We’ve all been there. A high-stakes business presentation. A final exam. A championship game. A difficult conversation involving conflict. A theatrical performance. An agonizing life and death decision. A big speech.
The moment can be overwhelming. It’s often a heavy burden to carry because of its pivotal nature. Laced with unbelievable pressure, knowing what you do in the moment not only affects you; but possibly family and friends; maybe your business colleagues and company; your teammates; or maybe even people you’ve don’t know or will never meet.
You may have been anticipating the moment for a long time. Or it may come suddenly. Or, in some professions – for example, healthcare teams performing heart surgery - the moments come regularly and repeatedly. No matter if it’s isolated or recurring, it can be daunting. It calls for the best of you, when your mind and body could feel weakened by the heaviness of the moment.
Suni Lee of the United States Olympic Gymnastics team faced such a moment last week. Like all Olympians, she had trained for years since a young age. Her family had made sacrifices to allow her the opportunity to pursue this dream. Her friends and her community had been so supportive, even donating to help her family get the resources to help her succeed. Her entire country was cheering for her.
All of these acts of support, generosity and grace are certainly uplifting and inspirational. Conversely, they add layer after layer of expectations and pressure.
In that moment, Lee won the Gold Medal for the Women’s All-Around competition, one the most watched and high-profile events among the seemingly multitudes of Olympics sports. Most would say she rose to the moment. Lee wouldn’t. In fact, she didn’t.
In an interview on NBC’s Today, Lee described what she told herself just before the performance as she was seen holding her stomach because of her nerves.
“I was telling myself to do nothing more, nothing less.” Lee said. When asked what she meant, Lee explained matter-of-factly, “Because my normal was good enough.”
That simple approach is a lesson for all the “moments” we will face in our lives. Lee had prepared herself not just physically, but emotionally and mentally for the enormity of the moment. She had practiced, listened to coaches and mentors, observed the successes of her current and past teammates, absorbed the support of her family, friends and community – and now her nation – and done everything she possibly could leading up to the moment.
Now, all she had to do is trust her preparation, the guidance and support she received, and have faith that it would all carry her to her best. Obviously, she wasn’t going to do too little. But she also wasn’t going to do too much either. That is sometimes when even the highest achievers and competitors get themselves in trouble. By trying to do too much. Trying too hard.
In business and other contexts, leaders sometimes try too hard by micromanaging instead of delegating and trusting the people they hired. Everyone has a role and it's up to each person so prepare and be ready for the moment. In that moment, if everyone just does their part and plays their role - nothing more or nothing less - it gives the best chance for each individual and the entire team to thrive.
Hall of Famer George Brett of the Kansas City Royals has advised more-recent Royals players who may be struggling or in a slump to “try easier.” This may seem as counter-intuitive as not rising to the occasion, but he’s not telling them to prepare or practice with less energy, vigor or commitment. In fact, as a player, Brett was famous for taking hundreds of swings off a batting tee until his hands blistered when he was in a slump. What Brett means is to prepare hard physically and mentally so that when the moment arrives, muscle memory kicks in and you are not overthinking, doubting or making adjustments on the fly.
If you have done everything needed to prepare for the moment, then simply do what you have done so many times during the practices and preparation. Don’t look back or you might over-analyze and second guess yourself. Don’t look ahead to what might happen.
Stay in the moment. It’ll help you make the best of it.