3 Keys to Staying Present under Pressure

Relaxed Man

“The only pressure I’m under is the pressure I’ve put on myself.” ~Mark Messier   

Back when Earth was cooling, I was a broker at Shearson Lehman Brothers. I still have nightmares about the pressure there—the pressure to sell stocks and bonds, to succeed, to be the best in the office, and to forget what is really important in life.

Now I write books and lead workshops. I live on thirty-three acres with a couple hundred blueberry plants, foxes, incredible people, sunrises, sunsets, and cold dips in a mountain pond all in the foothills of the Smokey Mountains.

While it would make sense that the Wall Street life was hectic and that these rustic acres should provide relief, peace, and relaxation, that isn’t really the case. Each day there is a temptation to put pressure on myself: to write a chapter, or get work done in the garden, or swim a mile, or do something that I consider worthwhile.

I have discovered that it isn’t really the situation that causes pressure and stress, but the lack of familiarity and acceptance of who I am and where I am. I can be as crazy in the mountains as on Wall Street, but I can also, with these three keys relax into myself and my environment.

How About You?

You’re busy. You live with an amount of activity that would make your grandparents’ eyes bug out. You travel more miles in a week than they would in a year. Unfortunately, you may often lose yourself, and your priorities, in your own busyness.

The pressure to get things done can be overwhelming. It can make you frantic and compulsive. You jump from doing the dishes to sweeping the floor to answering e-mails without celebrating those clean, shiny pans.

You live dizzy and busy finding yourself often in a tizzy. All the while who you really are is at peace, deep, calm, and tranquil. You deserve a little dip into that peace, especially when you are under pressure.

Time in the Present is Well Spent

Certainly you have experienced being in the present—those moments when time and space melt into this blissful moment. You are in the wildness of Times Square on New Years Eve and feeling head on perfect presence—present under pressure.

Presence makes the most mundane spiritual. Clarity prevails as deadlines inspire, rather than oppress you. Presence with peace offers you higher energy than usual but with nowhere to go and nothing to do.

Presence surrounds you with resources when you need them most.

Tap into your presence under pressure! You can do it, and these three keys will help.

1st Key: Embrace Perfection

Your life requires no improvement. In fact, the most ecological way to embrace change is to experience this moment as perfect just the way it is.

You just stubbed your toe perfectly. Your boss just yelled at you beautifully. Embrace, love, and flow with the perfection your life continually offers.

Celebrate everything that is. You are surrounded by the perfect present.

2nd: Seek Your Own Approval

Good deeds can be their own reward. Help the frail widow across the street and remember that you aren’t doing it for her. You’re doing it for you.

You have your own values. Trying to impress others or seeking their approval instead of your own can cause you to neglect yourself.

Take care of yourself and do what’s important to you. You will naturally take care of others this way. Be a model for a happy, well-balanced life.

Do the most wonderful, charitable things in the world. Do them for yourself. Do them because they make you happy.

This can be particularly challenging if you have kids, a spouse, friends, or a mother.

Fix your husband tea. Help with the kids’ homework but do it for capital “M” Me. Hold the baby on your knee for the sheer pleasure of it.

When you do everything for you, you are really taking care of everyone.

Years ago I volunteered at Bay Cliff Health Camp, a beautiful camp for handicapped kids. I met Randy, who was nine years old. He was using crutches and fell over, hitting the floor hard. As I bent to help him up, my friend Jo grabbed my elbow stopping me.

With great effort and pride Randy was able to right himself and stand again. Jo later explained to me that Randy’s disease was debilitating, and that he was cherishing his last days without a wheel chair. It didn’t matter that he fell over because he had been standing. Tears came easily as I felt grateful for every step I take. I still do.

Impress yourself. You are your own toughest audience. You have the lead role in your life. Play it up!

3rd Key: Question Obligations

There is nothing that you need to do and nothing you “should” do. However, there are plenty of things you act as if you “should” do.

Being forced to do anything, even by yourself, turns what might be fun into a chore.

When I was little I loved to play the piano. I would spend at least an hour a day just goofing around on the piano, learning how notes fit together and creating simple tunes.

My well-meaning musician parents were inspired—so much so they brought in a piano teacher, Mrs. Sylvester, who thought I “should” work at the piano cured me of wanting to play it. You won’t be hearing me or Mrs. Sylvester playing at Carnegie Hall.

Later I took up the drums. When I was ready I asked my parents if I could take lessons. We found a teacher and I practiced almost constantly. Having a wonderful time, to this day I can hand drum with the best of them.

Relax. Take a breath. Notice what you are doing. Ask yourself if the pressure is justified. You’ll quickly find that many of the sources of pressure in your life are not as real as they seem.

Do what you do. Don’t do what you don’t do. But always celebrate what you do no matter what it is.

Test your presence by doing stuff. Zen it just for the fun of it.

Your Zen Monk Neighbor

Your neighbor’s lawn may be better groomed than yours. His kids may be smarter and spouse hotter.

Who are you kidding?

Comparisons set out to prove a point; the point is that you are either better or worse than someone else.

My Mother used to say, “Comparison’s are odious.” I don’t know what odious means, but I do know anytime you compare yourself to someone else you are bound to suffer.

Be present to how your lawn is, how your kids are, how your spouse is, and how you are. If a beautiful moment or beautiful life could be represented by a beautiful lawn, spirituality would be landscaping, not the mysterious wonderment that it is.

From the wonderment of this moment, step into the mystery of the next. Plant a few weeds, pull a few weeds—what’s the difference?

A weed is a plant where it shouldn’t be. A Bird of Paradise in the middle of your lawn is a beautiful weed. So is a dandelion.

Dance with Passion

Follow your bliss,” said Joseph Campbell.

Notice what you love. Notice what you don’t love. Surround yourself with equal measures of both, and you will discover that love comes and goes but presence is always there within you.

Presence focused gives birth to passion. Passion for this, that, and the other. Passion for everything in particular. Passion for your foot, the callus on your big toe, your ankle bone and your calves.

You will begin to notice passion everywhere; meet it, greet it and embrace it as you fall in love constantly.

Presence under pressure is especially fun. Sitting silently in a cave is one thing. Living present in the world is quite another.

You can do it. Use the three keys above to open yourself to the perfection of presence anywhere, anytime, everywhere all the time.

Relaxed man image via Shutterstock

About Jerry Stocking

Jerry Stocking is a non-guru who will twist your idea of reality on its head and leave you laughing. Lightening Up and Letting Go is his blog on spiritual approaches to modern living with tips on letting go, being present, and discovering unconditional love.

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  • Heathersrus

    Wonderful writing! 🙂

  • lizriz

    Thank you.

  • Roo

    Thank you for this Jerry.  A great article with actionable steps to take.  I put so much pressure on myself all the time.  It takes conscious effort to slow down and enjoy the moment. I really enjoyed this 🙂

  • Mira

    Your post has brighten my day. Thanks for reminding me to follow my bliss and stop comparing. Now I don’t feel like I’m under pressure! 🙂

  • Sarah

    This is such a beautiful and helpful post by Jerry Stocking! This really hit home today … It is just what I needed to hear!  I am such a fan of “Being Here Now” and recently have spent lots of time pulling myself back into the “now” of things.  I’ve found that life has been so hectic and chaotic of late. Losing site of my passions has been plaguing my last few months.  This post, and the other by Lauren Stewart you have in your blog today, bring a ray of sunshine to my day and a spark into my heart.  Fabulous … thank you and both writers, Jerry & Lauren!

  • Zara

    What an enjoyable and eye-opening read this Wednesday morning! Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

  • Peteringham

    I love the embrace perfection point. “you just stubbed your toe perfectly” I never thought of it like that before. lots to think about. thank you

  • Beautiful, Jerry. I’m taking the time to celebrate where I am and casually musing over where I have been. I’d love to celebrate where I am going, but I ain’t there yet. When I do get there I will know it, and I will have taken the time I need to get there.

    2nd: Seek Your Own Approval.” This has been a long time coming. I see many rushing past this important benchmark without stopping to celebrate having gotten there. I never took the time. I figure every day of my life is going to be “Now” and every place I will be shall henceforth be known as “Here.” With those in mind, I will never be there so I’m taking time to enjoy here…now.

    Bliss is a change of mind away…as near as a clearing thought.

    Thank you.

    ~ Mark

  • Tracy4136

    I really enjoyed and needed to hear that!! I always want to do my thing. And feel pressured by others to do what they want or need me to do and then notice I’m grumpy !! I gess that hit home and thank u very much!! I love tiny buddha

  • Yonden01

    Tiny buddha never fails to make my day better…and thanks Jerry for making my day!

  • Jerry Stocking

     And you writing to me makes my day. Heck, no particular reason our days can’t just keep getting better.

  • Jerry Stocking

    Sounds Tracy like you might have a little polarity running. Which means that you may do the opposite or resist what other people are doing. While we all have some of that it actually gets in the way of us being truly free.

    You might want to explore what you want to do, just you, and let other people be who they are. Sometimes you will end up doing what they do sometimes you won’t but please don’t let them determine what you do either from trying to please them or from resisting them.

  • Jerry Stocking

     Cool Mark that you aren’t where you are going yet since that is the nature of the future. There is nothing quite like the present. And, it is all that we have. The closer you get to it the more often you will both laugh and cry as the amplitude of life touches you really often and sweetly.

  • Jerry Stocking

     You are welcome. You are also surrounded by perfection and it is your mind’s job to find what isn’t perfect as what is perfect seeks you constantly, more consistently than the waves on a beach. Enjoy!

  • Jerry Stocking

     You are welcome Zara. I got back last night from talking to a group in Nassau. I am watching, with wonder, as I transition from the island speed to the speed state side. If I can be of service in any way please feel free to ask.

  • Jerry Stocking

     Thank you Sarah for your wonderful comments. Worth remembering that you are supposed to lose you way and find your way and lose it again. You can’t find it unless you lose it and you can’t lose it unless you find it.

    Please feel free to call my office and ask for a copy of my book How to Win by Quitting. It is a real book you can hold in your hand, read and your leisure and enjoy. I think that it may be useful to you in playing with your perspective and exploring what you want to do. Just ask Wayne or Josh for your free copy when you call 7067547540. Would like to hear from you as you read the book if you are so inclined. Mention Tiny Buddha when you call please so they will know to send the book free.

  • Jerry Stocking

     Sweet Mira. Turn the pressure down, then up and then down again just to remind you that you are the one in charge of the pressure. Celebrate!

  • Jerry Stocking

     Roo, you might want to examine how you put pressure on yourself. Become ever more aware of yourself doing so. Don’t try not to do so, that is just double pressure. Catch yourself putting pressure on yourself and enjoy the act of doing so. In some ways putting pressure on yourself is like hugging yourself.

    Examining how you put pressure on yourself will likely have you learn a bunch about how your mind works. And living well with your mind is likely to have you live well period.  Please feel free to download and read my Mind Relief Manuscript. I think you might enjoy it.

  • Jerry Stocking

     You are always welcome!

  • Jamie

    Wonderful and perfectly timed! Thank you!

  • Karimccowan

    i know where to look for the words I need to hear. I can always find what I need here. thank you for that. <3

  • Warlanda

    thank you for helping to refocus this day and to remember what is important…the simple act of being.

  • Chris Walker

    Your depth of writting and bringing forth the understanding of the mystery of living is painted with your unique  brush and I understand your canvass… a stroke of genius