Pressure can be a negative thing, but when managed correctly, pressure can also be one of your best allies for progress.
At the risk of saying the words ‘pressure’ and ‘progress’ too many times in a 3-line introduction, there is no progress without pressure.
Let’s move on, shall we?
Pressure versus stress
First, it’s important to clarify that pressure is not the same as stress.
You can feel pressure because you have to get a task done on time, and/or because you really need to kick ass in your next sales pitch.
Stress, on the other hand, is the reaction you have to that pressure.
We all have our own internal pressure gauge which tells us how much pressure we can handle as an individual.
We experience stress when we have reached our limit. Sometimes followed by a complete mental breakdown if we exceed those limits for a considerable amount of time.
By avoiding pressure, you can avoid stress. This is true.
…but by avoiding pressure you also stay in your comfort zone, and let’s be honest, zero progress is made when you stay in your comfort zone.
We all need to challenge ourselves, to step outside the box, to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, yada yada yada.
Pressure forces us to focus. It can increase our energy levels and enthusiasm, as well as improve our time management and productivity.
When pressure is applied in a positive and managed way, it’s not something to run from. Instead, it’s an opportunity to step up the plate.
NOTE: Pressure can also be applied in a negative and reckless way. This is usually external pressure, such as a boss’s inconsistent and extraordinary demands. (As opposed to internal pressure which we place on ourselves.) If you do experience negative pressure, then yes, by all means, give it the finger and run from it!
Increasing your ability to manage pressure
How many times have you read “Must work well under pressure” in a job advertisement?
The ability to positively handle large amounts of pressure is a desirable skill.
On one end of the scale, there are people who crumble like a tortilla chip under the smallest amount of pressure. And, on the other end of the scale, there are people who never break no matter how great the force. These latter people are diamonds.
Your goal is to move up the scale, from a fragile tortilla chip to a harder-than-nails diamond.
The making of a diamond
“Diamonds are formed under pressure, but never forget, they are not formed overnight.”
Contrary to popular belief, diamonds are not made from coal, but from carbon. The carbon is buried about 100-miles underground, heats up to about 2200°F, undergoes 725,000 lbs per square inch of pressure before it rushes towards the Earth’s surface to cool. This process takes a mere 1 to 3.3 billion years.
There are two important points you need to take away from that.
- The pressure is increased gradually over time.
- There is a cooling off period.
Let’s discuss how this applies to you.
Increase pressure over time
Your ability to handle pressure will develop quickly if you challenge yourself with work that increases the pressure you are under by just a little bit.
If you increase your pressure by too much too quickly, you run the risk of running into the red area on your pressure gauge and heading into a meltdown.
Instead, you want to aim for the orange area on your gauge; Just enough pressure to make you take notice, but not so much that you need to pull the emergency cord.
Examples of ways to increase your pressure include the following:
- Set tighter deadlines
- Take on more responsibility
- Start a new project
- Set yourself a challenge
After going through a period of increased pressure for a small amount of time, you then need to recover your equilibrium.
In other words, get out of the orange area and back into the green easy-to-manage pressure area.
So, when a project has ended or a deadline has been met, give yourself a bit of a break to recalibrate.
(Personally, after a large project has ended, I like to reduce my pressure gauge by booking a spa day.)
…and then repeat
By frequently increasing your pressure and then re-setting, you’ll start to notice that pressure becomes easier for you to manage.
You’ll learn better ways of working, prioritizing, scheduling and managing you time. You’ll also experience that feeling of satisfaction when a pressure task has ended and you’ve knocked it out of the park, and this will help motivate you through your next period of pressure.
Eventually, what was your orange area, will be your green area. And what was your red area will be your orange area.
In essence, you’re training yourself to successfully handle more pressure in a positive and non-destructive way. You’re turning yourself into an unbreakable diamond!
Think of this as some form of weird science experiment. One where you can control the dials and dictate how much pressure you are going to put yourself under.
Sadly, life doesn’t always give you such luxury and can thrust untold pressures upon on in the blink of an eye. In these events, know that you have diamond potential inside of you and use it as an opportunity to test yourself and see how far you have grown.
In order to be successful in life, you need to be able to produce at an elite level, which is going to require a degree of pressure. So, get your passion particles prepped and get ready to shine!
P.S. You’ve heard the saying, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” right? Well, I prefer, “what doesn’t break you makes you shinier!”
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