Performing Under Pressure


Hendrie Weisinger and J.P. Pawliw-Fry co-wrote a helpful book called, “Performing Under Pressure: The Science of Doing Your Best When it Matters Most.” The gist of the book is to simply do what you already know how to; if you’ve landed a great job, it is because you were qualified and you were simply showing your expertise and a large project or a speedy deadline does not change your ability. Weisinger encourages his readers to remember a few tips, however, to maintain a cool head when hectic situations arise:

  1. Embrace the chaos: Even stressful moments can become fun. If seen as a challenge or an opportunity, a difficult task can completely transform into a moment of excitement, energy and enjoyment.


  1. Be realistic about the importance of the moment: It is not likely that the hectic meeting or the presentation is the most utterly important moment of your life. Tell yourself that the task ahead of you is the same as any other you’ve encountered in the past, and no different than the many you will surely encounter in the future.


  1. Focus: There is likely one goal for a specific challenge you are facing. For example, if you have a presentation to give, instead of adding extra pressure to yourself by saying something very broad like, “I’ve got to do amazing and nail this…” hone in on the real mission of the challenge, for example, telling yourself, “If I nail this I will improve as a speaker within the corporation.” By having one definitive goal for any given task, you will relieve unnecessary pressure.


  1. Do a ‘what if’ run-through: Practice possible malfunctions so that if anything should interrupt your presentation (or the like), you will know exactly how to maneuver through.


  1. Mental self-worth checklist: Before your big day make a mental list of the things your have accomplished or your notable skills and experiences; the ego-boost has been proven to help reduce mistakes.


  1. Positivity warrants Positive results: Remaining positive and foreseeing a positive outcome actually reduces stress which can lead to distractibility and mistakes.


  1. Grounding: focusing your five-senses to the here and now is called ‘grounding,’ and it reduces stress. Ask yourself, “What do I smell? Taste? See? Hear? Feel? in this moment right here.” Hectic scenarios have a way of snowballing and can soon feel overwhelming. Grounding is a good way to remember to stay focused at what is directly in front of you.


  1. Music: The authors of the book also recommend taking the same approach that many athletes do before a big competition; blasting some music. Music not only encourages but it can also make it easier to focus.


  1. Desensitization: In some competitive volleyball circles, coaches train their team on nets that are much higher than regulation size. By doing so they desensitize their outside hitters to the height of the net they end up competing on. In the business world this could look like giving your presentation in front of your noisy children while you cook dinner in ten minutes instead of twenty!


  1. Stress ball: Athletic studies have shown that squeezing a pressure ball in the left hand proved to boost performance and nix mistakes. The movement of closing the left fist boosts brain activity with the fluent and unconscious neural pathways, prepping the brain to avoid mishaps.


by Adam Vega