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No Pressure, No Diamonds!

[ Leadership & Team Development ]

Diamonds are formed when carbon is placed under an immense amount of pressure which equals 725,000 pounds per square inch.   This is incredible!   How can something so amazingly beautiful and treasured result from a process, that on the surface, appears to be very destructive.  When you think about it, this is a fantastic example of how we as humans can turn our daily pressures into something positive.Most of us experience pressure throughout our daily lives.  If someone were to say that they were not under any pressure at all, they could very well be untruthful.  Let’s be honest that a majority of us deal with pressures related to family, job, finances, health, career expectations, etc.  The list here could be very lengthy for some individuals.

There are two kinds of pressure – internal and external.  Which one do you think is worse?   Internal pressures generally stem from pushing ourselves too hard or from worrying about our ability to meet others’ expectations and those that we have of ourselves.  For example, we might push ourselves to become the best at our jobs.  This self-imposed pressure may be totally unnecessary because it is self-generated.

Some external pressures may have little connection to our jobs, but the way we react to them can negatively impact how we work.  You possibly sometimes feel weighted down by others’ expectations of you or disappointed by the progress you’ve made on a project or task.   Pressure certainly is an everyday part of our personal and professional lives.

Philosopher Thomas Carlyle said, “No pressure, no diamonds,“ suggesting that, in manageable doses, pressure can energize and motivate us to perform and achieve at a higher level.  The downside is that too much of it, however, can tip the balance the other way.   The trick to making pressure work for us and not against us is to find the “sweet spot” between having too little and too much of it.   It’s time for an important note here:  Be careful not to confuse pressure with stress since they are quite different. Pressure can be a very useful force.  Experiencing it, yet feeling calm and in control, can spur individuals on to achieve great things.  It’s only when pressure keeps building and that sense of calm and order is replaced by a feeling of being out of control, that stress happens.  This has a totally different and negative effect on us.

So, the question is…..How do we thrive under pressure?   A sensible lifestyle is certainly key to coping with pressure.   That means exercising regularly, drinking alcohol moderately, maintaining a healthy diet, and getting plenty of sleep.  Following are some additional ways that we can thrive under pressure:

Stay On Top

Pressure is a positive force and can be leveraged when we are in command of the situation.  If we lose our sense of control, however, we can quickly feel overwhelmed and anxious.  Developing an internal sense of control can boost our ability to monitor and deal with rising pressure.  What are some ways that you can develop an internal sense of control?

Recognize and Address Our Weaknesses

Most individuals who are considered successful by today’s standards are those who recognize and offset their own areas of weakness.   A key way that most successful executives do this is by surrounding themselves with individuals who are more knowledgeable and have expertise in areas that the executives are lacking.   Have you ever heard the phrase, “If you’re the smartest person in the room, then you’re in the wrong room?”  How insightful and valuable this line of thinking certainly is.

Manage Your Responses and Learn From Situations

With a positive mindset, pressure situations can be opportunities to shine, learn, and develop.  We can use them as our motivation to succeed and turn negative situations around so they can work in our favor.  Going forward, let’s make a commitment to grow, develop, and proactively manage those situations that put us under pressure.  We can become proactive by tackling pressure head on because it is unlikely to go away by itself.

Prioritize What Truly is Important

If everything we deal with throughout life causes pressure, then obviously we have a problem. Have you ever known individuals who constantly put themselves under pressure, but they certainly don’t “thrive under pressure?”   Instead, everything is a high pressure situation for them which creates a pattern of ongoing chaos.  We have to master the ability to prioritize things throughout life.  Truthfully, many things we deal with each day really aren’t that important.  We have to be realistic with ourselves and develop the ability to prioritize and tackle those things first that can make the biggest difference or have the most significant impact for ourselves, our families, and even our clients.

Energize Yourself

Without energy, you are likely to feel “flattened” and overwhelmed by too much pressure.  The action to take here is to pump up your energy levels to regain your focus and to improve your ability to withstand and respond to pressure.  What are some things we can do to energize ourselves?

Ask For Help

We should never be afraid to ask for help if we feel that we are under too much pressure.  Sometimes we need help to determine if the pressure is too much for us and where exactly the pressure is coming from.   We all have a support network of family, friends, a team at work, etc. that can help us make these determinations.  The bottom line here is to always ask for advice and help as needed rather than to just “push through.”

In conclusion, what are ways that we can use the pressure we face to make diamonds in our lives? Let’s never miss an opportunity to take advantage of those “high pressure” opportunities to improve ourselves and lessen stress along the way.


“You can’t be successful if you can’t handle pressure.”


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