Working as a coach, I notice it very often, that for many people living under pressure is something normal and usual. As if the pressure was needed for a good and effective life.
What is pressure for you?
Close your eyes and try to recall the feeling. Try to remind a situation or an inner voice that forces you to do something. How do you feel it in your body?
Quite possibly you’ve felt the unpleasant tension in a certain place in your body (eg. neck, shoulders, chest) or generally throughout the body. Pressure is associated with physical tension, that’s why people often say they’re "tensed".
And now think about how this feeling affects different aspects of your life. How it affects your daily work? Your free time? Thinking about the future? Enjoying here and now?
Bring back some situations from your life and see how you function under pressure.
What is pressure for?
The first step to free yourself from destructive emotional habits is always awareness and understanding. Are you aware of where does it come from?
The pressure exists to motivate us. It says: “You have to do that faster”, “You have to be better”, “keep your shoulder to the wheel”. It is connected with negative motivation - all the visions of what may happen if you won’t take any action (“I have to do that, otherwise my life will be ruined”). Pressure forces us to do things.
What you must know is that being under pressure actually motivates you to get to work, but in a very short term. The pressure is a “kick in the butt”, but also a huge and hard wall which you hit right after you got the kick.
You're probably wondering what I mean. Let me give you an example. If pressure motivates you to write your master’s thesis, saying to yourself, "I have to start writing", "I should have written 3 chapters by now", it can make you sit in front of a computer and start writing. But the pressure is with you all the time. You will feel tensed and forced, as if someone told you to do it even though you don’t want to.
Compulsion always creates resistance.
When someone tells you to do something (or when you tell yourself), usually you do not want to do that. Despite the fact that this pressure told you to sit down and write your master’s, the very same pressures prevents you from doing it. First, a kick in the butt, then hitting a huge wall.
Permanent tension is a denial of natural motivation. In the long run, pressure kills motivation.
Why people are so attached to pressure?
Why are people so attached to the pressure? Because it's the only method they know. Those who live under pressure are afraid that when they give it up, they won't care about antyhing. That they will lose their motivation to act ("If I stop forcing myself to write my master's, will I ever start?").
Read the above paragraph again, because it's the key to solving the mystery.
People living under pressure derive real benefits from compulsion. They need the pressure. It is their tool to motivate themselves (or maybe I should say force). These people, quite probably, never had an opportunity to experience what natural motivation, the one coming from within, is. What life looks like without pressure.
They maintain this kind of belief: “If the pressure disappears, my motivation disappears as well.”
Of course this is a very common misconception. In fact it is quite the opposite. Constraint creates resistance and kills the motivation. Acceptance and internal ease helps her flourish. Getting rid of pressure is the best way to release the inner, unbounded desire to live and act. Inner peace awakens vital energy, and motivation is one of its aspects.
Life without pressure
Close your eyes for a moment and ask yourself - "How would I feel if there was no pressure in my life?". Try to imagine a few situations.
I know exactly how it feels. It’s amazing. I even experienced that recently. I began to learn two new skills. For pleasure. I started practicing yoga and playing the piano. Even before I started, I assumed that I have no need to do it quickly, efficiently, within a specified period. I'm doing it for myself and I want it to be fun. I took care of deleting any possible pressure and expectations of results.
This approach made the process of learning extremely pleasant. I learn at my own pace and don’t feel any pressure at all. Thanks to this natural desire to continue education is still with me. Even though learning both skills takes time and demands regular exercise.
Of course it may happen that when the pressure disappears, the motivation disappears as well. But it can occur only when deep down you know you don’t wanna do that. For example, when you are putting yourself under pressure to motivate yourself to work you do not like. When the pressure disappears, the inner motivation might not occur - because you feel that you do not want to work there. Relasing from pressure is also a way to know what you really want from life.
Exerting continuous pressure on yourself keeps you in a pre-planned and forced lifestyle. Life without pressure requires trusting yourself and your intuition. It requires trust, that you know best what’s good for you.
Why people are so attached to pressure?
For some people, a certain amount of pressure can be helpful and motivating. As long as it is not destructive, if that’s what you want - you can use it to support yourself.
In my opinion, pressure is not necessary at all to lead a happy and fulfilled life, and in most cases it’s a blockade. Don’t put yourself under pressure to get rid of all the pressure - it may take some time and have several intermediate steps.
Sometimes it is just understanding what the pressure is and where does it come from that helps you break free. There are, however, other things you can do to throw off the ballast. Briefly, and specifically, in three points:
1. “I want to” instead of I “have to”. Give yourself a chance to experience a state of inner, natural motivation which appears when you don’t force yourself. Make a deal with yourself - a few days without “I have to” and “I should” and see what it’s like when you let yourself decide what you really want to do. Take a look at this article: Turn "I have to" into "I want to", to find out how to change this key habit responsible for exerting pressure.
2. A new way to motivate yourself. To break free from compulsion (which is undoubtedly important, when you don’t know how to do that otherwise), you can work out a new strategy for the internal motivation. Stop scaring yourself with negative consequences; instead, try thinking of why it is worth doing it.
Visualize positive, long-term consequences of your actions. Life without pressure is related to the positive motivation - that is, with positive images of what will happen when we take action (attracting to these positive images). When you do something because you enjoy the effects, it’s much more pleasant. You enter a state of flow and you're not distracted by any tensions and intrusive thoughts about possible disasters.
3. Manage expectations. Pay attention to the expectations you set yourself. If they are unrealistic, they will always cause a feeling of pressure. They should be relevant to what you’re actually able to do.
Write down a question: "What do I expect from myself?". List everything that comes to your mind. Verify these expectations and cross out the ones that are unrealistic. Write the new ones below. Ones that give you a sense of inner freedom and ease.
Life without pressure is great. Lightweight, quiet, full of harmony. Thank your pressure for all the help until now and say goodbye to it, once and for all.