Here is Michael Phelps summarizing my book and online class, Performing Under Pressure. It won’t help you swim like Phelps but if you can handle pressure, you won’t drown. https://www.nbcnews.com/better/video/olympian-michael-phelps-how-i-conquered-pressure-1258216515959
Ever since Pandora let hope out of the box, hope has served man well. Studies show that adults and children who score higher in hope (1) score higher in self-esteem, meaning in life and happiness, (2) cope better with injuries, disease, and physical pain, (3) excel in academics from elementary to graduate school; 4) perform better in sports. Reflect on these findings and you will see they are all descriptive of resilient individuals.
What makes hope spring eternal resilience? Considering that nobody “invented” resiliency, it must be Hope’s evolutionary function: to prolong life by attaching the individual to a positive outcome. The cancer stricken patient is resilient because he or she wishes to see their grandchildren; the manager is resilient because he wants to be successful.
We often admire the resilient individual as if he or she is doing something special by overcoming adversity through the most trying conditions, but the fact is, life is hardwired to be resilient. Eco systems after draughts and floods bounce back. The body, without treatment, mends its own injuries and you often recover from a cold without intervention. The same is true for our emotional landscape. A broken heart mends, and after a devastating setback, spirits may be down but for most come back up; remember depression is an illness.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, there is nothing special about being resilient —Mother Nature made you that way so that you could work through difficult moments we all encounter—so that you can prolong your life. From an evolutionary perspective Hope fuels resiliency.
Yet, what about individuals who lack resiliency, those who give up easily or let a setback send them into depression, the ultimate killer of productivity, and what about a company that throws in the towel and spirals downward because of a product failure or loss of market share. These non-resilient individuals and organizations have a common denominator—they have lost hope— no chance of achieving a favorable outcome- and thus, see no reason in making an effort. A physician might say, “He’s lost his will to live.”
Resiliency can be returned, fostered, and instilled in any individual, studies tell us, if you create hope and you can do so by applying the major concepts of Hope Theory: Agency and Pathway thinking. Agency, commonly called “willpower,” is the motivational component that propels people along their chosen routes to achieve goals and also reflects their belief in being successful: “I know I can do this!” is a high will power belief.
Pathway thinking is the ability to identify the necessary routes to achieving that goal. The more pathways or way power, the more the individual or organization perceives the goals can be achieved, and the more hopeful they become. More effort results and resiliency is in action. Two tips to take:
- Create “will power” by establishing meaningful goals that provide purpose and meaning. These goals are physically arousing and translate into directed energy. After a setback or in times of adversity, reiterate your meaningful goals, purpose and meaning and you will begin to feel resilient.
- Create Pathways. Brainstorm and problem solve obstacles away by creating and innovating new routes that can help you achieve your goal. Break each down into a simple step and each one taken, will increase the individual’s will power to continue. The individual becomes resilient because he or she is hopeful they will make it.
Hope—it’s the best of all possible things.
Make Yourself Positive Before Pressure Moments
Each of us has an internal “GPS” system programed to give us a positive attitude and confidence. However, life circumstances can instill negative tendencies. Reboot your GPS with positive visualization of your performance, assuming a good outcome (“when” you succeed, not “if” you succeed), and using confidence building statements,” I’m going to do my best.” When you are positive, you minimize anxiety and trepidation and that helps you perform your best.
As you are probably well aware, there is considerable empirical research indicating those who apply emotional intelligence to their lives are more broadly successful than those who don’t. In other words, if you manage your anger when your boss criticizes you rather than shouting back, you will be more likely to be successful. Your chances of success also increase if you can harness your emotions for self-motivation and respond productively to adversity. No doubt, EI is a career success skill.
Similarly, it’s an easy stretch to confidently say that marriages that apply EI are much more successful than those that don’t. A patient never told me he or she was leaving his or her marriage because their partner was too understanding, or attentive to their needs, or supportive and encouraging.
I’ll spare you the case history of the couple that couldn’t resolve conflict, give positive criticism to each other, laugh together, and share their intimate thoughts and feelings, but then, as they applied EI to their marriage, it miraculously became better — just trust the point, that if you want better returns on your marriage investment, add some EI. Two actions to help you get started are: building relationship awareness and managing marriage emotions.
Build Relationship Awareness. High self-awareness tells you what your emotional nutrients are — the factors that you need to thrive, but for a marriage to thrive, you and your partner have to be aware of each other’s emotional nutrients so that you can assist each other in having your needs met. After all, you first entered the relationship because it met your emotional nutrients at the time.
What we need to grow changes all the time so it is EI marriage policy to frequently be aware of whether or not the marriage is supplying the emotional nutrients to your partner. When partners feel their relationship helps them grow, they are motivated to keep it going. Here is an EI marriage exercise to help:
You and your partner independently make two lists.
List 1: write down your three most important emotional nutrients.
List 11: write down what you think are the three most important emotional nutrients for your partner.
Exchange the list and use the results to brainstorm how the marriage can do better in meeting both your emotional nutrients.
Managing Marriage Emotions. An important finding in emotional research is that emotions impact performance for better or for worse. Some emotions, like anger and anxiety can either enhance or impede relationships and performance, while confidence, optimism, tenacity and enthusiasm typically enhance performance and make relationships productive. Depression almost always impedes performance and has a long-term effect of souring the relationship.
The implication here is that marriages that can manage anger and anxiety advantageously, avoid depression, and can create confidence, optimism, tenacity, and enthusiasm will be more rewarding than those who let anger and anxiety get out of hand or unable to generate happy times
What makes it difficult to manage marriage emotions? The emotional landscape that occurs when you are with your partner, is a process called emotional contagion. The term refers to the well documented fact that emotions can be likened to a social virus in that they spread from one person to another. Put another way, you can literally catch your partner’s anger, anxiety and depression, or similarly, you can mood infect your partner with confidence and enthusiasm.
Using emotional contagion to your advantage is the key to managing the emotions that impact your marriage. There are many skills you will need to learn.
The first step is to make sure you can “relax on cue.” Doing so reflects using your EI ability of being able to regulate your emotional arousal. Being able to regulate your emotional arousal allows you to immunize yourself to catching your partner’s emotions, thus allowing you to keep proper emotional perspective, something that is typically lost when both partners are experiencing anger, anxiety, frustration and fear.
These emotions typically increase emotional arousal and cause a mental rigidity that prevents one from making accurate interpretations of the situation and generate counter productive behaviors, like a shouting match or storming out of the house. Furthermore, when both partners simultaneously experience these emotions, the tendency is for each to feed the other, causing an upward spiral that fuels emotional turmoil. This is the danger of emotional contagion.
When both partners can regulate their emotional arousal, each is able to make accurate interpretations of the situation and in so doing, free themselves from being negatively influenced by the other’s emotions; you don’t yell back at your partner because she yelled at you, or you don’t become anxious when your partner’s anxiety about household expenses gets out of hand.
Staying relaxed in the face of these emotions allows, at least one person in the marriage, to keep proper emotional perspective and thus guide the marriage to better grounds.
Here’s an EI Marriage tip: On a daily basis for the next two months, practice a relaxation exercise with your partner.
The result will be that you will find that your marriage is better able to manage emotions that typically send partners to opposite sides of the house.
In future articles, I will provide more specifics on adding EI to your marriage. For now, building relationship awareness and combating emotional contagion so anger, anxiety, and fear do not get out of hand, is a good beginning to sweetening the deal you made with your partner — more better than worse!
For those of you in a rush to add EI to your relationship, go to www.drhankw.com
Can you summon your talent at will?
Can you deliver on a deadline?
Can you sleep at night?
Don’t be a chump and think you actually perform your best under pressure –you don’t, and neither does Brady, LeBron, and for sure, not the President of the United States!
Studies conducted around the globe clearly indicate that nobody performs better when they feel pressure. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the edge is not rising to the occasion, but rather to immunize yourself to the injurious effects of pressure so that you can perform your best. The caveat is that your best might not be good enough but anything short often takes you out of the game.
Nevertheless, if you want to do your best in life and direct it with confidence, optimism, tenacity, and enthusiasm, then two classes you should definitely take are Pressure Dynamics 101 and 102.
I can’t claim to be an expert in thermodynamics but I do claim expertise in pressure dynamics, a term I coined that refers to the forces that combine to create feelings of pressure when we perform a task, whether it is giving a presentation, making a sales call, performing in an audition, taking a test, or playing in the company golf tournament. These 5 forces or dynamics are:
- Desire for Incentive
- Aversion to negative outcome
If you understand the effect of pressure dynamics, you can regulate feelings of pressure and minimize them so you can perform your best when it matters most.
Pressure Dynamics: 101
Focuses on how and why the 5 pressure dynamics intensify feelings of pressure
- The more important you make a task you are to perform, the more pressure you will feel and the worse you do.
- The more uncertain you are about how you will perform your task, the more pressure you will feel.
- Desire for incentive: The more you want the incentive for performing successfully, the more pressure you will feel.
- Aversion: The more you fear a negative outcome, the more pressure you will feel.
- Responsibility: The more responsible you feel for the results of your task and to other people, the more pressure you will feel.
Pressure Dynamics: 102
Prerequisite: Pressure Dynamics 101
Focuses on how to leverage pressure dynamics for reducing pressure intensity. Some principles covered:
- You can reduce your feelings of pressure by shrinking the importance of the task or situation.
- You can reduce your feelings of pressure by increasing your confidence to perform the task.
- You can reduce your feelings of pressure by focusing on doing your best rather than attaining the incentive.
- You can reduce your feelings of pressure by challenging the irrational statements you associate with a negative performance outcome and affirming your self-worth.
- You can reduce your feelings of pressure by sharing your feelings.
To master pressure management, go to: https://hankweisingerphd.com/b2c/
Are you ready to lose the weight that slows you and often keeps you down? Do you want to lose the weight that makes you anxious, fearful, short-tempered at work and home, and robs you of enthusiasm? If “Yes” be your answer, you ‘re ready to go on the pressure—less diet.
The pressure-less diet — it’s based on the twenty fives of research summarized in my latest book, Performing Under Pressure (put in link) that concludes most people experience daily feelings of pressure akin to a weight upon their shoulders, a burden to be carried 24/7 and your life is apt to feel sour. The pressure-less diet reduces your daily feelings of pressure, and unlike most diets, sweetens your life up too!
Because we all want to succeed in the tasks we deem important we all experience pressure moments. For these pressure moments —a job interview, an audition, an important test, a presentation, we can learn specific “pressure solutions” that help us manage our anxieties, fears, self-consciousness that often cause us to perform below our capabilities. We encounter pressure moments –like a holiday dinner—intermittently throughout the year.
Too many people, though, experience pressure feelings everyday—not jus in a particular pressure moment. The extra pressure becomes a burden — extra weight that they have to carry around, pressed, squeezed the world upon their shoulders is how they feel.
People gain this extra weight by becoming pressure pigs —they stuff themselves with pressure often without even realizing it. You will too if you don’t break this hardwired pressure-eating habit: confusing your wants with your needs.
Start to understand the diet’s science by asking yourself, “What’s the difference between a want and need?” One woman put it this way: “a need is clothes. A want is a channel label.”
For early man, wants and needs were the same — his wants were literally equivalent to needs. He wanted food because he needed it to survive.
Today you gain extra pressure if you equate wants to needs because in your mind, you then feel as though you have to attain your wants to survive —this was true for early man but not for you. You might want a Mercedes but you won’t perish if you don’t attain one, and while you want a bigger house for your family, you can still be happy in a smaller one. Most women would like to show up at a party wearing Prada but if they feel they have to, the Devil will make them pay with pressure to get them.
Treating your wants as needs increases the importance of your wants and thus adds more pressure on you to achieve them. Simultaneously, thoughts of not getting them stimulate anxiety and fear. Treating wants as needs gives you a big appetite and you become a pressure pig —you eat a lot of pressure.
Eat less pressure by short -circuiting the primal association that equates wants and needs by expressing your wants as wants, not as needs. Feeling less pressure and being more appreciative of what you have are some of the diet’s results.
Make a list of your needs and transform each into a want and you’ll see that most of your needs are exaggerated wants. Does your son or daughter “really need” the new iPhone —or is that what he or she wants to keep up with the other kids? “I need a nice car” is a different message to your self than “I want a nice car”. Most people do want a nice car, but those who treat the want as a need will feel compelled to buy a status brand, even though they cannot afford it. When you recognize that you want a nice car but in fact, any reliable car will do, you experience less pressure and in fact, more at ease.
Your hard wiring makes the pressure-less diet hard to stick to but you can stay on course by remembering Keith Richards’ message: “You can’t always get what you want, but you can get what you need!”
Now check out the online workshop, Performing Under Pressure: at https://hankweisingerphd.com/b2c/
Sometimes we need a pressure solution for the moment—-a presentation, crucial conversation, job interview, or golf put.
Other times to do our best and to protect our mental and physical well being, we need to rid ourselves of the daily nagging feelings that pressure thwarts upon us that make us feel the heat 24/7. We need pressure reducers—strategies that help immunize ourselves to daily pressure feelings.
Here are 10 to build into your daily activities:
- Affirm Your Self –Worth
- Take a 15 Minute Walk
- Practice Meditation, Yoga, or Relaxation
- Work on Your Own Excellence
- Share Your Pressure Feelings
- Be Appreciative of What You Have
- Expect Good Things to Happen
- Focus on What You Can Control
- Use Positive Self-Talk
- Smile & Laugh
The more you use these pressure reducers, the more your days will be pressure-less!
If you want to know the rationale behind each pressure reducer, read Performing Under Pressure or take the performing under pressure E Workshop.