Moments that Matter to Us.
Crunch Time in a Competition.
What do these have in common? For just about all of us, we want to perform well in all of these circumstances. We want to get our work done before deadlines. We want to match or surpass the expectations others have for us. We want to achieve and rise to the occasion in every moment, especially in the waning seconds of competitions. Another commonality with these circumstances is that we may experience pressure while they are happening.
What is pressure? Why is it that some moments create this sense of pressure in our lives? How can we perform our best in the face of pressure? As we continue to dive into stress and what it does to our brains and bodies, the concept of pressure is necessary to understand if we want to perform at our best.
When it comes to performing under pressure, it is best to understand what it is first. In its simplest form, pressure is a comparison of our skills, talents, and abilities to the situation we are facing. At the free throw line and down 2 with 10 seconds left on the clock. What are we thinking about in terms of our ability to successfully execute in that situation? Giving a talk in front of other people that can make or break our ability to work with that group. How are we thinking about our public speaking skills in that moment? If we believe that we do not have the skills, talents, and abilities to match and dominate the situation we are in, we may experience pressure and the physical and mental characteristics associated with it. The physical characteristics can be the same sensations we experience under stress. Pressure has a way of throwing our thoughts and emotions into a frenzy that keeps us from performing the way we know we can.
How we deal with pressure can best be described along a continuum: choking - micro choking - performing under pressure - dissolving pressure.
We have all witnessed someone choke under pressure. Whether it be an athlete on the biggest stage or a colleague who isn't able to execute when it matters, it can be hard to watch. Wouldn't it be nice to consistently perform under pressure or even dissolve pressure? Wouldn't it be great if we could walk into any situation and know that pressure will not impact our performance negatively? We can do this by becoming more aware of how we think about the moments when we typically experience pressure and knowing we have done the work ahead of time to be as physically, technically, and mentally prepared as possible. Dissolving pressure takes an incredible amount of physical and mental training ahead of the moment we want to execute. Just as we have witnessed people choking under pressure, we have also witnessed incredible feats by teams and individuals at all levels in challenging situations.
Interested in learning how to thrive in the face of pressure? Check out this Ted Talk from Sian Bielock about why we choke under pressure and how to avoid it. To dive even deeper into handling pressure moments, reach out to a mental performance coach in your area!