17 Jan Overcome this Mental Distortion and you will Perform Better Under Pressure
This past summer I had a kidney stone, it was excruciating and there’s an important part of my experience that relates to performing your best under pressure.
I was in my basement and I had a kidney stone and I have never had one before. If you’ve never had one, hopefully you never will because it’s an excruciating amount of pain. I was doubled over in pain, trying to be macho, trying to suck it up, saying things to myself like ”I can take it”. However, I was dying, I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t function.
My wife came down the stairs and she saw me on the floor like a puddle of mess and she said, “Oh my God, you have to go to the hospital.”
Being as tough as I could be, I said, “No, I’m not going to the hospital.” So, I had my thoughts with me a little bit, but I was in a lot of pain. The reason I didn’t want to go to the hospital was because there was no way I could sit in line and wait while experiencing that much pain. I couldn’t sit in a chair, so I said, “no I can’t, it’ll be fine, I can get through it.”
Then a little while later, maybe an hour later, I was sweating, I couldn’t breathe properly. I was doubled over, I was wincing, I was grunting and I was scaring my kids. Finally I said, “Listen, call an ambulance.” I figured at least the ambulance would get me ahead of the line at the hospital. If you’ve never called an ambulance before or the paramedics, it’s quite embarrassing.
The fire truck showed up and there were sirens and then the ambulance showed up and there were more sirens and my neighbors came out to see what was going on. I was thinking, “Oh my God, this is so embarrassing.”
The firemen came into my home and they saw me writhing on the floor like a crazy person. One of them said, “Listen Cal, we’re going to take your heart rate and your vitals and your blood pressure, okay?” I said, “Sure, whatever!” I was dying. He took my heart rate and he took my blood pressure and he said, “Listen, your heart rate is 80 beats per minute.” And I said, “What? 80?” 80 beats for me is a normal heart rate. To me that meant, nothing was happening. Then he said, “Your blood pressure is about 120 over 80.” Which again is normal. I felt like I was going to die.
I couldn’t believe it, I was literally flabbergasted. In the middle of the pain, I eked out, “Are you kidding me?” And he said, “No, no, this is it.” I strained and muttered, “Holy shit.” He gave me some pain medication, put me on a stretcher and off we went to deal with the kidney stone.
The point of my story is, I was actually fine. My mind magnified the pain I was experiencing. Yes, in truth, I was in pain. It was a serious situation, don't minimize that, but my mind magnified it.
The magnification is a label for a distortion from cognitive behavioral therapy. Quite often when you’re under pressure and you’re feeling the strain of a situation, you will magnify the experience and make it much worse than it actually is.
When you do that, your mind will be racing so fast that you can’t think of the right solutions, you can’t perform properly. So, what I’m trying to get across to you here, using my funny little kidney stone story, is to be careful that you’re not magnifying your pressure situations.
I see it all the time when I’m speaking to folks. Maybe they have to do a presentation in front of their board or their committee or the investors or whoever it is. Or they have to close a sale and it’s an important sale for their year or their quota. Or potentially, they have an interview for a new position or they have to lead a team and have a difficult conversation. Any of these situations can get your mind racing and cause you to magnify the pressure of the situation much more than it really is.
So, the cognitive behavioural therapist will tell you that the key to overcome this and be better under pressure is to think of a rational thought to counter the magnification. In my kidney stone story, hearing that my heart rate and my blood pressure were normal helped me to calm down significantly and the situation became much more manageable.
What is something that would really makes sense and that would reduce your belief in that magnification.
Think of a rational thought that’s going to overcome this magnification so you can get yourself back in the game. If you can do that, you will absolutely find a way to win.