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7 year practicing, traveling, and competing (US/abroad) B-boy ("break dancer"); fitness/health science/faith writer @ F3 For Answers.

Pressure.

It’s that intense moment where everything seems a lot more important than it ought to be. Your heart starts racing; your hands resemble waterfalls more than anything. Maybe you’re breathing a bit faster and it feels like you’re running a two-mile sprint. And, of course, your mind is going nuts—thinking and overthinking faster than you can blink.

All of those things usually aren’t very fun for us. We stutter, stumble, and fall over ourselves; and more often than not screw up something good.

And yet, it turns out, pressure can be the one factor that pushes us past mediocrity into truly amazing territory.


Two types of pressure

Original image by: Michael Roach
Original image by: Michael Roach

There’s two types of pressure that I think we’ve all faced from time to time. The first pressure is social, or “peer” pressure. This can be anything from wanting to get that first date after revealing to your friends your crush, or going against some random dude in an arcade with a bunch of people watching (do people still go to video arcades anymore?). A study in 2011 by the University of Southern California paints a powerful narrative to the effects of peer pressure:

"Among animals, there are strong incentives for wanting to be at the top of the social ranking," Coricelli said. "Animals in the dominant position use their status to secure privileged access to resources…”

You feel the peer pressure, and you want to win. You want to win, simply because when you win you get all the perks of being at the top. You get to be the man among boys—the king.

The second type of pressure is internal pressure. That’s the kind of pressure you’re feeling when you’re alone in your own mind. When you’re practicing your craft and you keep pushing yourself, not because anyone is watching—simply because you feel inside that you need to be better—to go beyond your limits and beat no one but yourself.

One fuels the other

Photo credit: Tim Wright
Photo credit: Tim Wright

Crazy thing is though: these two types of pressures build on each other. They fuel each other—and in a weird way, they need each other! It’s all because they work in tandem. Kind of like that seesaw you used to play on as a kid. Think about it like this:

You’ve been writing your reviews and blogs for well over 4 years now, and finally a big name blogging firm has noticed your fine work. They say to you, “Look, we need a 1000-word or less piece by the end of the week. Make it count.” Naturally, you get your pen, paper, and laptop and start hashing out ideas.

By the time it hits the day before your piece is due, you’ve been on fire. You’ve never felt this writing fervor before—not only did you crank out one piece, you managed to write two more quality works! I don’t know what’s going on, but it is freaking great! You tell yourself. What’s going on?

Your internal drive is simply working in overdrive. This is the biggest opportunity you’ve come across for your passion, so you’re putting the ax to the grinder and forcing yourself to perfection. If I’m not perfect, than I won’t get accepted, so I need to put out my best. But, it’s because of that internal pressure to be perfect that you are adapting to the social pressure of beating all of the other possible bloggers and wowing the editorial team of the company. Once you get on top, you get that sweet, sweet reward of a blogging job that you’ve always wanted.

Embracing both to succeed

It’s safe to say that embracing both of these normally “bad” feelings can lead to not just good, but great outcomes and create even better opportunities. It’s tricky though, isn’t it? How can you take nervousness, tension, and the jitters and make it into something worth liking, let alone craving?

By keeping pressure in perspective. Conor McGregor, UFC Lightweight champion, has this to say about pressure:

“I don't feel pressure in a negative way. I like pressure. I feel excitement and calm at the same time. No pressure, no diamonds. I want pressure: pressure creates drama, creates emotion.”

The difference between Conor and everyone else in the UFC, is that Conor keeps both his internal pressure and social pressure in perspective: it gives him not jitters, but excitement, and it doesn’t just make him amped, it gives him real emotions to feed off of. Like he says, “No pressure, no diamonds.” And that is utilizing pressure to the utmost—a tool that lets you know you’re alive, and doing the right things to reach for something.

Pressure can be the hardest beast to fight off when it strikes.

It’s only when you learn to tame that beast, that you will have a tool to make even more impact in whatever arena you’re in.

Written by: Michael “Bboy Roach1” Roach

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