I become self-conscious and start to interfere with my working memory. Maybe I need a sign saying: “Don’t touch!”
Perception is Everything
Our interpretations of events are what make us confident or anxious, rather than our behavior. By viewing pressure situations as a once in a life time opportunity will only enhance your feelings of risk and loss. Both detrimental for your decision making and behavior. When magnification comes into the mix and we blow up the importance of the outcome, you know it is doomed.
The great thing is, perception is everything. If we teach ourselves to shift our thoughts from DANGER to seeing it as a challenge, your brain is stimulated to give it the attention and energy required in the first place. Try to identify pressure moments and then fight back by slowing down your thoughts, challenging the validity of the thoughts, and getting out your toolbox of pressure solutions. In next week’s blog, I will elaborate on the toolbox provided by Weisinger and Pawlin-Fry with the usual #careerlion touch.
If there is one thing in life that I love, it is a challenge. Honestly, there are few things in life that I don’t see as a challenge. While “challenges” definitely can make me feel nervous, I really feel that it keeps me from having full blown panic attacks. There is really no excuse to not see pressure situations as challenges. According to the dictionary, a challenge is “a situation that needs great mental or physical effort in order to be done successfully and therefore tests a person's ability.” Who doesn’t like to prove to themselves that they are more capable than they initially imagined?
What do you think about these thoughts on stress and pressure? Are you ready to perform under pressure? And get your own copy? Share it down below.