Few people find pressure comfortable. But a recent study discovered that top performers rise to the occasion and thrive in pressure situations (Hodge & Smith, 2014). In analyzing the remarkably successful All Blacks rugby team out of New Zealand, the researchers found that the coaches actively encouraged athletes to adopt the mindset that intense pressure should be welcomed, embraced, and treated as a sign of respect–a privilege.
When viewed in this light, pressure became a source of motivation and energy that enhanced and extended the athletes’ performance. It seems that seeing pressure as positive does not detract from your ability to reach a successful outcome, even in the face of difficult and daunting circumstances. When a tight situation is viewed as a challenge rather than a liability it helps rather than hinders your ability to give your best and have that effort make a significant contribution to your success.
Pressure, in this perspective, is savored because it only comes when something important is at stake—and you are the person in the position to get it done when it matters most. When failure, or the avoidance of failure, is the goal survival rather than success comes to mind. Even if success is not the ultimate outcome for every situation, you will know that at the end of the race you gave it your very best in the toughest of times. And no one can ask any more of themselves than that. Let stressful situations blossom into opportunities for uncommon rewards and success. See stress, not an obstacle or unwanted intrusion, but rather as a signal that it is time to get serious about your success. Viewed as such, there is a far greater chance of achievement because you have learned to thrive under pressure. Bring it on!
Hodge, K., & Smith, W. (2014). Public expectation, pressure, and avoiding the choke: A case study from elite sport. The Sport Psychologist, 28, 375-389