Study after study has shown that people who function well under stress share several core beliefs:
- see times of change and uncertainty not as dangerous but as exciting opportunities;
- focus on what they can do to improve a stressful situation, rather than growing helpless; and
- maintain a sense of commitment to the world around them, instead of withdrawing.
Studies of everyone from classical musicians to competitive swimmers have found no difference at all between elites and novices in the intensity of their pre-performance anxiety; the poised, top-flight performers, however, were far more likely to describe their fear as an aid to success than the non-elites. No matter what skill we’re trying to improve under pressure—working on deadline, public speaking, staying cool on a first date—learning to work with fear instead of against it is a transformative shift.