P is for People Pursuing Their Principles In Pressure Situations

Great workers often focus on their purpose, principles and picture of success in pressure situations. They may take this route when performing as an athlete, mediator, crisis manager or in another role.

Such workers prepare properly before tackling challenges. Exploring all the possible scenarios, they rehearse how to follow their principles to achieve the desired results.

Going into the situation, they click into a state of alertness. They do lots of scanning to see the big picture. They aim to see what is happening, identify patterns and clarify the real results to achieve.

Such workers buy time to make decisions. Bearing in mind the principles they believe in, they clarify: a) The key strategies they can follow to deliver the desired results; b) The specific things they can do to translate these into action. They then do their best to achieve the picture of success.

Great sports coaches sometimes take a similar approach when preparing their teams for so-called high pressure games. They encourage their players to focus on what they can control – such as following certain principles and maintaining high professional standards.

They follow the philosophy described by Bill Walsh, who guided the San Francisco 49ers to winning three Super Bowls. Recruiting players who were positive and professional, he aimed to build what he called a top notch culture instead of a toxic culture.

Looking ahead to the season, Bill encouraged the players to practice certain strategies and maintain high standards of performance. The players kept working until they achieved what he called routine perfection.

Bill encouraged his players to then apply relaxed relentlessness. Following the old maxim that excellence is a habit, they went into every game aiming to perform at their best. Bill kept repeating his favourite mantra.

Keep delivering the required standards of performance and the score takes care of itself.

Great organisations take a similar approach. They create a positive environment in which motivated people can achieve peak performance. They often do this by taking the following steps.

They communicate the organisation’s purpose, principles and picture of success.

They employ people who want to follow the principles and achieve the picture of success. 

They enable their people to follow the principles and do their best to achieve the picture of success.

Looking back, can you think of a time when you pursued certain principles in a potentially challenging situation? This could have been in your personal or professional life.

You may have done so when helping another person, managing a transition or building a business. You have done so when overcoming a setback, making a tough decision or tackling a challenge.

Looking back, what was the situation you faced? What were the principles you aimed to follow? How did you pursue these principles and do your best to achieve the picture of success.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific time when you pursued certain principles in a pressure situation and worked to achieve the picture of success. 

Describe the specific things you did then to take these steps. 

Describe the specific things that happened as a result.

Great workers have an interesting relationship to emotion. They recognise it is important for them to manage their feelings rather than let their feelings manage them. Different people choose different approaches to taking this step.

Some adrenaline driven people, for example, use the emotion as a springboard. They look forward to feeling alive, giving the task their full attention and doing their best to achieve the goal.

Some people choose to reframe the emotion. Simon Sinek describes one such approach in the following video. He explains how he learned that athletes sometimes reframe nervousness as excitement. They then look forward to the possibility of performing and doing their best.

Some take another route. They recognise that passion may be the starting point, but they also need to develop perspective. They need to be calm and clear when making key decisions.

Bomb disposal experts, for example, often need to drain themselves of emotion and focus on the job in hand. Imagine that you have chosen to take this role.

What will go through your head as you approach the device on what is known as the longest walk? Ed Chipperfield and James Day describe some of the qualities needed in their article called What does it take to survive as a bomb disposal expert?

Below are excerpts from the piece. You can discover more via the following link.

Bomb Disposal Experts

In a situation where the only outcomes are success or failure, psychologists say these soldiers require a certain mindset.

“We want people who minimise the unknowns,” says Eugene Burke, a military psychologist.

“They’re not impulsive but are able to make fast decisions, thanks to training. It’s almost as though they’re flicking through reference cards in their head to find a match to the problem in front of them.  

“They’re organised, focused on detail and think ahead to possible outcomes. Allowing stress to build up is not an option as the operative can become withdrawn and lose their temper.”

Great workers learn how to manage their passion and follow their principles on the way towards achieving peak performance. Let’s explore one approach they take to following this path.


Great workers pursue a passion in which they have the ability to do superb work. They may feel passionately about encouraging people, designing gardens, playing a musical instrument, finding a medical cure, fighting for justice, caring for animals or whatever.

Such people spend a lot of time exploring various passions before settling on pursuing a specific activity. How to choose such an activity? One approach is to focus on one that gives them positive energy and where they have the ability to achieve peak performance.


Great workers translate their passion into a clear purpose. They may aim to write an article, climb a mountain, finish a marathon, teach an inspiring course, lead a team to success, build a certain kind of culture of whatever.

Some people gain a sense of purpose by serving something greater than themselves. They may pursue a spiritual faith, follow a vocation or serve a particular cause. They translate this into pursuing a particular project or working to achieve a specific goal.


Great workers believe in following certain principles in their work. These provide a compass they can follow in the future. Different people will follow they own chosen principles.

One person may aim to encourage, educate and enable people to live fulfilling lives. Another person may aim to create beautiful things that inspire people and show how to build a better world.

Such workers keep focusing on their principles. They often return to these during times of difficulty. Revisiting their principles provides them with the strength to go forwards and continue doing fine work.


Great workers build on their strengths and are super professional. They clarify the real results they want to achieve and plan how to achieve their picture of success.

They rehearse everything. They rehearse pursuing their chosen strategies and also how to manage any challenges. They do everything possible to increase the chances of success.

Such workers click into action when going into their version of the arena. They follow their principles and maintain high standards. They keep doing the right things in the right way towards performing superb work.

Great workers care deeply about their work, so sometimes they become emotional. It is vital for them to channel their emotions in a positive way and develop tools for managing pressure. They can then continue delivering the high professional standards.

Virginia Duffy has helped many professionals to deal with difficult situations. Her book Behavioral First Aid: Managing Emotions During Emergencies provides many tools for first responders and people in the caring professions.

Below is an excerpt from her article Managing Emotions During Stressful Events. This piece focuses on how rescuers – such as firefighters, paramedics and others – can also care for themselves. You can discover more via the following link.

Virginia Duffy Article

Rescuer’s Emotions

Remember emergency workers must deal with their own feelings first in order to best care for patients.

Often we work on automatic and don’t experience much emotion until the situation is over; then the emotions may flood us.  

There are times however when the situation may feel overwhelming to us especially when it “hits close to home.” 

Emotions often experienced
by rescuers include:

Fear (of making mistake, of being hurt, of hurting patient) … Anger … Disgust … Overwhelmed/helpless … Desire to leave … Mixed emotions. 

Some strategies for dealing with
your own emotions include:

Take a few seconds to think, and calm yourself … Talk to yourself. (I can do this, I have done this before, just focus on the job, etc.) … Take a deep breath – acting as if you are calm, will help to calm you. 

Force yourself to talk slow, move slow, be deliberate … Direct your attention to the patient’s most immediate concern … Once you are past your initial emotional response, you are usually home free … Ask for help if you need it.


Great workers recognise that passion is crucial but sometimes they need to develop a sense of perspective. Sometimes they take this step by buying time when making decisions. They aim to be calm and clear. They are then more able to make good decisions.

Sometimes they need to see their work in perspective. They may recognise that what they are doing is important, but there are also other important things in the world. They may also take time to reflect, re-centre and refocus. They may then ask themselves some of the following questions.

What is my life philosophy? What do I believe are the important things in life? What are the principles I want to follow? How can I follow my principles in the present situation? How can I do my personal best during my time on the planet?

People can take a leap forward by developing a sense of perspective. They are then more able to see the big picture, focus on what is important and clarify the real results to achieve. They can clarify their chosen route forwards towards achieving the picture of success.

Problem Solving

Great workers enjoy finding solutions to challenges. One approach is for them to use the 3C model for creative problem solving. This involves focusing on clarity, creativity and concrete results.

A person can buy time to think, gather information and clarify their strategy for going forwards. They can do this by exploring the following themes.


What is the challenge I want to tackle? What are the things I can control in the situation? What are the real results I want to achieve? What is the picture success? What will be happening that will show I have achieved the picture of success? 


What are the possible options for going forwards? What are the pluses and minuses of each option? What is the attractiveness of each option? Are there any other potential creative solutions? What are the key strategies I can follow to give myself the greatest chance of success? 

Concrete Results

What is the option – or the combination of options – I want to pursue? How can I translate this into a clear action plan? How can I get a quick success? How can I encourage myself on the journey? What else can I do to achieve the picture of success?

Peak Performance

Great workers keep following their principles. They keep doing the basics and then, when appropriate, add the brilliance. They do their best to achieve the goals. Sometimes they do this by demonstrating a touch of class.

Such workers are committed to the concept of constant improvement. After reaching the goal, they reflect on: a) The specific things they did well and how they can do these more in the future; b) The specific things they can do better in the future and how.

Some people go a stage further and pass on their knowledge. Some do this by writing, some by coaching, some by mentoring. They aim to share their knowledge in ways that enable other people to achieve success. This can bring a sense of satisfaction and also help to create a positive legacy.

Great workers do their best and sometimes this results in them enjoying a sense of peace. After resting for a while, they begin thinking of the next project. They clarify how they can translate their principles into action and how they can deliver peak performance.

Let’s return to your own life and work. Looking ahead, can you think of a pressure situation when you may want to pursue certain principles?

You may want to do this when helping another person, managing a transition or managing a conflict. You may want to do so when playing a sport, leading a team or tackling a specific challenge.

Looking ahead, what may be the situation you face? What will be the principles you aim to follow? How can you pursue these principles and do your best to achieve the picture of success.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific situation in the future when you may want to pursue certain principles in a pressure situation and work to achieve the picture of success.

Describe the specific things you can do then to take these steps. 

Describe the specific things that may happen as a result.

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