One of the great things about playing sport is that it teaches us more and more about ourselves.
On the course we learn about who we are, how we respond to adversity and most importantly how we perform in really tense situations.
We often think that pressure has a negative impact on performance, because most of us have experienced this in the past. Some of you reading this article will disagree, however. You may find that you thrive on pressure and play your best when you feel it! This illustrates an important point:
Pressure is what you make of it!
Each of us has a level of arousal or stimulation that is required for us to play well. Something in the round we are playing has to keep us engaged in the game or we will fail to have sufficient stimulation to get into our personal zone of excellence.
However, too much stimulation can overwhelm us and create tension, anxiety and eventually poor performance. Just like a thermostat that has an upper and lower set point, each of us plays best within an upper and lower limit of stimulation and arousal.
It’s like having our own uniquely designed zone where fantastic play is  possible but where too much pressure causes anxiety, self-doubt and a drop off in performance. Thus we see that excitement and arousal can help us play better up until the point where we become overwhelmed.
So how can we manage to coexist with pressure?
First we must learn to welcome it and make it something we want in our game. Many of the pro’s say that they practice and hone their game so that they have a chance to feel the pressure on Sunday afternoons in the final
holes of a tournament. Only when they are at that point are they about to break through and really achieve greatness. In other words we get to describe the experience we feel.
If we use words like excited, turned on, or focused we can use the arousal to execute better. However, if we use words like nervous, worried, scared or uneasy we reduce our comfort with the experience and subsequently our ability to continue the experience. How we think about pressure is totally up to us.
Pressure can help our performance if we can learn to welcome it and use it to focus on the task more intently and limit distractions. Conversely pressure can destroy our execution, create anxiety, and make us feel discomfort. There is a really fine line between the two. When we realize that all players feel pressure and all of us choke we can realize that the sensations of pressure are normal.
When we can learn to reframe the choking symptoms into an ally to help us execute intensely we can reap the rewards of pressure. Remember pressure does not always hurt performance.