HERE AND NOW
When psychologist Fritz Perls introduced Gestalt therapy to the world by establishing the Gestalt Institute in New York in 1952, he probably wasn’t aware that he was also introducing what would become one of the great clichés in terms of pressure: “Stay in the moment.”
Gestalt therapy focuses on what is happening now — what is being done, thought, and felt at the present moment — rather than on what was, might be, could be, or should have been. To do this, we need to let go of the past and ignore the future, or we will be unable to focus on how we are responding now.
Unfortunately, most individuals, athletes included, have trouble following this advice if it doesn’t instruct them how to stay in the moment. So Perls taught his clients how to do it, and his method is the impetus for this pressure solution:
TUNE INTO YOUR SENSES
When Dr. Perls observed his clients drifting into the past, or focusing on the future, he would return them to the present by instructing them to experience their senses. “What does your breathing feel like?” he might ask. “What do you see right now? What sounds are you hearing?” These are the kinds of questions Dr. Perls used to anchor his patient in the here and now.
These same questions can help you depressurize a high-pressure situation. The pressure you experience is intensified by thoughts of future consequences, fear of repeating past mistakes, or simply letting your mind wander. Careless errors can occur and well-coordinated skills become disjointed. Performance slips.
To get yourself in the habit of tuning into your senses, practice the following exercise a few minutes a day. Your goal is to increase the frequency with which you turn to your senses to keep you in the moment, whether you are speaking to your staff or listening to your son or daughter.
1. Pay attention to your breathing. Is it fast, slow, comfortable? Keep focusing on it until you regulate it to a comfortable level.
2. What do you see? Where are your eyes focused? Scan the room.
3. What are you hearing? Close your eyes and verbally describe the sounds you hear, including your own internal noisy chatter.
4. For a few seconds several times a day, ask yourself the above questions, especially when you are in a pressure situation.
The next time you feel jittery before you are about to tee off with a client or a friend, or if you find your mind wandering when you are being told important information, or you have to get behind the wheel of a car in bad weather, tune into your senses so you can stay in the moment and do your best.
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.