Think of a high-pressure situation you’ve experienced recently. Next, visualize the task you had to perform. If it was a sales call, visualize yourself interacting with your client, speaking about your products; think about how and where you are sitting, and other details that give you a complete picture of the scene. Now come up with one word or image to broadly describe the best way to perform what you do. That’s the essence of this pressure solution: Use a holistic word/image “cue” to guide performance.
One reason many of us do poorly in pressure moments is that we tend to overthink what we are doing. This self-consciousness distracts us from the task at hand, and our performance suffers. A baseball player who swings a bat, or a football player who throws a pass, in a jerky movement is usually overly self-conscious about how he is performing. The same is true if you are giving a presentation or are in the midst of a sales call and your thoughts turn to how you are doing. Suddenly you’re off course and out of rhythm.
How a person learns a task affects how a person performs the task in a high-pressure moment. We often learn a task through explicit instruction or education — a strict sequence of steps necessary to performing a skill. In other cases, an athlete, for example, is given a metaphorical or analogical image that describes how to perform the task. It appears that those who have been taught to use such an image to focus on or anchor their thoughts before or during a high-pressure moment stand a better chance of depressurizing the moment and performing at their best.
Using an anchor does not require a lot of effort or attention. In other words, performers may still succumb to pressure and lose focus, but they do so without having to think about the specifics. Focusing on a word, a very short descriptive phrase, or a metaphorical image can be a clever distraction from thinking too much, as well as a stimulator to the actions you need to perform at your best.
Before your next sales call, audition, negotiation, presentation, exam, or golf outing, focus on telling yourself the holistic cue word or metaphorical image that you’ve established.
This is an excerpt from Performing Under Pressure.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
JP Pawliw-Fry is co-author of the New York Times bestselling book, Performing Under Pressure. He is keynote speaker, and the founder of IHHP, a global research and learning company that specializes in helping organizations and leaders leverage the science of emotional intelligence and performing under pressure. The research and strategies presented in the book, keynotes and in HHP’s training programs have been leveraged by numerous Fortune 100 companies, including long-term relationships with Johnson and Johnson, PWC, Goldman Sachs, HSBC as well as Olympic medal winning athletes. (Co-author: Hendrie Weisinger.)
Co-authored by our own J.P. Pawliw-Fry, Performing Under Pressure will introduce you to the concept of pressure management, offering the latest science on how your brain responds under pressure, and many empirically tested strategies to help you overcome the sabotaging effects of pressure. For this book, we undertook a multiyear study of over twelve thousand people to answer the question: what is it about the top 10 percent of these individuals that helps them handle pressure more effectively and be successful? The book has been featured in featured in Forbes, INC., The Financial Times, Training Magazine and many more, and is a NYT and Amazon bestseller. Order your copy on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Audible or Apple ibooks.