One of the most followed blogs in the business world belongs to Seth Godin (http://sethgodin.typepad.com/). Seth is known as America’s greatest marketer. This morning, Seth wrote a blog piece about pressure and how it is mostly self-induced (http://bit.ly/rlDiXG.)
Seth makes a great point to conclude his blog. He says that what you do with the pressure is up to you. If it is not helping you to do great things, get rid of it.
I think it is important to look at the other side of the coin too. Human beings have an enormous capacity for evolution. If you want to grow and develop yourself, putting yourself under pressure can provide substantial help. I find I am at my best when I place myself under unfeasibly short deadlines. Parkinson’s Law applies: Work expands to fill the time available for its completion. If on Monday you set yourself a deadline to write an article for your newsletter or your blog by the end of the week, if you are lucky it might happen. My preferred approach is to block out a one hour time slot and then aim to have the article written with 15 minutes to spare at the end of that time slot. Schedule it in your calendar just as you would a client meeting.
Back to Seth’s self-imposed pressure. Back in the early ’90s I had a phobia for public speaking. It was so bad that I would sit in meetings without contributing because of a fear of looking foolish. One Dale Carnegie course, several initially painful small presentations and some personal coaching later, I found myself presenting in front of 675 people in Las Vegas at an accounting conference. Of all of that, the first night at Dale Carnegie was the worst. I hated every minute of it, so far out of my comfort zone was I. But I had made a commitment to myself to get rid of this phobia and put myself under some major pressure to make it happen. The pressure was the key.
In our work with accountants we put 90 day deadlines on some major projects and then apply pressure to ensure their implementation via a rigorous accountability process. Every time we meet with a group of accountants we hear stories of major breakthroughs with problem team members, difficult clients and toxic partnerships. Accountants tell us that without the pressure that the accountability instills, they would never have approached clients who have signed up for five figure business improvement programs. Or they would still be living with the negativity of team members not on board with their vision. Or they would not be sleeping at night because they didn’t deal with disruptive partners.
So consider the pressure you are under. Is it negative pressure that you have lumped upon yourself? If it is, take action to get rid of it. Or is it positive pressure – keeping you under the pump to achieve your goals? If so, embrace it fervently, shorten your deadlines and revel in it. To quote ice hockey great, Mark Messier, “The only pressure I’m under is the pressure I’ve put on myself.”