Don’t Take Pressure
August 18, 2020
I perform well under pressure, Or I don’t perform well under pressure- Which statement applies to you?
Struggling to perform well under pressure is a common problem, a lot of people encounter.
When all our efforts come down to one defining moment to know if we have succeeded or failed, there will be a lot of anxiety and performance pressure.
- Preparing for the SAT’s for six months to write an exam for 2 hours knowing that you can fail to get your desired score.
- Practicing for days on end for a 10 min speech at the finals of a speaking contest
- Interviewing for a role you desperately want, knowing that there are three other equally talented people in the fray.
Let me first illustrate performance pressure with an example. I play golf, and when I practice at the driving range, eight times out of ten, my shot making is spot on. However, when I play in an actual game, something changes. My shot-making deteriorates. What’s worse, when I get to water hazards, my game goes into a tailspin. Eight times out of Ten, I hit the golf ball into the water.
My skill at golf is the same in all situations. But somehow the moment it gets competitive, or when there is some pressure, my ability deserts me.
What happens at a golf game happens in any situation where there is pressure or expectation of any sort.
When we play for fun, losing or winning doesn’t matter. Missing the putt or losing the Golf ball doesn’t mean much. After all, we are just having fun and not competing. When there is nothing on the line, there is nothing to be anxious about, and there is no fear that sabotages our performance.
However, when there are consequences tied to any performance e.g., visibility with Sr. Management, a sales contract, or the judgment of an audience- there is a natural desire to win and an aversion to losing. Unfortunately, the desire of any sort creates pressure.
Many times, feeling the necessity to win has a positive side. It motivates us to give our best at whatever we want to do. Necessity is the breeding ground for success. However, necessity can also be a burden that sabotages our performance. The prospect of not winning or winning creates uncertainty and worry that clouds our mind and dampens our natural abilities and skills.
There is a simple equation to describe the relationship between our emotional state and our capability.
When we control our thoughts and emotions from getting attached to the idea of winning or not winning, our skills and abilities in the present moment can manifest fully.
Worrying about the results obstructs our ability to focus on the task at hand.
So, what needs to be done to avoid performance pressure?
Become fully immersed in the act of doing something without trying to win or not lose. As the Nike Ad famously says “Just Do It”