The Pressure To Perform

It’s Monday, 3:45 a.m. and my alarm has just gone off.

Unlike a typical weekday, where I have approximately 30-45 minutes to let the dog out, feed him, make coffee, catch up on client correspondence and read for a few minutes before freshening up to go to work, I have no extra time.

On this particular day, I wake up, let the dog out, feed him, make coffee and start getting ready. I have to be at work just before 4:30 a.m. because I am recording a podcast with a guest based in Australia, 14 hours ahead of me.

Not only that, but I have to be “dialed in and turned on” before my brain even logically knows what in the hell it’s doing.

Immediately after the 45-50 minute episode, I have to change gears and get ready for a rocking and rolling training block with clients which typically starts right before 5:30 a.m. and ends around 10 a.m.

The pressure to perform from 4:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. that day is very real.

And by time the morning training block comes to an end, I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck. I have a handful of hours to write client programs, catch up on client consults, get my own training in, eat lunch and be ready to attack it all again when the afternoon training block begins.

Pressure is all I know.

Recently, I was talking with a client who has a very specific, very deep-rooted motivation to lose weight. She is driven, she is nervous and, in her words: “I have a lot of pressure on me to do this.”

She’s not wrong.

It was that notion of pressure that I wanted to expand on this week.

We are all under pressure to perform.

We are expected to be diligent, responsive parents raising respectful, responsible children.

We are expected to be hard-working, punctual, self-motivated employees.

We are expected to be kind, loving, fully attentive partners to our loved ones.

We are expected to be healthy, health-seeking, and committed to self-improvement.

We are also expected to be mentally, emotionally and socially stable.

Is it any wonder why we feel pressure?

Is it any wonder that we routinely fail at meeting these expectations?

Is it any wonder that a fear of failure holds us back from greater outcomes?

Allow me to step back just a few paces on this one…

I find pressure to be not only necessary but vital. Much like stress, we know that we have to accept a certain degree of it. Wishing for a life without the strain of stress or pressure is not only unlikely, it runs completely counter to any reality we belong to.

There is a caveat, of course.

Much of the pressure we feel is self-imposed. We create boxes that are frequently difficult to break out of and set standards that are frequently impossible to reach. Even without the clinical diagnosis of suffering from anxiety, we foster an environment that is impossible to not get anxious with.

There is an adage that I recently re-heard that goes something like this: If you want to experience success, you need to fail twice as often.

Now…apply that to your life.

Apply it to your parenting.

Apply it to your job.

Apply it to your marriage.

Apply it to your training.

Apply it to your diet.

If you can give yourself the freedom to do so, knowing that it’s inevitable, you’ll stop chasing perfect circumstances and you’ll start learning how to thrive under pressure.

You’ll start learning to expect and welcome failure.

Because failure is where you learn.

Failure is where you have indisputable data to say: Well, that sure as hell didn’t work. How can I do this differently?

Attention must be given as well to the very real situation of simply taking on too much. If you are not good at setting boundaries, pressure will make you burn out. And I can tell you from personal experience, burn out makes me do stupid things. However, burn out taught me a lot about myself. That was feedback from failure.

To my client, and others like her: Don’t fear pressure. Don’t fear failure.

My client is going to learn a lot about herself, her motivations and her steps to success from her journey. They are uniquely hers. The results of her efforts are far-reaching well beyond what she is trying to do for her health and her body.

To my fellow coaches and small business owners: Don’t fear pressure. Don’t fear failure.

Embrace both, anticipate both but know when you have to start setting boundaries for yourself and your mental and physical health. In other words, know how to take care of number one.

One thing that has helped me reframe how I view pressure and stress in my own life is to remind myself that I essentially have two options: To remain stressed about the areas in my life where I feel the pressure to perform or to be grateful that I’m in the position I am to have the opportunities I do to work through. The mindset shift is something I am still trying to improve.

The pressure to perform is real. The acceptance of which can get you one step closer to a better life, a healthier mind and a more realistic view of what life can give you.

Lastly, please don’t confuse the sentiment with the notion of: just hustle harder. Embracing pressure is not the same as acting as if it doesn’t exist. The sooner we can accept what we’re dealing with, the easier it is to find solutions and have peace of mind as well.