Our reactions can prevent failure
The way you react before an exam, a test or a difficult situation may influence your performance
- Do you fear failure or a bad grade?
- Do you doubt yourself?
- Do you think you are not good enough?
These thoughts compromise your cognitive processing capacity and, overall, your performance. Emotional stability, by contrast, boosts creativity, working memory and task performance.
Emotional stability has increasingly positive effects on performance as a job gets harder and more complex. Fear, on the other hand, has increasingly negative effects as pressure increases.
We all get worried sometimes, but our success hinges on keeping calm when stakes are highest. Below are three ways to remain emotionally level-headed under pressure:
- Channel your anxiety
- Don’t get ahead of the story
- Practice not reacting
One study found that situations requiring caution, self-discipline and threat anticipation occasionally benefited from worrying. Interestingly, this finding only applied to individuals with high cognitive ability. Researchers speculated that their reasoning ability could act as an intermediary between the situation and the emotional impulse. If you have expertise or innate ability in a given scenario, channel your anxiety toward constructive reasoning (not helpless panic).
f you don’t have experience, or you`ve had bad performances in math tests, focus less on thinking through things or at how bad the grades were and more on learning what you need for a situation to go smoothly. Julia Pimsleur, entrepreneur and author of Million Dollar Women: The Essential Guide for Female Entrepreneurs Who Want to Go Big, suggests, “Channel anxious energy into preparing. Every time you get nervous, prepare.”
If I’m nervous for a job interview, I shouldn’t try to calm my nerves by just telling myself I’ll do great. Instead, I need to learn about the interviewer, write down questions, research the company and investigate the position. Have you really done everything you can to prepare?
Anxious people are more likely to jump to conclusions. She’s going to reject my idea, and then I’m not going to get a promotion, and then I’m going to be out of a job, and then I won’t be able to pay my rent, and then I’ll have to move back in with my parents. Sound familiar? Stop yourself. Do you actually have that data yet?
Freaking out doesn’t just compromise our clear-thinking capacity; it wastes time. Really stop and think before you go into panic mode, you never get that time back.
Research shows that rumination ruins wellbeing. Every day is an opportunity to take life as it comes. The more you over-think things, the more you go into catastrophe mode—which can be your worst enemy, especially in terms of negative self-talk. Over-thinking can be a particular problem for women, who at any given time have 30% more neurons firing than men.
Replace obsession with hope. One study (among dozens) found that more hopeful sales employees, mortgage brokers and managers had higher job performance when measured a year later—even after controlling for cognitive ability. Hopeful executives also produce more and higher quality solutions to problems.
Rather than viewing a particular crisis as our life’s defining catastrophe, we can see it as a chance to cope. Build up this muscle of gathering data and not reacting, not going down the rabbit hole. These are great skills to have in life. Over time, we can accumulate stories of resilience and a personality that can calmly handle anything thrown our way.