Reading List: Performing Under Pressure

UPDATED: May 21, 2024
PUBLISHED: February 14, 2015

Pressure is “the enemy of success,” a saboteur that adversely impacts cognitive function and behavioral performance, write psychologist Hendrie Weisinger and performance coach J.P. Pawliw-Fry.

The duo conducted 20 years of research on the intricacies of managing stress levels and common pressure traps while working with organizations such as NASA, the CIA, the FBI, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley. According to the authors, “more often than not, when people want to do their best, they don’t.” And contrary to conventional wisdom, even athletes “rarely do better than their average in pressure moments and most—even the great ones—do worse!”

Weisinger and Pawliw-Fry explain the difference between pressure and stress, identify common traps that may make us “choke,” and reveal how pressure adversely affects thinking. For example, “pressure distortions” are thinking patterns that needlessly intensify anxiety (last-chance scenarios) while “magnification” is the extreme exaggeration of a situation (making a mountain out of molehill).

While the science is interesting, Performing Under Pressure’s real value lies in the countermeasures readers can use to control stress, along with in the 22 long- and short-term strategies that readers can easily implement to ultimately overcome pressure and improve performance. Even if you skip through the science, you’ll want to incorporate the tips, tools and advice into your life.

by Hendrie Weisinger and J.P. Pawliw-Fry
February; Crown Business; $26