The Power of Pressure: How Pressure is Actually Good For Us

Diverse office workers working on project together dealing with pressure

When Dane Jensen began pitching his book, The Power of Pressure, many people said they were more interested in a book about calm. 

Jensen is the CEO of Third Factor, a leadership development firm that helps leaders, athletes, and coaches be more effective, creative, and resilient under pressure and he has seen firsthand how incredibly powerful pressure can be.

 “Calm is an important part of performance. But at the same time, I think we need to recognize that pressure is an essential part of life. You don’t get high performance without pressure.”

In his discussions with Olympic gold medalists, Navy SEALs, politicians, executives, and busy parents, Jensen learned that while everyone’s experiences under pressure are unique, pressure follows patterns and develops in predictable ways. If we can recognize the patterns, we can improve our ability to sidestep the biological traps that can sabotage us—and use the energy that accompanies pressure to thrive.  

So, how can we better handle both the long haul and peak pressure moments we all experience in our lives? According to Jensen, we can start by understanding the “pressure equation”, which means looking at importance, uncertainty, and volume.

“If a situation is highly important to us and the outcome is highly uncertain, that creates a lot of pressure,” he says. “[Another factor to consider] is the sheer volume of tasks and decisions that surround this important, uncertain outcome.”

Some of the tools Jensen recommends that can help us handle pressure-filled situations include making a list of things that won’t be impacted if you fail (for example, your dog or your child will still love you even if you don’t nail that sales presentation), eating and sleeping well, fostering resilience, and simplifying your day-to-day life so you have less decisions to make. 

Jensen believes that how we navigate our highest-pressure moments has a huge impact on the overall trajectory of our lives, both in terms of how successful we are and how much we enjoy the journey along the way. “Part of my mission with this book is to hopefully give pressure a slightly better name,” he says. “It can be a force for evil, but there’s also really good stuff that comes with pressure if we can harness it effectively.”