In his book, Performing Under Pressure: The Science of Doing Your Best When It Matters Most, JP Pawliw-Fry (with Hendrie Weisinger) delivers the sad truth: the difference between regular people and ultra-successful people is not that the latter thrive under pressure, it’s that they are better able to mitigate its negative effects. According to Pawliw-Fry, handling pressure is a skill, and you can learn it. Here are eight tactics he suggests to perform well when the heat is on:
Think of it as a fun challenge
Most people see pressure situations as threatening and that makes them perform badly. “Seeing pressure as a threat undermines your self-confidence; elicits fear of failure, impairs your short-term memory, attention, and judgment and spurs impulsive behaviour,” Weisinger and Pawliw-Fry write. Instead, try shifting your thoughts and see it as a challenge.
“The fact is we each get multiple chances over and over again in life. Keep this in mind, and you will find your life less pressured,” Weisinger and Pawliw-Fry write. We tell ourselves (or others tell us) that this is our big chance, and we’ll never get another opportunitiy like it. This kind of thinking is destructive. Weisinger and Pawliw-Fry say that reminding yourself there is almost always another chance to excel depressurises the moment.
Focus on the task, not the outcome
This might be the easiest tactic of all. Instead of worrying about the outcome, worry about the task at hand. That means developing tunnel vision. When you keep your eye on the task at hand, all you can see is the concrete steps necessary to excel.
Plan for the worst
Let yourself play out the worst-case outcomes and anticipate the unexpected. “It can protect you from a pressure surge by allowing you to prepare for and thus, be less startled by the unexpected,” Weisinger and Pawliw-Fry say.
Past successes and positivity
Remembering your past success ignites confidence and once you are feeling good about yourself, you will be able to cultivate a positive attitude. “Belief in a successful outcome can prevent you from worry that can drain and distract your working memory,” Weisinger and Pawliw-Fry explain.
Listen to music
By listening to music, you’re able to distract yourself from anxiety. The next time you are facing a high-pressure situation, spend a few minutes listening to your pump-up tunes. Create a pre-performance routine Create a brief routine that you go through in the minutes before you present or perform to keep you in the zone. Keep the routine short, do it immediately, include a mental and physical component, visualise yourself succeeding, finish with a word or phrase that signals you are ready.