Ebz Blog – Making Pressure a Privilege

“It is how people respond to stress that determines whether they will profit from misfortune or be miserable.” – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

On last week’s podcast I interviewed Maggie Alphonsi MBE, former England World Cup Winning Rugby player now turned commentator. She gave so much inspiration in the podcast and I have received so much positive feedback on the interview. One of the things that resonated most was when I asked her how she handled pressure and expectations.

As soon as I asked her I knew she was about to deliver a gem bit of advice, she looked up and immediately said with a massive grin across her face “I ABSOLUTELY love it!” There was no sitting on the fence with the answer, it was pretty clear she really enjoyed being someone on the big stage of life. She went on to explain how she had learnt to embrace pressure throughout her career and as Billie Jean King says “Pressure is a Privilege”, and the joy in her voice really demonstrated that.

It immediately got me thinking, I want me some of that! To be a person who not only survives under pressure, but thrives has to be up there with one of the best skill sets we can acquire in life. But what stood out most whilst she spoke is how learning to embrace pressure is a choice. Sometimes we assume people just have the ability of not but it is a skill we can develop.

An example is Richard Branson who has often talked about his fear of public speaking. He is someone you would just assume because of his stature that it is something he takes to, but it was not natural for him. He was quoted in a recent article saying “I eventually learned to convert the intense pressure I put on myself to do well into positive energy. … These days, I love putting pressure on myself to keep the crowd engaged, as it helps to keep my standards high.”

We all experience stress in our everyday lives, but what is clear is that we can choose how we think and talk to ourselves about stress. Stress is so powerful because it can motivate us to change behaviours and can move us closer to our dreams, goals and aspirations. If we felt no stress we often wouldn’t be compelled to act.

There are actually two distinct types of stress called Eustress (positive) and Distress (negative) and we can actually use it to benefit us to take actions. Think of the type of stress the night before you need to hand in a paper, we get ultra focussed and often do more work than having months to prepare! People who understand how to trigger these conditions themselves can use it to increase their own performance and productivity.

Some common characteristics of eustress are:

• Improves performance
• Short-term in nature
• Motivates and focuses energy
• Feels invigorating/energising
• Believed to be within our capabilities/something we can handle


Some common characteristics of distress are:

• Demotivating and displaces energy
• Causes anxiety, worry, or concern
• Feels generally unpleasant/painful
• Decreases overall performance/abilities
• May lead to physical illness/mental fatigue/emotional depletion

So listening to Maggie this week I have been inspired no end to step up my game and learn to love it! I hope you can take some inspiration too! 

You can check out the interview here:

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