Women’s professional surfing is pushing the boundaries of the sport. Not just the level of women’s surfing, but the frontiers of the entire sport. At the forefront of the progressive push is 6 time world champion, Stephanie Gilmore (Australia). Today, I was privileged to watch Steph take down Silvana Lima (Brazil) in her Quarter Final Heat of the WSL Roxy Pro Gold Coast, Australia. No mean feat as Silvana Lima made the Quarter Final by posting a perfect ‘10’ in her Round 4 heat, after landing a flawless ‘front-air-reverse’*. What made it even more spectacular is the fact that this was the first time a front-air-reverse was successfully landed in a woman’s professional surfing event. She didn’t just land it, she nailed it!

Why am I sharing this? Well, I’m a big fan! But more importantly, and what may be surprising for some, there are many lessons we can learn from these professional athletes about Preforming Under Pressure. Lessons we can apply in our own personal and professional lives.

Firstly, what can we learn about Performing Under Pressure from Silvana? When her back was against the wall in Round 4, she trusted in her preparation. Silvana is known for her aerial game, and when she needed a score, she went to the air and made history. However, when the pressure was turned-up in her Quarter Final heat against Steph, she played it safe and didn’t attempt any of her signature air maneuvers. The trap – pressure creates self-doubt. It’s understandable, it’s human. When under pressure, we think more about what might go wrong than focusing on what’s possible. In fact, our brain is wired to amplify the negative – it’s at the heart of our survival instinct. The solution – view each pressure moment as ‘ONE OF MANY OPPORTUNITIES’ (Pressure Solution #2, page 114). If we view our pressure moments as do or die/make or break…we tighten up or pull-back. The lesson – by viewing a pressure moment as ‘one of many opportunities’ we loosen up, we see more possibilities and are more likely to perform to our full potential.

Now, what can we learn from Steph? Her post-match interview gives us a wonderful glimpse into the strength of her mental game. Knowing she was matched-up against Silvana, Steph had about a week to contemplate their Quarter-Final heat and admitted that Silvana had gotten ‘into her head’. Steph shared that for a while, she was thinking she needed to match Silvana in the air, “I was thinking I needed to surf like Silvana…do airs.” However, she realized that this attitude wasn’t helpful. Instead, she reframed her thinking and chose to view Silvana’s performance as a source of inspiration, “Silvana inspires me to push harder, to surf like the guys, to surf better than the guys.” The lesson – when we find ourselves thinking more about our competitors than our own game, pay attention, reframe our thinking & ‘FOCUS ON THE MISSION’ (Pressure Solution #4, page 117). Steph’s mission – to be the best surfer she can be. The fact that her pursuit of excellence pushes the boundaries of an entire sport demonstrates how one’s determined pursuit of their mission can inspire others.

How might your focus on your mission inspire your team, organization, family, community?

For more tips, tools and strategies visit:https://www.ihhp.com/pressure-book/

PERFORMING UNDER PRESSURE: The Science of Doing Your Best When it Matters Most (Crown Business) Dr. Hendrie Weisinger, a world-renowned psychologist and pioneer in the field of pressure management, and JP Pawliw-Fry an international performance coach and contributing member to the Institute for Health and Human Potential, explain the science behind the debilitating effects of pressure. Interweaving a trove of empirical studies and neurological research with firsthand accounts from athletes and executives and performers themselves, the book offers a fascinating exploration into understanding – and overcoming – pressure in our work and personal lives.

*[NOTE: For those interested, a front-air-reverse is a spectacular maneuver where the surfer generates enormous speed, launches into the air high above the lip of the wave, spins 180° in the air (somehow the surfboard remains beneath their feet throughout the rotation) the surfer then lands back onto the wave facing BACKWARDS, spins another 180°, then surfs on!]