If you are a high performer or hold yourself to a high standard, you have no doubt had to deal with times where you "felt" the pressure was too much. You may have had times when you just wanted to walk away from things and not deal with them. Or times when you just didn't know how you were going to make it through everything.
What you may not realize is the pressure you feel... The pressure to be the best. The pressure to do it all. The pressure to achieve more because you feel guilty that you haven't accomplished more...is self-inflicted.
And this is OK. This self-inflicted pressure can very good for us and our success. Diamonds don't exist without intense pressure. But, one of the secrets of consistent, high performers, is that they have learned to control this pressure and the emotions it brings in their lives.
I think one of the greatest showcases in life of the pressures of high achievers is the Olympics. Think about it. You get one shot to be the best - and it comes once only every 4 years. And make no mistake, every one of the athletes wants to be on the very top of that podium.
Imagine training for 4 years of your life and devoting every extra second you have, every emotion, and every ounce of energy to perfect your craft - and then you get one shot. That's it. If you don't make it happen, it is over. And for many athletes, they only make it to one Olympic games. Think about just the pressure of making it to the games in the first place. Now, being a high performer yourself and understanding the pressure you put on yourself, imagine the additional pressure these athletes self-inflict.
That is why it is always so amazing to watch the games and see the incredible stories of people that win. Some are dark horses that come out of nowhere and have that one perfect moment where they excel to levels higher than they ever have. Others start out with a mistake, but one not bad enough to knock them out of qualifying and then they win it all. And then there is that other group - the group that has the most pressure. These are the favorites and the people that have been to multiple Olympics and won. These people have the added pressure in that EVERYONE EXPECTS them to win. Think of people like Michael Phelps, Shaun White, or Usain Bolt.
These are the high performers that I love to watch and learn the most from because they have figured out how to control the pressure and use it to their advantage. You can too. Here's how.
High Performers are Self-Aware
Self-awareness is one of the most important traits for consistent success. Understanding yourself and how your mind and body operate together is critical to maximize your peaks and reducing your valleys. High performers know themselves and understand the pressure that they put on themselves is self-inflicted. It is this understanding that helps them to embrace, use it, and ultimately control it. A great example was this year’s snowboard half-pipe where Shaun White was in a big lead after the first of three rounds, only to be upstaged by a dark horse in round two falling into 2nd place. Shaun had a small crash in round two that made it a throwaway run. Then came round three. Shaun was last in the order to go and had to sit and watch while most of the other competitors fell because of windy conditions. Then the dark horse came up and fell as well.
Think about what is going through his mind at this moment. After round one, it looked like he had the gold wrapped up. No one was even close. Then, in round two this kid comes out of nowhere to unseat you with a higher score. You fall in round two and have only one more shot. Not to mention, you at 31, are the oldest by far in the Olympics in the sport and there is a good chance this is your last Olympics. You then have to wait, watching the conditions gets worse and most of the best in the world fall in the final run. Pressure anyone? But, if you watched it unfold, you could see Shaun’s self-awareness kick in. He didn’t change his routine for how he goes about a run. He did the same fist bumps and head shakes he does before each run. He settled in and as he started out, looked completely at peace. He was smooth off the drop in and nailed his first trick. I think at that point just about everyone watching knew that he was going to nail the run and win gold – which he did.
Self-awareness and understanding how to control your emotions and use them to your advantage is a must develop skill if you want to consistently outperform. To start doing this in your life, take time to examine your emotions in situations. Sit with your feelings and ask yourself how you are reacting in times of stress. Is it beneficial to you? Can you use it? Do you need to change how you react?
Lastly, always be asking yourself the following question:
How do I want to respond to this pressure/challenge/adversity?
When you are self-aware, you control your responses and thus your outcomes. Choosing how you will respond and not just reacting to things in life gives you true personal power and will ensure that you consistently succeed.