Pressure vs. Stress

It is important to understand the difference between pressure and stress. Pressure is inevitable. We live in a world that is full of all kinds of pressure. It is something that is constantly surrounding us. You are going to have pressure in your personal life as well as in your professional responsibilities.

Consequently, stress is what you experience when you are not prepared for pressure. So to avoid stress, we have to train our minds to embrace pressure.

In 2008, Billie Jean King wrote a wonderful book titled Pressure is a Privilege. Pressure is just that – a privilege. Think about it. When you’re in pressure situations, you’re doing something special. When you’re under pressure, you’re doing something important. Something that matters.

Let’s look at a professional athlete. The game is on the line and she is trying to make the winning free throw. That’s special. To get to that point, she first made the team, worked hard to become a starter, and kept that position. Now, her teammates are relying on her, like they have countless times before. To get to that spot is a privilege.

For another example, take a businessman who is preparing to give a presentation to a Board of Directors. Before this point, he had to get the job and excel at his position. His superiors have given him a large amount of responsibility, and now, someone has asked him to give a presentation to the board. This means that his superiors trust him enough to put together a brilliant presentation and represent the company. He is under pressure, but it is a very positive pressure. Many people never get the opportunity to experience such pressures.

If you are not experiencing pressure in your life, chances are you are not doing enough. Pressure is something you feel when you are active and engaged. Pressure is a privilege; it’s a good thing. Take advantage of pressure.

The trick we have to learn is preparing for pressure. When we are not prepared for pressure, we experience stress. Perhaps you’re a student, going in to take an exam. You may feel stressed out because you haven’t mastered all the material. The pressure of the exam is always going to be there. If you study, however, you do not experience stress. Instead, you embrace the exam; you even get a little excited about it, because you know you’re going to do really well. You’re prepared.

We have all experienced pressure and stress. Sometimes, we’re prepared for the pressure of an important situation. Other times, we aren’t, and we experience stress. So how do we keep our lives from spinning out of control? Preparation.

To begin preparing for situations that lie ahead of us, we have to focus on what we can control. We control our attitude and effort. Effort is how you prepare for something. What you put into a situation is what you will get out of it. Successful people prepare by putting lots of effort into their tasks, and they are rewarded for their effort. These successful people embrace pressure. They believe that pressure is a privilege. They look for pressure situations. They want to be right there. Because these people put forth the time, energy, dedication, and effort to prepare for pressure situations they do not become overwhelmed.

You want to find yourself in pressure situations, because that tells you that you’re doing something right. What you want to avoid is stress.

Sometimes, you can be prepared and not achieve the result you wanted. That happens. It’s life. Sometimes you work hard and take time to prepare, but things just do not go your way. You can’t let that depress you, because deep down you know that you worked hard. You laid it all out on the line. The greatest feeling in the world is when you have put forth as much effort as possible. It feels even better when you’re victorious. There will be times when you put forth as much effort as possible, when you really lay it all out on the field and you’re not victorious, but it still feels good to put forth that effort. Deep down, you know you did all right, because you put forth as much effort as you could have.

In college, there were times when I got an A in a class and it wasn’t very meaningful because the course wasn’t very challenging. Then there were times when I got a C in a class and I felt good about that C because I worked hard – I laid it all out on the line. Sometimes, I learned more in those classes where I got C’s instead of the classes where I got A’s. The difference was the effort that I put forth.