I’ve heard many people say that they work well under stress. In most job interviews I’ve heard candidates say they perform well during stressful situations. Unfortunately they’re wrong. None of us work well when stressed.
We experience stress when we have too many demands and not enough resources. As a result, we often experience feelings of panic, worry, and distrust of others. These are not positive attributes and they do not lead to positive outcomes. Poor performance and less than desired results are most often the sum of stressful environments.
But pressure can help individuals and teams to achieve their goals. We experience pressure when we perceive that an important task is dependent on the outcome of our performance. You can think of an athlete who must score a touchdown or make the final shot in to win the game. They are not distracted by too many demands. They have a single important goal: to score. They are also not hindered by a lack of resources. For example, they don’t have to play the final minutes with just one shoe or half the number of teammates. With proper resources at their disposal, they can continue to focus on the important task at hand.
We all experience stress from time to time, but don’t confuse that with being under pressure. Feelings of stress usually need a re-evaluation of the demands that are being asked of us. It may involve deferring certain tasks or acquiring more resources. Feelings of pressure can help us in focusing and succeeding in our most important endeavors.