I saw a video last night where someone was talking about the growth of lobsters. Just hold on, this is related to pressure and growth, I promise. In this video, someone was describing how lobsters are essentially a ‘soft, squishy’ living being stuffed into a hard, immovable shell. And every time the lobster needs to grow, they need to hide away somewhere safe and discard their old shells so they can grow into new, bigger ones. They have to leave behind the one thing that protects them so they can grow. What creates the need for this change is discomfort. The lobster begins to feel confined and uncomfortable in their current shell as they begin to outgrow it, so they need to take action, take care of themselves and make room for growth.
Ok–enough about lobsters and onto the point.
The point here is that in high performance environments, we’re often subjected to things that pull us out of our comfort zone and make us feel uncomfortable. When we feel uncomfortable, our autopilot response is to shrink into ourselves, run away from what’s making us uncomfortable, avoid making mistakes at all costs, and try to be perfect. It seems like the right thing to do; we’re unsure of ourselves, we’re nervous, we want to put our best foot forward. But this state is actually the enemy of our highest potential. Where a lot of us go naturally to ‘handle’ stress, as a result of seeing it as a negative thing, hurts our ability to perform at our best.
I’m currently at Team Canada U22 Development camp as a Mental Performance Coach and being here as a coach brought me back to being here as an athlete. In these kind of environments, where athletes feel the pressure of being able to wear their nation’s crest and represent their country, the pressure of making a childhood dream reality can be extremely overwhelming. Especially in this kind of environment where we want so badly to perform at our best, we have to learn how to see pressure as a positive thing. In the case of the lobster, stress and discomfort become a signal for growth and development. Instead of interpreting pressure as something threatening, we can choose to see it as an opportunity or welcomed challenge. The shift in your response to that environment just by changing your perspective will be drastic.
Pressure is required for growth; without it, the constant comfort we’d live in would promote stagnation.
Lauren Williams | High-Performance Coach