James spent 14 years in the infamous British Army Airborne Forces, 10 years as a Fire Support Team, 2 years as an Army Parachute Jumping Instructor and 2 years as a Mental Resilience Instructor. He has 2 Guinness World Records for feats of endurance. He has played rugby to an extremely competitive level, and has competed at the Highland Games in front of the Royal Family, and has delivered mental resilience training to the senior leadership of the British Army and to special forces, serving his country on operations in Afghanistan and has established his own mental resilience and well-being consultancy company. James has learned all that there is to learn about performance and pressure.
The wind is like a screaming demon on board a C130, when that side door gets pulled open on the aircraft by a member of the RAF, the wind screams in, it steals the air from your lungs, it drowns out everything except the hysterical voice in your own head and puts an icy grip around your heart and lungs. Kit that suddenly feels like a block of concrete and all you want to do is land, but before you know it you are shuffling towards the door, for your last jump to earn your coveted parachute wings, and as you turn to face the abyss of the cold night air and the silence it brings, you utter a few choice words to yourself, breathe deep and jump.
Performance and pressure go hand in hand, if you are being asked to perform, whether you are asking it of yourself, or someone is asking it of you then there is pressure. But how we respond to that pressure, is a decision that only we can truly make.
You see, the issue is, that people don’t respond well to the pressures that they themselves generate, the area of the brain known as the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC), is what creates this ill feeling, this regret, this risk vs reward gut reaction, the voice saying: “whatever you’re about to do, don’t”. Your amygdala, the much spoken about fear centre, is making things far worse, it is instigating a physiological response, sweaty palms, shortness of breath a heart that’s punching its way out of your chest and legs like a new born calf, all designed to try and keep you safe.
But growth doesn’t happen where it is safe, growth happens where there is fear, where there is danger, where we have to pull ourselves together and do the thing anyway. In my seminar I will be exploring the psychological skills of performance under pressure, with one simple tool to “pull yourself together”; a sentence or a trigger word, that you associate with victory, that will turn you from shivering mess, to the best version of yourself.
It’s not easy, but it will be necessary.