Pressure – the good and not so good
Feeling pressure is not a negative occurrence in its own right, and not necessarily a conflict to Flow. Pressure can be a positive catalyst when there are legitimate and urgent forces and motivations underpinning the desired action. In fact, there is evidence to suggest that pressure is a common precursor to the state of Flow. We’ve all heard stories of mere mortals being capable of extra-ordinary, seemingly supernatural strength or mental acuity when faced with catastrophic circumstances: The women lifting cars to save the life of their trapped child for instance, or a specialist diffusing a bomb with precious few seconds remaining before detonation and hundreds of civilian lives (and their own!) at stake. Similarly, if our house was threatened by bushfire, feeling pressured would be one element prompting us to evacuate those we cared about, remove items of personal value, and do what we could to protect our property.
In this instance, we could expect that feeling pressured would be an effective prompt to action, and reasonably predict a more positive outcome than if we’d felt completely relaxed about the fire encroaching upon our property. We can view this type of pressure as “functional pressure”, that is, pressure that has purpose and serves our ultimate intention.
Often times though, feelings of pressure seem to arise in circumstances in which it serves no functional purpose at all. In fact, it interferes with our progress. Unproductive pressure is that which serves only to create doubt, fear and stress, and often results in procrastination, half-hearted efforts, or complete stagnation. A range of scenarios can see us experiencing unproductive pressure.
Some examples might include:
- When we commit ourselves beyond our realistic capacity
- When we hold ourselves to such a high standard that meeting our own expectations is a daunting task
- When we allow the expectations and values of others to determine our commitments
- When we say yes to things without taking time to consider if they are what we really want
- When the action we’ve chosen to take is misaligned with our core values and priorities
- When we hold a belief that we are ill equipped, under qualified or unworthy of achieving the objective
Rather than becoming frustrated or dis-heartened when we find ourselves within one of these scenarios, a more productive and compassionate approach might be to:
- re-appraise the desired action and either re-affirm or let go of our commitment to its accomplishment
- if we do decide we wish to maintain our commitment to the task, view the above scenarios as opportunities for reframing our perspectives and repositioning ourselves in relation to the desired action
This Power Tool proposes Flow as an alternative state to unproductive pressure, which sees clients effortlessly, joyfully and willingly engaging in a lifestyle which brings about feelings of abundant health and vitality. The premise for Flow in this context is that people who do take care of their health and wellbeing as a matter of course seem to do so without self-flagellation; without pressure; just because it feels good and they love the benefits it reaps. In other words, taking care of themselves becomes a natural state of being that they value so highly they wouldn’t sacrifice it.
“Should” packs a mighty punch for such a little word. It immediately positions us in a defensive relationship with the thing we believe we should be doing, because by definition we haven’t actually done it despite there being a perceived benefit, value or imperative. Many of us pressure ourselves to undertake things we believe we should be doing and aren’t, or aren’t doing as well as we think we should be. The internal conflict which arises when we say “I should” often indicates that we haven’t taken personal ownership of the action, and haven’t shifted mentally and emotionally to the more active and assertive position of “I am”.
Healthy Lifestyle – A paradise for should
As your faith is strengthened, you will find that there is no longer the need to have a sense of control, that things will flow as they will and that you will flow with them to your great delight and benefit.
Personal health and wellness is one area in particular where we are prone to self-criticism and pressure. Most people will tell you that their health is of great importance to them, but in the next breath will tell you how much they struggle to adopt seemingly simple lifestyle choices which might benefit them such as regular movement, eating well, and getting enough rest.
In today’s complex and information rich society, we are bombarded with messages from the media and many and varied “experts” telling us what we need to do to be happy, successful and healthy. Many of these messages are perfectly sound in terms of being evidence based advice that would, in theory, promote health and wellbeing for those who were to implement the recommended strategy into their own lives. Eat more vegetables, drink more water, drink less alcohol, don’t smoke cigarettes and exercise for 60 minutes per day. These appear to be reasonable pieces of advice, however human beings can be complicated creatures and for most of us, simply knowing or being told what to do doesn’t stimulate us to action. If it does, it often doesn’t last for long enough to yield sustained benefits.