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How to deal with Pressure

In our modern-day society we are constantly weighed down under intense pressure, whether that be from work, school or stress at home. This has had a subsequent effect of fragmenting our sense of community as a nation. The harsh conditions of society has fostered a selfish culture in which securing our own personal gain and self-fulfillment has become the epitome of success. What is more, as a result of this ‘win-at-all-costs’ culture, individuals are evermore placed under the scrutiny of others as we have lost the value and importance of giving to one another. Dealing with discrimination and adversity is something there

fore that many of us are forced to deal with in our day-to-day lives. We frequently question ourselves as to whether we are good enough focusing on the opinions of others, rather than paying attention to our own self-mastery and wellbeing. How therefore, can we live free, happy and successful lives in times of such difficulty?

Through my work as a Chartered Psychologist after retiring from First Class cricket more than twenty years ago I have discovered that it is our ego (our sense of self-interest established through what we tell ourselves) that is the most damaging, as it interferes when we are under pressure to perform or when we are faced with discrimination in life.

Our ego is our natural defence system that flies in to protect us from our perceived threat of either humiliation or negative judgement by others. For example, you might be playing a sport, running a company or sitting an exam. You might say; ‘I really need to perform today’ or ‘if I don’t win I am a failure.’ Alternatively, you may be faced with some form of discrimination or bias. ‘I’m so upset being treated this way - it’s so unfair’ or ‘why are they so quick to judge me?’ are thoughts you might commonly have. Yet we do not appreciate the damaging effects of what we are telling ourselves here (our ego). Building our self-awareness about these detrimental effects is an essential step in developing our self-esteem and resilience, especially in a time when we are often required to preform under high pressure and frequently confronted with adversity. My own experience in professional cricket combined with my research as a psychologist with World Champion athletes suggests there is a right way and a wrong way of handling what we tell ourselves at these pivotal moments. We can make decisions based on ego (self-interest) or decisions based on operating without ego (selflessly). It is purely our choice which one we choose. When I played cricket I know that I chose to confront difficult situations selfishly, immediately pushing back in the face of adversity.

I chose to ‘fight fire-with-fire’ maintaining the attitude of ‘I’ll show them that they’re wrong about me.’ However this led to inconsistent results and poor relationships. I wasn’t free to express my ability consistently so consequently I was unfulfilled and unhappy with my game. It wasn’t until I began research with World Champion athletes as a psychologist, that I could see my earlier choices were driven by ego and fear. The elite athletes I worked with that went on to become World Champions revealed that at the defining moment of their career they were able to fight ‘fire-with-water’ in order to cross the line. These athletes, made a deeper choice when faced with such high levels of stress and adversity. They responded with greater openness and softness to their difficult situation.

They let go of any perceived unfairness and their self-important mindset and instead focused on what their performance could do for their community, team or Country. In this without ego (selfless) mindset their focus shifted towards how their performance could help the lives of others. In these moments they became self-sacrificing and this meant they relieved themselves of intense stress and judgment and as a result were able to perform with complete freedom.

I have taken these findings and formed the ‘Leadership withoutEGO model’®. It is this that I discuss in my book ‘DETOX YOUR EGO’ and revolves around three stages that include seven steps to enable you to get-out-of-the-way of yourself and operate without ego. The first stage is the ‘Inner ego’ and this refers to what goes on below the surface. The following stage is the ‘Outer ego’ and is what is seen above the surface. Finally, the model asks you to focus on how you can apply your learning of your ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ ego to influence and inspire others; your Transformational ego. My research has shown that by aligning your inner, outer and transformational ego you can truly operate freely, inspiring others in the process.

Over the next three weeks in the Voice Newspaper I intend to go further into each of these stages to hopefully enable you as a reader to understand where you sit between self-importance and selflessness, so that you might be better equipped to cope under pressure or deal with discrimination. I believe that through listening to what you tell yourself whilst following these seven steps to ‘detox your ego’ you will undoubtedly begin to live a freer, happier and more successful life.


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