Learn six strategies for turning a pressure situation into an opportunity. In this episode, Judd Hoekstra, coauthor of Crunch Time: How to be Your Best When It Matters Most, talks about the skill of reframing—intentionally thinking about a situation in a new or different way to improve performance.
“When faced with a stressful situation, it is normal to have the fight, flight, or freeze reaction. But what you should do is pause and recognize when you are having negative thoughts—then challenge your thinking to have positive thoughts,” Hoekstra explains. Hoekstra offers six tips for putting reframing into practice.
- The first is to reframe from trying harder to trying easier. Contrary to what many of us have been taught, trying harder under pressure is often counterproductive. Think about your best performances. Were you grinding and full of anxiety? More than likely, you remember your best performances as almost effortless. Trying easier isn’t about being lazy or not trying. It is about throttling back just a little. It’s about taking the tension out of what you’re doing and replacing it with a level of effort that allows you to perform in a relaxed state.
- The next skill is to reframe from tension to laughter. Humor diffuses pressure better than any pharmaceutical on the market. It momentarily reduces the perceived threat posed by a situation. It also helps generate a sense of control and provides perspective that can help you see dire circumstances with some levity. It also stops cortisol, a stress hormone, in its tracks and releases endorphins—the feel-good neurotransmitters that enhance performance.
- Reframing from anxiety to taking control is a skill that can be used in any stressful situation that undermines your performance. Instead of setting lofty goals that can be intimidating, set simple, short-term, bite-sized goals that are attainable. Then you can take control of the situation and perform at a higher level.
- Fighting our own doubts is difficult, but it is possible to reframe from doubt to confidence. “When I’m making a presentation but I’m filled with doubt, I think back to a similar situation where I performed at my best level. I visualize that performance—I actually relive the event—to build my confidence and remember that I’ll be using the same tried and true skills that I’ve successfully used before,” says Hoekstra.
- Reframing from failure to a learning moment is one of the most useful skills to consider when trying to deliver your best performance. Whether you are an athlete, business person, actor, parent, or teacher, we can all learn from our mistakes. Hoekstra shares how Garry Ridge, CEO of WD-40, has banned the word mistake from the company’s culture. Ridge prefers the term learning moment. People are afraid of making mistakes, but having a learning moment is an opportunity. He asks people to think about what they’ve learned and to share that information with others.
- The last skill is to reframe from prepared to overprepared. This skill is especially helpful in pressure situations. A normal amount of preparation is fine, but it won’t serve you well when the pressure is high. Overpreparation allows you to operate instinctively even when things are not going as planned. “Overpreparation is what allowed Michael Phelps to set a world record in the 2008 Olympics even when his goggles were leaking and he couldn’t see the edge of the pool,” says Hoekstra. Overpreparation is the skill that allows you to overcome the unthinkable.
The best thing to remember is that people everywhere, in all kinds of professions, are using reframing skills successfully. They are as helpful to a CEO or athlete as they are to a parent trying to have a positive interaction with their children.
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