Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur the contributors are their own.
When we think of feeling “pressured”, the immediate connotation is usually negative. Understandably, given a choice, many would choose not to feel pressured in any situation; it is not an exceptionally comfortable emotion. Nonetheless, it can be helpful in all facets of life, especially when it comes to your career path.
Historian Thomas Carlyle famously said “no pressure, no diamonds,” indicating that coal cannot reach its true potential of becoming a diamond without it. In the same way, the correct dose of pressure will help you achieve your goals when you know how to handle it and manage it in a healthy way that does not detract from your general well-being.
Related: 5 Habits Every CEO Should Avoid To Be A Truly Remarkable Leader
1. Character over comfort
To some extent, it is a choice. You can go through life prioritizing short-term comfort and avoiding situations that bring a high level of pressure. Still, it probably won’t be a very satisfying experience. It is natural to prefer easy and comfortable situations, it is human. Unfortunately, you will have to endure and welcome the most challenging experiences to stimulate character development and growth.
Without the pushing moments, we get stuck, and forcing yourself to move past the discomfort does your future self an excellent service. Think of an outstanding achievement: a widely known historical example or something personal that happened in your own life. To the best of your knowledge, would that goal or milestone have been achieved without a level of discomfort and pressure?
When I think back to the moments in my life when I have been most proud of myself or achieved the most rewarding result, none of them could have happened without previous hard work. I have never regretted putting myself in a position under pressure, and I will continue to do so whenever the opportunity arises.
Related: 5 Ways to Become a High Performer at Any Company
2. Training the muscle
As with so many things, overcoming pressure becomes easier with practice. It’s like a muscle or a skill: you have to train it to make it stronger. No one walks into the weight room for the first time and squats 400 pounds, nor would it be recommended. Without training, you’re only going to hurt yourself.
There’s a reason Lionel Messi is constantly picked to take penalty kicks; he’s taken so many before and has found a way to feel comfortable and successful in what is arguably the most stressful time in the game. He’s been in the situation before and has met the challenge repeatedly in ways other players haven’t yet mastered.
If you can find a way to take advantage of the moments when you feel the pressure closing in, it will be easier the more often it happens. Continually putting yourself in an awkward position will only serve you well in the long run, particularly since as you progress and grow, so will the frequency of those moments. It’s a cliché, but it’s true: with great reward comes great responsibility, and as you achieve more or achieve success, you’ll need that muscle strengthened to handle the pressures.
Related: A 4-Step Guide to Cope with Failure and Bounce Back
3. Manage the pressure
If you’re someone who experiences a high level of pressure on a regular basis, chances are you’re also constantly trying to do better in most facets of life; the two tend to go hand in hand. Even when you lean toward the positive side, you’ll need to find a way to handle that pressure.
Different people have different strategies, but something I’ve found crucial is recognizing the adrenaline rush that comes with feeling pressured. On a physical level, the fear you might feel in those moments is not that different from the feeling you get when you’re excited, like riding to the top of a roller coaster. The trick is to channel that adrenaline into the latter and use it to fuel excitement instead of fear. Think about what could go right instead of what could go wrong, or if that’s too difficult, allow yourself to think about what could go wrong and look at it anyway so you feel more prepared.
One strategy might be to take advantage of a friend with complementary strengths. You could ask me to jump out of a plane tomorrow and not think twice, but if you ask me to put on an oxygen tank and go diving, “yes” won’t come to me that quickly. Having a friend who is terrified of heights but is at home in the water would be the perfect match because we can push each other and take some of the pressure off the other may be feeling.
Inevitably, the best way to handle pressure is to become comfortable with the physical feelings it causes, but these strategies can go a long way before you get there.
If you’re having trouble reaching a true sense of comfort, viewing pressure through the lens of privilege can be incredibly helpful. Billie Jean King wrote an entire book on the subject where she said: “Pressure is a privilege, it only comes to those who earn it.” The privilege and opportunity to feel the pressure to compete and perform is not something everyone experiences. That fact alone can sometimes make it easier to manage. When moving forward feels hard, know that it’s supposed to feel that way, but it doesn’t have to stop you from using all the tools in your arsenal. If you can take control of the situations that cause that good pressure instead of walking away from them, you’ll eventually find success in a way that feels even more rewarding.