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10 tips to perform better under pressure

10 tips to perform better under pressure

2 min read
  • Stress management & well-being

What is the hallmark of a champion? Big players perform their best in big matches and at the most important competitions. Think the likes of Tom Brady at Super Bowl 2017 and Laura Kenny at London 2012 and Rio 2016. But what do these type of athletes do that allow them to raise their game when the situation requires it? Can students employ the same techniques in their exams?

Researchers have been investigating why some people flourish and why some wilt under pressure. The answer seems to be around if you can get yourself into a ‘challenge state’ (characterised by feeling supported, believing you have the abilities to meet the task and remembering previous successful performance). The opposite is a ‘threat state’ which is when athletes don’t feel in control, feel isolated and dwell on uncertainty.

We will teach your students to thrive under pressure with key stress management skills. Ideal in the lead up to exams.

A new study has just been released that adds to our understanding. It is on ‘psychological state that underlie clutch performances’. ‘Clutch’ performances is the term used to describe “superior performances that occur under pressure circumstances”. It is delivering your best when it matters the most. See our guide about what constitutes clutch performance in golf for more.

We had the pleasure of speaking to one of the researchers, Christian Swann about his paper. He detailed the 10 characteristics of performing brilliantly under pressure:

  • Complete and deliberate focus – concentrating on the task at hand
  • Intense effort- 100% commitment and work rate
  • Heightened Awareness – to both your surroundings and your own mental state 
  • Being Up For It – being pumped up for the moment
  • Absence of Negative Thoughts – focusing on what you want, not what you don’t want
  • Fully Absorbed – immersing yourself in the performance
  • Confidence – believing you will achieve
  • Control – focusing on what you can control (your thoughts, feelings and reactions)
  • Increased Motivation – being determined to succeed
  • Enjoyment – fully embracing the challenge

This research compliments existing literature on the psychology of Olympic Champions, with work-rate, confidence, positivity and the ability to block out distractions featuring in both. What is encouraging is that these are skills that can be learnt and developed. They are not set in stone. If athletes and students can master these skills, they give themselves the best chances of success when it matters the most.


About the editor

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch is a Chartered Psychologist and a leading expert on illuminating Cognitive Science research in education. As Director at InnerDrive, his work focuses on translating complex psychological research in a way that is accessible and helpful. He has delivered thousands of workshops for educators and students, helping improve how they think, learn and perform. Bradley is also a prolific writer: he co-authored four books including Teaching & Learning Illuminated and The Science of Learning, as well as regularly featuring in publications such as The Guardian and The Telegraph.

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