Why, when you really want to win in life, might it make you more likely to lose?
As an entrepreneur, you’re likely to be surrounded by motivational chatter. Think big. Aim high. Never stop pushing. The game’s not over till it’s over. Success or failure is in your hands. You’re in charge of your own destiny. Great people never give up.
But these messages are so positive! How could they possibly contribute to a negative outcome?
Research from the world of sport can shed some light on that. There’s evidence to suggest that when we’re under pressure from events that can impact our identity, either positively or negatively, this can stop us performing at our best. And if you’ve put heart and soul, and dozens of 18 hour days and sleepless nights, into your new business, growth plans or merger, there’s a good chance that your identity will be invested, to some extent, in the result.
Performing under pressure increases your self-awareness and self-attention, because as well as trying to carry out the tasks you need to do in the business, you’re also concerned with how the result is going to affect your self-image. This can be a factor even when you’re not aware of it.
Self-awareness and self-attention are increased by having a supporting audience – whether that’s a sporting crowd, a loyal family, or a lot of positive chatter focusing you on what the successful you should look like.
If you’ve ever experienced a failure in your life, other studies show your self-focus will be increased even more. And life being what it is, who hasn’t experienced some sort of setback in the past?
Performance seems to particularly decrease when self-focus is high, and confidence in success is low. Bearing in mind that in the situations we’re talking about, you’re probably doing something you haven’t done before, your confidence in yourself may be less than it usually is. So you have a perfect storm of higher self-focus and lower self-confidence to throw your performance off, just when you need it to be at its best.
This will feed back to you at both a conscious and a subconscious level. Identity threat, reduced confidence. How might that make you respond?