How to Exhibit Grace Under Pressure

Sometimes we have days that don’t go as planned. Sometimes we’re a little worse for the wear by the time evening arrives. I’m learning the secret to getting to the next day with my spirit in tact involves a little resilience and a lot of grace.

This quote hangs on my fridge:

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.   – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Amen. That Emerson was one smart guy.

grace under pressure

I had one of those days recently – one with a series of several difficult interactions that left my nerves rattled and my soul bruised. As I dealt with the issues, involving my team where necessary, people kept praising me for sounding so calm and collected. At first I brushed that off…but then I gave myself a little time to reflect upon the praise that was coming my way.

It was true, actually. I did sound calm. In fact, I was calm. It was a little surprising. Here’s why.

The toughest criticism I ever received in a performance review was that I lacked resilience. The person said that when something didn’t go well, I took it personally and struggled to recover. Let me tell you, I hated getting that feedback. I wrestled with it for months, trying to decide if it was true.

Sadly, it was.

My angst wasn’t driven by an untrue accusation. Instead, it was a result of the dissonance between how I was showing up and how I wanted to show up.

I committed myself to paying extra attention to how I handled bad days –  the ones that came with tangled messes, or big setbacks, or angry people, or harsh feedback. I wanted to lessen the impact these events had on my reaction, on my disposition, on my heart.

I adopted the mantra “Grace under pressure”* and posted the Emerson quote on my fridge.

I softened my edges.

I’ve been paying attention to this practice of resilience for a number of years now, and based on the comments I heard this week, it feels like it’s starting to pay off. I’m delighted.

I’ve learned a few things along the way.

From the amazing Tara Mohr, I’ve learned that feedback doesn’t really tell me much about me. It tells me more about the person giving it. The kind of day they are having, what they value, what they think. It doesn’t say much about who I am and it certainly doesn’t dictate what kind of day I need to have as a result.

Feedback gives me a chance to demonstrate grace. Twitter_logo_blue

Beyond that, I’ve learned that setbacks and challenges are rarely personal. They’re blessings in disguise, more often than not. They activate my problem solving capability and allow me to rise to the challenge. They give me a chance to tap my network and my team and for us to have a shared experience that builds our culture. They also remind me that I am separate from the situation at hand.

Setbacks cultivate faith. Twitter_logo_blue

So the next time a big problem gets thrust in your hands or you’re on the receiving end of harsh feedback, how will you respond?

Consider this a reminder that the choice is entirely yours.

Grace under pressure, my friends. Always grace.

 

*Would you believe the phrase “grace under pressure” was also first attributed to Emerson?  Coincidence??

 

 

Note: This post originally appeared on this blog in October 2014

Leave a Comment