Pressure to Perform

I know I’ve always talked about stress and mental health within the context of work life as well as the hum of busy urban lives. I want to make it clear that this is different from the pressure to perform during specific one-off opportunities that you’ve earned because of your capabilities and brilliance. Whether it is pitching to your best and most valuable clients to competing in the Olympics perhaps at the end of your sports career, there is pressure and some kind of stress there. And this is generally a positive stress if we cope with it well; a natural form of stress that pushes us forward rather than keep us stagnant or hanging.

In the Netflix Docu-series, The Playbook’s first episode on Doc Rivers the NBA coach, one of his coaching rule highlighted is that ‘pressure is a privilege’ and that kind of blew me off my chair. My mind was opened by this insight because our brains naturally try to run or hide from pressure, from stress of any kind. And even when we know it might be good, we are often not so vested. But this ‘rule’ from Doc Rivers changes our perspective on that pressure on our minds, on our nervous system.

And when he covered that, my mind inevitably drift back to the story he described in his childhood about how he said he wanted to be a pro basketball player when he was Grade 5 and his teacher just told him to be realistic, discouraging him. He spoke about the environment he was growing up in as an African American in Chicago. I think that’s how this ‘rule’ burns into his mind and his identity. Because indeed, you earnted that privilege to be in that position where there’s expectations upon you, where there is pressure to perform.

So when you think that pressure is getting better of you, think about what privilege it is again, to be there amongst the contenders – because there’s so many who weren’t even given the opportunity to be there.