In all of sports and for that matter business we face pressure in our everyday objectives. Meeting a deadline, scoring a goal or a touchdown, or getting to our child’s recital. Pressure is all around us, but is pressure internal or external? Examples of external pressure could include fans, bosses, media, coaches and even parents. Internal pressure could be point production expectations not being met in the individual’s mind. Both internal and external pressure is how we perceive the environment and more importantly the situation that exemplifies our behaviours and how we cope with this stress or adversity. Therefore pressure is a self-limiting thought process.
At the end of the day, we as individuals only have control over a couple of aspects as it relates to everyday objectives or when we reach our big moment. The first one is how we prepare and our daily investment. The second aspect is our motivation into the present moment (direction and intensity of effort) towards our tasks. In order to put this in a structured and disciplined approach we can look at Marten’s (1975) competition process.
Overcoming pressure requires an honest self-awareness in the athlete or individual. Our daily objectives possibly could revolve around competition. Martens (1975) developed the concept that competition is a process and requires certain tasks perceived by the individual. This process involves 4 stages. The Objective Competitive Situation involves the individual comparing a standard to at least one other person (past performance, goal performance or another individual’s performance). The second stage involves Subjective Competitive Situation where the individual perceives, accepts or appraises the objective situation. The Response stage involves how the individual powers through or stops the competition altogether. Finally the fourth stage, Consequences involves usually a positive or negative outcome. To put this in perspective let’s use an individual training for their first triathlon. In the Objective Competitive Situation as a first timer, the individual may set a goal performance time for them self. In the second stage, Subjective Competitive Situation; they accept their outcome performance goal and look forward to competing to the best of their ability. The third stage involving the response stage we can see the individual’s investment of time in their training. If they have never rode a bike, their response would be to get on a bike in a consistent matter. Finally the consequences stage allows our individual to view the process as a positive or negative and readjust the objective competition situation.
In order for this model to be effective we must accept the fact that the first time triathlete and the pressure they face (i.e. overcoming a fear of swimming) is totally different the 10 year veteran (i.e.best time). Their discipline and structured approach should alleviate some of the pressure they face. Their approach is their investment of time on a daily basis, narrowing their focus on objectives and tasks that fuel their direction and intensity of effort (motivation).
So is it true that some individuals are better equipped to deal with high pressure situations?
I don’t believe that some people are better equipped to handle high pressure situations, but I do believe that some people have a better structure to obtain results based on where they are in the competition process. Identifying where you are and what you want to get out of competition is crucial in dealing with the pressure or adversity that accompanies success. Pressure comes from an emotional response to obtaining success. Task orientated process of improvement is where we want our focus to be and how we gage and define success.