How to feel good in a high pressure situation

Imagine that you are in this situation. You are a professional hockey player. You’re playing in the Stanley Cup playoffs. It is the decisive game; you are in overtime. There are 10 seconds left and, suddenly, one of your colleagues hands you the disc.

What would you do? Would you panic? Would you drown Would you rise to the occasion and save the day?

How would you feel? Highly strung? Alarmed? Excited? Confident?

Overtime in the deciding game, 10 seconds on the clock … and it’s all up to you.

That is a very pressure situation.

Do you want to know what the great hockey player of all time, Wayne Gretzky, said when asked how he felt in that situation?

Wayne said, “I live all season for that moment.”

How is that possible? How is it possible to be in one of the highest pressure situations most of us could imagine, with the season on the line, your team putting its future in your hands and millions of fans watching your every move? that?

It’s possible because, at the time, there are two things that are indisputably true about Wayne Gretzky:

It’s really nice.

You know it’s really good.

And that’s why Wayne Gretzky could feel good about being in the middle of a high-pressure situation. Because he knows that’s when he can shine the brightest.

So let’s take a closer look at those two Gretzky attributes and see how they can be applied to you.

It’s really nice.

In other words, it has competition. He is up to the task at hand. So where does the competition come from? Natural ability? Sure, that may be part of this, but research shows it’s only a small part and that we tend to overrate it. Most of the competition comes from things like study, practice, and experience. Studying means you are continually learning: from your colleagues, from coaches, from mentors, from books, from videos, from your successes and mistakes. Practice means simulating high pressure situations before they arise, honing your skills, playing “what if” scenarios. And experience means putting yourself in these situations over and over again, to the point where “high pressure” becomes part of your comfort zone.

So if you’re not really good at what you do, do it really, really good at it. Study, practice, and gain that important experience.

You know it’s really good.

In addition to the competition, Gretzky is also confident. The reason you can feel good in a high pressure situation that could paralyze the rest of us is because you’ve been there before and you know you have what it takes – you know you are up to the challenge. So when the adrenaline hits, it manifests in electrifying arousal rather than paralyzing fear.

And where does this confidence come from? It comes from the competition. It comes from experience. It comes from having been there before, successfully.

“But Bill,” you say, “I know people who have supreme confidence in their abilities and, at the same time, are extremely incompetent in those same abilities.”

Yes, but for the most part they are dilettantes or idiots, right? And the difference between them and Wayne Gretzky is that when push comes to shove, Gretzky can deliver the merchandise. And have fun while you do it!

So yes, it is possible to feel good in a high pressure situation. When you are really good, and you know that you are really good, you, like Wayne Gretzky, will start to see those high pressure situations as opportunities to shine more.

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