Dealing with pressure is something we all must do daily. For example, the pressure of making it to work on time, navigating traffic so you don’t get stuck yelling at other drivers and delivering your next presentation and not sounding hungover. Pressure pushes us and places demands on our physical, mental and emotional well-being that can feel, well, less than ideal.
We all must learn to perform under pressure to be not only successful, but effective. After all, pressure is such a natural occurrence that if we don’t learn to manage ourselves then we risk falling behind those who do (competitively speaking).
The common belief of dealing with pressure is to elevate your performance to that level and just “do better,” yet this hardly ever works out. We begin to think too much about the task at hand and what others think, then we place even more pressure upon ourselves to perform.
The startup world is certainly no different. In fact, there may be even greater pressure to deliver as an entrepreneur because, well, your survival -- personally and professionally -- depends on how well you deal with uncertainty. Here are four ways to ensure you’re on the right track:
1. Focus on the fundamentals.
You never really become better in the moment. With so much uncertainty glaring you in the face, developing new insights and awareness at the time of delivery is about as effective as reading a book at an all out sprint and remembering it. Instead of focusing on the pressure of the moment, focus on what you already know, on the content and on the skills and knowledge that put you at the forefront in the first place (not all at the same time, of course).
2. Redefine the value of pressure.
Rather than seeing the pressure of the moment as a threat toward your self-worth, look at it as an opportunity to challenge yourself. Have fun with it.
In the book Performing Under Pressure: The Science of Doing Your Best When It Matters Most, the authors note, “When you see the pressure situation as a challenge, you are stimulated to give the attention and energy needed to make your best effort.”
After all, will the world really end tomorrow if you don’t perform up to par today? Not likely -- you’ll just have less friends (just kidding).
3. (Re)Affirm yourself.
Standing in front of the mirror telling yourself how great you are more often than you already do is a scientifically proven path toward enhanced self-confidence and self-efficacy.
In a study conducted by Stanford University, minority students in the seventh grade were asked to focus on the positive aspects of their lives -- family, friends, hobbies -- during times of relative stress such as the holidays, just before exams and at the start of the school year. The results? A 30 percent improvement in overall tests scores.
Who says vanity doesn’t help?
4. Reframe the task as temporary.
The self-imposed pressure of performing well often comes from the limiting belief of, “This is it! This is my one and only shot at success!” It isn’t. Nothing in life is certain, save death, taxes and bad city traffic. When you view a deliverable as a means to an end rather than the end itself, you see there’s wriggle room to learn, grow and improve. More so, you see a road ahead full of opportunities rather than a dead end.
Dealing with pressure ultimately boils down to personal perspective and the importance you place on the task at hand relative to your own self-identity and self-worth. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself.