Nobody comes home and says, “I had a great day today—I was under enormous pressure all day long.” Nor do we ever wish our kids were under more pressure at school. Experiencing pressure does not enhance our lives—it undermines them. At heart, the feelings of pressure are rooted in the primal, evolutional concern that “I have to produce or I will be weeded out.” It is an early warning survival mechanism. For our early ancestors, a failure to perform under pressure often meant death. If he or she couldn’t sprint fast enough to escape a predator, or maintain focus while navigating a treacherous path, he or she might not have survived. There was no second chance; literally he was one and done. “I have to produce to survive,” was a daily and realistic concern based on the fact that our ancestors’ existence was dependent on being able to perform effectively in the do or die moments they encountered.
That fear kept Early Man almost continually on point and ready to act. Today, so many of us continue to experience pressure in the same way as our ancestors—our brains experience such situations as “do or die.” As a result, we remain on high alert, creating nonstop pressure— sometimes over even the smallest things.