Dealing with Pressure

Now that we have looked at what pressure is and explored its causes and effects, it is time to turn our attention to perhaps the most important part of this discussion – dealing with pressure.

In this posting, we are going to take a close look at specific tactics and strategies that can help you prepare for pressure-filled situations and to deal with mounting pressure when you find yourself under the gun.

It is important to keep in mind that successful people are successful because they know how to effectively deal with pressure. The tips and suggestions that are listed below are tried and true, and will work for you, too, if you put them into practice.

Love Your Life

There is no way to avoid pressure situations. Because of that reality, one of the most direct ways to deflect the negative effects of pressure is to accept that being alive involves a certain amount of pressure.

If you accept and love your life, regardless of what has happened, is happening, or will happen – all the good and the bad – you will begin to focus on the good and learn to deal with the bad.

The parts of your life that are enjoyable will begin to over shadow the parts of your life that are less enjoyable. Loving life will help you see pressure-filled situations as challenges rather than obstacles.

In other words, when you love your life, you love all of it, including the pressures (challenges) that life brings.

Accept Your Fallibility

You are not superman or superwoman. In fact, no one expects you to be, except maybe you. So, let that go! Accept your fallibility. That is also part of life.

Everyone always does the best s/he can with the experience and information available in any given situation; but, makes mistakes, and is fallible. When you accept that fact of life, you can learn to go easier on yourself when things don’t go exactly as you hoped – especially in pressure situations.

Understanding and accepting your fallibility can help you relax.  It allows you to  use your knowledge, talent, expertise, etc. and truly perform at your highest level most of the time. That is all anyone can ask of himself.

If at First You Don’t Succeed…

BUT . . . what if you fail? Simple (and you know the answer) – try, try again. I could list a dozen old sayings that would make this same point. You may be thinking – “That’s all so trite.” Maybe! But, that doesn’t mean it isn’t good advice. In fact, It is absolutely rock solid advice.

Your primary goal in a pressure situation should be to relieve some of the pressure so you can relax your mind and give an optimal performance.

One of the best ways to do this is to realize that this is only one moment in time and you will have many, many more chances to succeed. Even if you don’t reach the highest pinnacle of success this time, you are going to have plenty of chances to get there again and again.

All you have to do is breathe deeply, relax, and give it all you’ve got this time around. The clear understanding that you have multiple opportunities to succeed takes the edge off of your pressure.

If at first, you don’t succeed . . .

Turn Mountains into Molehills

Anticipation can be a terrible thing, especially when facing a pressure-filled event. It can turn anything into an impossible mountain that you must climb. The reality is – there are no mountains. They are all molehills.

When you get mired in agonizing anticipation of everything that could happen and cause you to fail, you are setting yourself up to fail.

You lie awake at night thinking about possible outcomes (all disastrous). You spend every idle moment worrying about the event, and what you have to do. The more you anticipate the negative possibilities, the greater the chances are that they will occur.

When the time arrives for you to do your thing, your negative anticipation has made the task you face seemingly insurmountable and you will not perform at your best.

When you counteract negative anticipation with positive anticipation you can avoid this result. By diminishing the magnitude of the event to a molehill, you also diminish the pressure, leaving you free to concentrate on making sure you succeed.

Concentrate on Your Goals

Pressure can be extremely distracting, especially when it occurs during a performance event.

Think about a time when this happened to you. It is likely that your nerves and the fear of failure began to distract you from the very reason that you were at the event in the first place.

Once you became distracted you began to lose your mental focus. At that point, it became difficult to maintain your composure and perform at your optimum level because you were focusing on your fears rather than your goals. Laser focus on your goals during a pressure event is critically important.

When you feel the pressure building you must remember why you are involved in the event and what you want to accomplish.

When you keep your eyes on the prize, so to speak, you diffuse the pressure and you are better able to perform well.

Expect the Unexpected

We have all heard of Murphy’s Law: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

This well-known adage is as old as humanity. Mankind has been dealing with the vagaries of nature and the universe from the beginning, which means that you need to be prepared for the worst in every situation.

Obviously, you must practice and mentally prepare yourself for a particular event, but, if the unexpected happens, what will you do?

One way to prepare for the unimaginable is to ask yourself, what is the worst thing that could happen while the spotlight is on you? Then, have a contingency plan should that thing occur. It doesn’t matter if that thing is equipment failure, illness or a natural disaster.

When you expect the unexpected, you can remain poised, calm, and on top of your game no matter what.

Be Your Own Best Friend

We already know two absolutes about pressure.

  1. It is unavoidable.
  2. It is corrosive to high level performance.

So, when it comes to managing your pressure situations, it is important to avoid adding negativity, which adds to the problem.

When faced with pressure, there can be a tendency to dwell on past experiences when you dropped the ball. This tendency is understandable when you consider that the feelings of dread that you are experiencing remind you of the feelings you felt in the past.

The way to counter this tendency is by being your own best friend.

Instead of remembering prior failures concentrate on your successes. If you take the time to pat yourself on the back and remember your accomplishments, you will reduce the pressure and perform at your best.

Visualize Your Success

This is a simple, but important technique for handling pressure. Let’s say allot is riding on the outcome of a meeting you have scheduled for the coming week. There is the potential of landing a new client that could add significantly to your bottom line.

The day of the meeting is rapidly approaching and the familiar pressure to perform begins to build. You must close this deal and sign the client. You cannot afford to fail. It is precisely at this moment that you need to begin to visualize your success.

Take a few minutes to sit or stand in a quiet place where you can gather your thoughts and concentrate.

Begin by walking through the meeting step-by-step, as well as your role in each step.  See every detail as clearly as possible. Visualize and feel yourself convincing the client that there can be no choice but to sign-on with you.

Once you have gone through the initial visualization, repeat the process several times each day. On the day of the meeting make sure that you go through your visualization once more right before the meeting is about to start.

The process of visualization not only keeps negative pressure at bay, it will also empower you to succeed once the actual pressure event begins.

Stay Positive

The reality is that everything about pressure is essentially negative. If this were not the case, you probably would not be reading this posting on dealing with pressure. And I would not have written it.

Because pressure is negative, you must do everything in your power to stay positive when facing pressure. Studies show that people most likely to survive disasters are not necessarily the ones in the best shape or the ones with the most survival experience.  Survivors tend to be the people who remain the most positive when placed in a dangerous position.

Surviving a pressure-filled situation has a lot in common with surviving a life or death situation. In both cases, there is a lot riding on the outcome. I know the typical pressure-event is not a life or death situation, but, the negative consequences can be serious.

So, it is critical for you to battle against both the negativity inherent in the situation and your own internal tendency to go negative when confronted with pressure.

Staying positive can help you achieve both these objectives which, in turn, will help you perform at your highest level whenever you need to.

Embrace the Moment

Because the effects of pressure are physically and mentally unpleasant, it is not surprising that you may want to run away from the situation. This is because your “fight or flight” mechanism kicks in.

When faced with danger, the human brain is programmed to do one of two things – fight for your life or flee from the danger. The feelings caused by pressure are very similar to feelings that result from a life threatening situation. So, it is understandable that one of the reactions you may have is to want to run away.

This instinct to flee can break your concentration and cause you to lose focus when you need it most. You can find yourself faltering and making simple mistakes at critical moments.

The solution to this problem is to remain focused on the task at hand. This involves “staying present in the moment” and embracing the challenge that the pressure situation brings.

In other words, instead of trying to flee from the situation, confront it head on and fight. Remember that the instinct to fight a danger is just as strong as the instinct to run away. So get in there and start swinging!

Stay in Control of YOU

In any pressure situation there are a lot of variables. You may be a part of a team, working together to reach a goal. You may be interviewing for a job. You may be involved in competitive sports. Regardless of the situation or event, things will happen over which you have absolutely no control.

That makes it even more important to take charge of the things you can control.

The reality is the only things you can control are YOU and your performance. So, stay in control.  Concentrate on YOU and on doing your very best.

Don’t waste energy by focusing on someone else’s performance. Or, even worse, don’t worry about anyone’s reaction to your performance. When you take control and focus on what you are doing, you will no longer have time to worry about things that do not matter to your overall success.

Points to Remember

  • Successful people have developed pressure-reducing techniques and strategies, which include:
    • They love life, including the pressures that it brings.
    • They realize there is more than one opportunity to be successful.
    • They minimize the importance of any single task or event.
    • They stay focused on the goal or desired outcome.
    • They prepare for the unexpected.
    • They cultivate a strong sense of self-worth.
    • They use visualization to maximize the chances for success.
    • They stay positive.
    • They stay in the present, and enjoy the moment.
    • They focus on what they can control and let go of the rest.

Conclusion

There you have it! You know what pressure is, its causes and effects and the ways to minimize them in order to begin to effectively manage pressure.

Remember, pressure is a pervasive part of our modern technological culture. You can’t run away from pressure, but you can take proactive measures to make sure that when you are confronted by a pressure-filled situation you will be able to perform your best.

To your continued success!

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