"There’s strong data that, within companies, the No. 1 reason for ethical violations is the pressure to meet expectations, sometimes unrealistic expectations."
Pressure has become an intrinsic part of our personal and professional lives, and is often wrongly lauded as the catalytic agent in our growth story. If you subscribe to this worldview then let me be unequivocally clear -
Stop lying to yourself. Pressure is never worth it.
There are many myths surrounding the benefits of pressure (and hard work) that are used to legitimize its presence in our lives. However, these must be disputed so that the next generation of thinkers, doers and changemakers is not limited by the morals of their predecessors.
MYTH 1: Pressure comes with scale.
Scale essentially is a measure of growth while pressure is a side effect of our perceptions, expectations and the competitive forces at play. The two naturally share a low degree of correlation but this gets exaggerated when people subject themselves to ever increasing amounts of pressure over time. Consequently, their individual performance peaks and they experience a plateau which reinforces the situation and breeds mediocrity and discontent.
MYTH 2: Pressure is good for you.
Pressure helps turn a lump of coal into diamond. Unfortunately, it does not have the same effect on humans. This is exactly why allowing pressure to build up inside an individual until he or she hits breaking point isn’t just a foolhardy strategy but points to an underlying culture where glorification of pressure has become the norm. And this needs to change at the earliest.
MYTH 3: Pressure is a big part of life.
Pressure is a chronic reality of modern life and cannot be completely negated. However, this does not in any way imply that our efforts to rid ourselves from this menace should be discounted. In fact, every action we take that minimizes stress is a small win and it is through this lifelong process of trial and error that we identify traits that we admire in others and ourselves.
MYTH 4: Pressure helps you get stuff done.
Is pressure a cure for procrastination? What can pressure accomplish in isolation from all the other traits that define our character? Not much.
The ability of pressure to effect action and overcome lethargy is vastly overrated. We should instead be focusing on positive internal traits such as creativity, zeal and curiosity since these allow us to overpower chaotic logic in a much more controlled and sustainable manner.
MYTH 5: Pressure comes from purpose.
Humans die. And their mission (hopefully) lives on after them.
How does our tryst with finding and fulfilling our purpose over the course of our life involve pressure? Where does it fit into the grand scheme of things?
If you’re still searching for the answer to those questions then let me break it to you. It doesn’t. Purpose and our search for it is a liberating experience. It lifts the burden and allows us to realize our potential.