We all feel pressure to perform at work/school, accomplish our goals, and to exceed the expectations of others. Pressure is uncomfortable and as human beings we tend to avoid feelings of discomfort at all costs. This leaves us feeling comfortable, but not always prepared to perform in stressful situations.
Then when it’s time to perform the pressure feels 10x greater because we never stressed our preparation. We feel worse because in an effort to be comfortable and confident we forgot to practice managing pressure and frustration.
A simple strategy to avoid this issue is to turn your preparation into a competition or a game. Do this by creating a fun challenge and keeping score each week as a way of tracking improvement.
As an athlete I would make challenges daily like, ‘I’m going to practice sitting lower by increasing the number of reps I can do with a full range of motion every week’. Now I’m not doing reps mindlessly because coach said so. I’m doing reps with the added challenge of increasing quality and quantity each week.
If there was a week when I failed to improve (which was inevitable) I was met with the opportunity to practice performing under pressure as well as bouncing back from the frustration that often comes with falling short of a goal.
Sometimes you’re physically incapable of achieving a goal on a certain day. Sometimes an external stimulus that’s outside of our control gets in the way and derails our plan for the day. Even though this isn’t our fault, it’s still our responsibility to manage ourselves effectively.
During my comeback I had countless days when my body couldn’t achieve my physical goals due to back pain. This wasn’t fun or challenging. It was incredibly frustrating! So, I would change the rules of my game. Instead of trying to improve quality/quantity of reps I would challenge myself to be a positive influence for my teammates. I would make a game out of encouraging others.
The challenge was to keep frustration from getting the better of me. The game was increasing the amount of positive impact I could have on others. Using this strategy, I’m an athlete that lifts up my teammates even when I’m having a bad day. Instead of an athlete that cracks under pressure/frustration and brings negativity to the team around me.
What kind of teammate would you prefer having? What kind of athlete do you want to be? How can you turn your preparation into a competition or a game in order to perform under pressure?