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14 ways to perform your best in high-pressure situations


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Let's get this out of the way right now: Nobody performs well under pressure.

A lot of us think we do, but we don't, or, at least, we don't perform as well as we could perform.

We may feel more creative when we're under the gun, but it's a feeling, not a reality. It's true that you might be more productive, but the products you create are usually worse.

In their book, "Performing Under Pressure: The Science of Doing Your Best When It Matters Most," Hendrie Weisinger and J.P. Pawliw-Fry deliver the sad truth: The difference between regular people and ultra-successful people is not that the latter group thrives under pressure. It's that they're better able to mitigate its negative effects.

Or maybe that's good news, because, as the authors lay out in the book, handling pressure is a skill, and you can learn it. In the book, they offer 22 tactics for doing your best when the heat is on. Here are 14 of our favorites:

SEE ALSO: 15 surprising negotiating tricks to boost your salary

Think of high-pressure moments as a (fun) challenge, not a life-or-death threat

Most people see "pressure situations" as threatening, and that makes them perform even less well. "Seeing pressure as a threat undermines your self-confidence; elicits fear of failure; impairs your short-term memory, attention, and judgment; and spurs impulsive behavior," Weisinger and Pawliw-Fry write. "It also saps your energy."

In short, interpreting pressure as threat is generally very bad. Instead, try shifting your thoughts: Instead of seeing a danger situation, see a challenge

"When you see the pressure as a challenge, you are stimulated to give the attention and energy needed to make your best effort," they write. To practice, build "challenge thinking" into your daily life: It's not just a project; it's an opportunity to see if you can make it your best project ever. 

Remember that second chances happen

"The fact is we each get multiple chances over and over again in life. Keep this in mind, and you will find your life less pressured," Weisinger and Pawliw-Fry write.

The authors explain that, so often, we tell ourselves (or others tell us) that this is our big chance, and we'll never get another opportunitiy like it. This kind of thinking is destructive.

"Statements like these communicate the singularity of the event. We call it 'chance-of-a-lifetime' thinking. And it inevitably intensifies the pressure the listener feels in the moment because it multiplies the stakes and puts self-esteem on the line," they explain.

Thinking about a high-pressure moment as your one and only shot only exacerbates feelings of risk and loss, which have powerful neurochemical effects on us that influence our decisions and actions.

Weisinger and Pawliw-Fry point to studies that show that, since we're so risk-averse, we prefer to make bad but seemingly safer decisions to avoid a feeling of loss. We "play not to lose" rather than "play to win."

Reminding yourself that there is almost always another chance to excell, whether it's before an interview or presentation, depressurizes the moment and can help you perform better in the moment, they say.

Focus on the task, not the outcome

This might be the easiest tactic of all, according to Weisinger and Pawliw-Fry: Instead of worrying about the outcome, worry about the task at hand.

That means developing tunnel vision, they explain. When you keep your eye on the task at hand (and only the task at hand), all you can see is the concrete steps necessary to excel.

For a student writing a paper, that means concentrating on doing stellar research — not obsessing about the ultimate grade, what will happen if you don't get it, and whether you should have majored in economics after all.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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