Book Review: Performing Under Pressure by Hendrie Weisinger and J.P. Pawliw-Fry

Performing Under Pressure by Hendrie Weisinger and J.P. Pawliw-Fry is such a practical book because everyone, no matter their career, feels pressure and desires to handle it better so they can perform better and reach their goals. 

There are 3 parts to the book. First, it explains what pressure is and how it affects you. This knowledge is very useful. A better understanding of pressure gives you a better attitude about it and helps you find ways to handle it. The basic premise of the book is that pressure, unlike the myths we’ve been told, doesn’t help you “rise to the occasion.” Pressure, which is the stress of having something on the line depend on your performance, has many negative side effects that hurt your performance. Pressure causes you to choke by interfering with your working memory and your muscle memory. People often mistake pressure with motivation. Motivation is great. It drives us to give effort, but the pressure that often accompanies motivation is what hurts us. 

In the next two parts, this book teaches you how you can keep motivation while minimizing the harmful effects of pressure. Part 2 is specifically about “pressure solutions,” which are tips to help you reduce pressure in the moment. Some of my favorite pressure solutions are:
  • Viewing pressure as a fun opportunity to challenge yourself instead of viewing pressure as a threat.
  • Knowing you have many opportunities to succeed in life.
  • Downplaying the importance of a pressure situation.
  • Improving confidence by reflecting on your past success under pressure.
  • Creating a pre-game routine.
  • Deep Breathing.
  • Focusing on the task at hand and focusing only on what you can control.
  • Staying positive and improving your body language.
  • Listening to your favorite music before and during games (playing the song in your head).
  • Desensitizing yourself to pressure by adding pressure to your practices.
There are many more pressure solutions in this book that can help improve your self-talk, focus, routines, and training in order to minimize and handle pressure better.

The book admits that these pressure solutions are short term fixes. To truly perform better under pressure, you need more long term solutions. This is what part 3 of the book is about. In part three, the authors teach you how to develop a “COTE” of armour to help immunize you against pressure and make your intangibles more conducive to peak performance. This COTE represents four of the most important traits that help you perform better under pressure: confidence, optimism, tenacity, and enthusiasm. Confidence is your belief that you can perform well and succeed in the moment. Optimism is a belief in a positive future and a positive past. Tenacity is motivation or mental toughness. And enthusiasm is energy and positive emotions. By developing these traits over time, you become better at performing under pressure. 

I applaud the authors, because writing a book about a complicated topic such as performing under pressure is very challenging. For a psychology book, it is easy to read and understand. The authors do a great job at making the book both scientific and practical, helpful and fun to read. I highly recommend this book to any person who wants to learn how to perform under pressure better. Although this book tries to reach all audiences, it is still very useful to athletes and coaches.