“The mind is our most potent weapon. If you aspire to succeed in life’s challenges, the mind must lead the body.”
~ Dr Saul L Miller
Our mind-set (attitude) influences the way we are likely to respond in a particular situation.
A performing under pressure mind-set influences how we will perform in high pressure situations.
In the book Performing Under Pressure – Gaining the Mental Edge in Business and Sport (Wiley 2010) Dr Saul L Miller lists six qualities that together help create a performing under pressure mind-set. Miller notes that these six qualities are not independent – they overlap and are interrelated (see below).
The six qualities are:
- Motivation – a desire to take action towards a clear, meaningful goal.
- Commitment – the willingness to do whatever’s necessary to perform at your best and achieve your goal(s).
- Confidence – confidence means “with faith.” It’s a belief, a knowing and a feeling that “I can.”
- A Sense of Deserving – some people believe they deserve to perform well and others don’t. To perform at your best under pressure you need to believe you deserve the rewards of doing so.
- Mental Toughness – staying focused on a positive outcome no matter what. This empowers you to persevere in the face of obstacles. When you focus on the negative consequences of a poor performance, those negative consequences become magnified and can disempower you.
- Identity – a strong positive sense of self is a foundation for success. The more you are ‘being’ the excellent performer the better you will perform. To put it another way, act ‘as if’ you are the successful person, the winner you want to be.
Because we are the creators of our mind-sets we can change them. One way of doing this is to strengthen one or more of the six mind-set qualities through training. The act of strengthening just one quality can have a flow on effect and strengthen the others. For instance, strengthening motivation enhances commitment and increases mental toughness.
Here are a couple of powerful mind-set shifts that sit within the quality of Mental Toughness. You might like to give one or both a try prior to your next pressure situation.
Shifting from anxiety (fear) to excitement
An overwhelming majority of people believe trying to calm down is the best way to cope with pre-performance anxiety. However, across several studies involving karaoke singing, public speaking, and math performance, it has been shown that reappraising anxiety as excitement is a better strategy.
The experience of anxiety and excitement is quite similar. They are both felt in anticipation of events and are characterized by high emotional arousal. However, whereas anxiety is a negative, unpleasant emotion that harms performance, excitement is a positive, pleasant emotion that can improve performance.
To create this particular mind-set shift simply re-frame the physical pre-performance sensations you are experiencing as being a signal from your body that you are excited about the upcoming pressure situation. Use positive self-talk to re-enforce this idea, for instance “I am excited,” “My body is preparing to help me perform at my best,” “The more intense the sensations the more excited I’m becoming.” Repeat these positive messages at regular intervals, say them with intent, and as you do, imagine yourself using the excitement to fuel a great performance.
Shift from Doubt to Possibility
If prior to a pressure situation you become aware of self-doubt, it’s important that you shift your focus from doubt to possibility. To do this, ask yourself if you were to perform at your best what would you need to do? Imagine doing those things. Imagine the result of doing those things. What could you change to make the outcome even better? Imagine making those changes and the result of doing so. By using your imagination actively and creatively you can change a dis-empowering doubting mind-set into one of positive possibility. This shift in focus will create a challenge response and you’ll be able you to perform at you best.
If you’d like to explore how you can strengthen the qualities of your performing under pressure mind-set or create mind-set shifts like the “anxiety to excitement” mind-shift, let’s have a chat.
Wishing you all the best for a mind-set shifting and empowering week.
Tony Yuile is hired by people seeking help to perform at their best. He is a Personal Development Coach & hypnosis professional based in Wellington NZ, where he specialises in helping people perform under pressure, reduce anxiety and manage stress. Tony’s solution focused approach to coaching uses a range of techniques drawn from the fields of co-active coaching, hypnosis and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). Contact Tony today to discuss how he can help you, or if you think Tony could help someone you know, you might like to encourage them to get in touch with him.
This article contains the personal views and opinions of the author, which may change over time. It is intended to be for information only and does not constitute medical advice. For medical and health advice, always consult a qualified medical professional.