Why do some people thrive under pressure, while others seem to crumble?

Whether you’re about to give a speech to a crowded room, or you’ve only got five minutes to close the biggest deal of your career, your performance depends greatly on how you’re feeling when you enter into the situation.

Stress response

When faced with a stressful situation, we experience a physiological response – sweaty palms, muscle tension, dry mouth, nausea, and an increased heart rate.

This is part of our built-in stress response that has allowed us humans to evolve. For our ancestors this triggered when we faced dangers, like hungry lion who were competing for the same food that we were.

Psychological dangers

Today however our dangers are more psychological – like public speaking.

Despite the changes in the types of danger we face, our fear is still triggered by comparatively minor stressors as if we were facing life or death challenges.

What makes this interesting is that your brain does not know the difference between the severity of the danger and whether it is physical or psychological, it will respond in exactly the same in every instance.

Paralysis by overthinking

These psychological stresses that we create can cause what is known as ‘Paralysis by Analysis.’

This basically translates into our ability to overthink a situation too much, that it can destroy our ability to perform at our full potential. Even to the point that it can cause us to fail when performing tasks that we’d normally consider to be relatively easy.

mental preparation for success_2Challenge the fear of failure

So the more you are able to focus on aspects that will lead to your failure, the more anxiety you create, thus the more likely you will think and act in ways that are directly opposed to achieving your goals.

Successful people are able to thrive because they enter into high pressure situations in order to challenge the fear of failure, with a focus on success and they do this by making sure they are prepared.

Let’s look at sports

In the elite world of sport, athletes would never dream of turning up to the Olympic Games without having done any preparation.

Instead, they arrive knowing that they have left no stone unturned.

This enables them to go to the starting line full of confidence, with the belief that they’re as ready as you can be, all the preparation is done and all that remains is to execute the performance.

So how do they do this?

One of the most powerful ways to do this is through the process of imagery.

Research on the brain patterns of weightlifters found that the patterns activated when a weightlifter lifted heavy weights were activated similarly when they simply imagined lifting.

But visualizing is more than just thinking about an upcoming event. When athletes use visualization, they truly feel the event taking place in their mind’s eye.

mental preparation for success_3

Visualisation and self talk

The more you can engage your sense e.g. smell, taste, touch into the process, the more you engage with what it is that you want to create in your life.

Remember, repetitive visualization of successful performances every day in stills confidence in your ability to perform at your best all the time.

Another way to do this is through the process of self-talk.

The conversations you have with yourself every day, will influence how you behave at key moments.

In a meta-analysis of sports psychological studies published in Perspectives on Psychological Science found that instructional self-talk (“Keep your leg straight,” or “Use your core strength here.”) helped athletes to improve specific techniques or skills.

On the other hand, motivational self-talk (“You know you can do this!”) helped them to succeed in strength and endurance-based tasks.

Make time to prepare

So make time throughout the day to mentally prepare yourself for success by celebrate every little win and making a mental note of it.

Mental success skills need to be developed every day, by establishing and reaching daily goals. This develops the confidence and belief that anything is possible when it comes to creating long term success.


I would say 99% of success is mental, so not doing daily mental skills training is to neglectthe key to success.

See, success is a choice, as it comes from the decisions and choices we makes every day with each situation that life prevents us with. So remember whether you or you do not, you are right!

Connect with Expert Dean Griffiths

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