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Performing Under Pressure

Performing Under Pressure can have so many meanings, is it going for that interview for the job you really want or need. Going in to pitch for new business that could launch your career or make your business a success.

It does not matter what the situation, it all comes down to one thing, nailing it when it matters. We get one chance. This is never more apparent than it is for an Athlete. We are defined by one thing, our performance at an Olympic or Paralympic Games. This only comes around once every four years, and if you are gifted enough to compete at more than one games, the realism is that you may only be at the top of your game in one. So what is my 12year athletics career defined by? I can tell you, 1min 57 seconds, that’s how long it took me to win the gold in the men’s 800m in Athens 2004. 12 years defined by 1min 57 Seconds.

So How does an athlete stand on the start line in front of a stadium full of people and millions watching and get it all right when the gun goes. Simple, that much used statement, “Preparation, Preparation, Preparation” There is no magic formula or modern science involved.

You see, when I stood on that start line I had to know that I had left no stone unturned, I had not undertaken any training or preparation half heartedly, only then could I stand on the start line with confidence, not that I WOULD win, but that I COULD win, and if I was beaten that day it would be by a better athlete, and at the end I would shake their hand knowing I had done everything I could. So what did that look like? As well as all my training I had to make sure my body and mind was in the best physical and mental shape, I practiced in other races, taking it on from the gun, sitting at the back and even boxed in the middle. I knew that whatever situation I found myself in that final, I had a strategy to get out and be successful.

Don’t be fooled though, that does not mean I did not feel sick to my stomach as the nerves took hold. Do you really think that Usain Bolt is as cool as a cucumber on the inside as his persona would lead us to believe. As athletes we learn through experience how to use that nervous energy to our advantage, and most importantly how to not let it be detrimental to our performance, how many times in the world of sport have we seen dead certs falter at the last hurdle, be it as an individual or team. This comes down to being able to perform under pressure.

There is no greater feeling than being successful, knowing that all that hard work paid off, but be warned, there is no worse feeling than failing, knowing that if you had just given that little bit extra in your preparation, maybe, just maybe the outcome could have been different.

There are no guarantees in sport, life and business, only the fact that if we put in the hard work, the results will often follow.

There is a lot of luck in life, but there is no luck in working hard and achieving the results.

Every time I trained I tried to do I better than the time before. It does not mean that I was always successful, but I was always looking for that 10th second, that 1% improvement. This is what sport does well, we evaluate ourselves constantly, and we never settle for the same result twice, only improvement and lessons learnt.

Question 1: What could you do 1% better today to improve your outcome?

Question 2: How could you motivate those around you to be 1% better?

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