In this article, learn how proper preparation enables relaxation under pressure. A relaxed confidence can be achieved by incrementally challenging oneself. This state of mind enables one to perform at their best in high-pressure environments.
How proper preparation enables relaxation under pressure
In my experience, confidence and relaxation are the keys to success in any situation. Perhaps this goes along with the well quoted saying, “fake it ’til you make it,” but I would actually fundamentally disagree with that nugget of wisdom. Although I tend to think that ostensible confidence can get you far, I believe that one can only reach his full potential when his confident demeanor is not a facade concealing an intimidated interior, but rather a reflection of his expertise. However, there exists an issue still. We all know the student that performs well during practice, but crumples under stress. He has confidence, since he knows that he can successfully complete the assigned work, yet he is clearly missing something. That something is relaxation.
Of course, we all know that telling a worked-up student to relax is nearly useless. So how does a student relax during an exam? What separates a student that performs well on a test from one that doesn’t? The key is what engenders that relaxation. A student must not only know the material, but in order to relax he must know that he knows the materials – especially in high stress environments. He must trust himself.
The process of practicing is as much a matter of learning and solidifying understanding of course material as it is in learning to trust one’s self. Repeatedly a student must be subjected to – or subject himself to – environments that cause a small but definite stress response. Practicing at a certain level of intensity, the student will become comfortable with the material and the expectations. He naturally learns that he can handle the work in this environment and begins to trust himself. At this point, an aspect of the practice is made more difficult in order to create yet another stress response. This process is continued until he is performing consistently at or above expectations for an evaluation. In this way, the student learns to trust himself.
Crucial to the success of the above outline, however, is small steps. A student must never be stressed too much, as this causes a deflation of confidence. Too much failure, and a student will become anxious, leading to a lack of relaxation no matter how well he knows the material. Too much success, and a student will disengage with the material. The key, then, is obviously to keep the level of stress consistent enough for the student to feel challenged in a positive way. It is only in this way that a student can both effectively learn material, and then later demonstrate his best understanding of that material.