During this pandemic one of the most commonly used phrases is – Handle the pressure. Now, these three words sound great. You feel like you are going into a battlefield and have all the equipment ready to face the problems that will come up. Mentally you push yourself to a high as you feel positive.
Then when you reach office you start getting calls from vendors who are owed money, clients who have grievances, financiers who need to be paid, government officials harassing you on one matter or the other. You handle the first few calls well and then start to get tired and low. Some callers use polite language some do not. A person you assumed you had placated does a U turn.
A few hours into the morning and the positive mood has slowly evaporated and you are not feeling so sure about handling the pressure. Few payments that were receivable are not coming in as planned. Yes, one small matter was settled to your satisfaction. Other than that nothing has gone in your favour. By 4 pm you are suddenly not so sure about “Handling the pressure’.
As you get back in the evening you are glum and not in a mood to participate in anything that is happening at home. Your mind is only on the ‘failures’ of the day. You wonder at your ability to handle the pressure. It was tougher than you expected. You couldn’t grit your teeth and take the blows. There were no blows just repetitive reminders of what you did not do as planned or promised. Threats were subtle and not one’s where you could dare the other person to do his or her worst. Maybe you did tell the one threatening you to go do his/her worst. What next?
Yeah, the day did not turn out great but – you came home safely. Your family is safe. One small victory happened. Today is almost over. Not much can be done about the things that did not work out. Did you really feel that you were going to win every battle for the day just because you were determined to ‘Handle the Pressure’.
Now, think about it. You won one matter, you defended your position in the others. You held your ground and you are living to fight another day. Isn’t that a job well done? When I say ,’ Romanticizing the Pressure’ I mean it as a habit of trying to think that you will win most of the battles that you face. It is like you will come out of the score of 175 – 8 in a Test Match chasing a score of 300 to win and you will blast the bowlers all around and win the match with 2 wickets still in hand. You imagine the Hero’s welcome after the winning run is hit.
Now, what about if your partner and you battle it out and save the match without losing any further wickets and no boundaries are scored? What about if , the rain comes in with two hours to go and the match is washed out and you draw the match. A writer once wrote that in today’s world we are so used to cheering the 4’s and 6’s that we have forgotten the nuances of the game. When Alan Donald steamed in to Rahul Dravid on the Wanderers pitch and let fly a searing delivery at 145 km an hour and Dravid went correctly forward and dead batted the ball, how many of us marveled at his skill. Sometimes just keeping the good ball away needs more skill than scoring runs. A draw is sometimes like a win.
So, my take here is that pressure can and should be handled in many ways. One of the most important things we must do is to acknowledge the wins, even if they are few and far in between. A win is a win. The next best thing is a draw. Live to fight another day. When people call me and ask how things are – I reply, ‘ I am surviving’. They stop talking not sure what I mean. I then tell them that surviving is in itself success, considering the general environment.
Don’t go out every morning thinking you will win every battle or that you will at least win most battles. It doesn’t work that way. You have to grind your way in most situations. Fancy statements like, ‘ When the going gets tough, the tough get going.’ is all very well, but what is this ‘ get going’ all about? If you have watched people in Kerala or even in Tamil Nadu pushing a heave object manually, you will hear them all chant encouraging words together, to give each other strength. The movement of the object will be very slow but the chant keeps the enthusiasm high.
To end – please remember our daily fights to survive are not glamorous. They are often scraps. No one will be there to goad you on. No pats on the back. No chants of Never Give In. Just you and the situation you face. That’s all. Yes, take all the motivation you can get and use it to fortify yourself. After that, the fight has often no romance. In the 70’s and 80’s our sports teams were considered good losers. We were happy to hear/ read the word good and ignored the loser. Later, we learnt to become winners, maybe even scrappy winners – but winners. Stay the course and do your best. If your best is not good enough you can at least have the satisfaction of having given it your very best shot.
( The pandemic promises to increase the pressure to levels we have not experienced before or may just fizzle out. While hoping for the latter, learn to develop patience and grit and enjoy the small wins and face the battles ahead. Learn patience. Stay safe)