Your reaction to the Situation Can Create Pressure
You are in the corridor waiting for the bell, so that you can then go and read the clinical scenario on the door. You’ll have two minutes then another bell will ring to let you know that you can enter the room for your first oral viva in the Fellowship exams. There are several other candidates in the corridor, all standing outside doors, waiting for the bell. You’ve done lots of practice, you’ve been interrogated by some of the toughest examiners at various hospitals. You know your work, you’ve dealt with many difficult cases, you have the knowledge. This time it’s the real thing, the Fellowship Exams, so why do you feel so much more nervous over something that you have been doing for years? Chances are it’s the way you are thinking about this event. What if I don’t do well? What will people say about my performance? I have worked and studied so hard for this one event, what if I stuff it up? I am ready for this exam, and there is an expectation from colleagues and family that I will pass.
It doesn’t matter what the situation is – medical exams, higher school certificate exams, major sporting events -in fact, any situation to which we attach a great deal of importance. The way we think about a situation greatly impacts how we feel, which is then likely to impact how we perform. Essentially we become so fixated on the outcome that we forget about the process that we need to go through to complete that 10 minute essay, or describe a medical procedure, or answer a consultant’s question on clinical rounds, or provide a handover to the next shift. This outcome- orientated thinking isn’t limited to examinations or other events; it also happens in everyday work shifts as doctors struggle to impress consultants who observe and evaluate their training on a regular basis.
So what can you do to reduce this outcome-orientated thinking and shift your thinking to the ‘here and now’ so that your sole focus is on what you need to be doing right now to perform successfully in your event.
Then ask yourself, what do I need to be doing right now? For example, I need to be focusing on a succinct response to the question, rather than focusing on whether the examiner is trying to trick me. This has taken you out of the “what if” thinking and it has brought you into the “here and now”.
Remember, it is not the situation that creates pressure, it’s your reaction to it. It’s likely that you are thinking about outcomes and not the process of what you need to be doing right now. To better manage the situation, use the above techniques to stay in the “here and now”.
Be mindful, it’s worth it!
Dr. Patsy Tremayne