How to succeed under pressure

Excelling under pressure is one of life’s most difficult challenges. The reason is that so much of doing your best in any particular situation relates to your mental attitude at the very moment that particular situation arises. In other words, in a pressure situation, if you honestly think you can, you probably can and if you truly do not think you can, you probably won’t. The other factors are preparation, ability and just knowing the enemy or the competition.

#1 – Mental attitude – We tend to perform at our best when we are calm, relaxed and excited and driven by strong belief. The problem with pressure situations is that they are apt to produce the opposite tendencies in our minds and hearts. We become negatively excited, stressed and doubtful – neurological impulses which tend to undermine our skills and abilities. Thus, the secret is a form of self-hypnosis which allows you to block these undermining impulses at the key moment in the pressure situation. You can only block negative, stressful or undermining thoughts by replacing them with their opposite. You must have a hypnotic phrase which you employ in pressure situations. That phrase can be something like “I can do this,” I am prepared,” or “I will overcome.” One of the above phrases (or another similar to them) is to be mentally repeated throughout the pressure situation in order to block undermining thoughts from emerging.

#2 – Preparation – Pressure situations can be predicted and prepared for. Football teams do it all the time. That’s right, think about possible pressure situations which may confront you and practice how you would overcome them. Think about what you would do and how you would do it if a particular pressure situation was to arise. The military refers to this as having contingency plans.

#3 – Ability – Ability comes from experience or stated another way practice, practice, practice. Be good at what your do. Master your craft. In a world where most people do just enough to get by, mastering your craft will make you superior – among the top five percent of the population.

#4 – Know the enemy (competition or opposing factors) – There are few things better in life than knowing and having prepared for the enemy, the competition or the forces which will be opposing you. The words of the ancient Chinese military philosopher Sun Tzu are appropriate here. He said over 2000 years ago: “Most men get into a fight and try to figure the best way to win; but the wise man first figures the best way to win and then gets into the fight.”

You can best prepare for pressure situations by first mastering your craft and then being knowledgeable of the abilities of the forces which will be opposing you. Those opposing forces will not just be the immediate competition but also inertia – old ways of doing things – biases and those who plan to be unfair and those who benefit from the current situation even if that situation is harmful to you and most others.

You must be aware all these forces, prepare for them, stay hard driven by belief or desire and you will perform well in any pressure situation.

Robert N. Taylor

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