Michael Jordan, former basketball star said, “No matter how good you are and how much you’ve practiced, or what you have been taught, if you can’t stay composed in a pressured situation, you’ll never perform at your maximum potential. Your stress comes from how you choose to respond to pressure. You need to understand that you have a choice of how to react to stress. Unfortunately many use the automatic unconscious reaction and not the thoughtful one. It’s not what is happening around you that cause your nerves to act up, but what is going on within your mind.”
A definition of composure
I define composure as a state of personal mastery where you are ready for action with a calm demeanor, often referred to as grace under pressure.
Accessing composure starts with being in touch with your emotions and recognizing what you are feeling. In this way, you don’t get overwhelmed by extremes like rage, fear and frustration on one end of the emotional scale, to grief and heartache on the other.
The need for composure is applicable to everyday incidents. Consider how you behave in traffic when someone cuts in front of you. Accessing composure enables you to pause before reacting. Then, rather than indulging in road rage or gesturing with your middle finger, you use the break to generate other options like letting it go and not reacting at all.
Losing composure often results in self-sabotage because of mildly or even catastrophically improper emotionally charged reactions. Without composure we lose the reasoning power of impulse control and therefore struggle with self-regulation.
Loss of composure can manifest in a range of inappropriate behaviours like eating too much, substance abuse, gambling recklessly, maxing out credit cards or treating our loved ones with disrespect.
The personal mastery and calm demeanor referred to in the definition for composure means you are able to stay within an optimal emotional range for your thoughts and actions to be effective. This optimal range can be disrupted by many things including; instincts, nurtured beliefs and mind altering substances.
Neuropsychologists inform us that many incidents of composure loss can be traced back to stress arising from a contradiction between the original purpose of some our basic instincts and the circumstances we contend with.
The anatomy of our brain has evolved significantly since the beginning of the human race. It’s claimed that brain evolution started with a simple brain limited to instinctive responses. A range of capabilities followed culminating in the most recent addition which is the pre-frontal cortex. This is associated with our reasoning capability.
Original instinctive responses are hardwired into our brains. These manifest as our fight, flight or freeze responses and can be aroused by modern stimuli in the same way as they were in primordial times. They motivate us to stay alive and protect our kin by fighting others. In addition to these hardwired instincts we have also assimilated a range of beliefs and mindsets from our nurturing and socialization that could dictate a loss of self-regulation
Mind altering substances
If you are consuming pharmaceuticals or recreational substances and they are taking you out of a consensus reality or impinging on your ability to be effective you need to critically reflect on why you are taking these and make some wise decisions.
If you don’t know how to make wise decisions about the use of pharmaceuticals or recreational substances seek help from a professional. If you already have professional medical help seek a second opinion.
When it comes to recreational substances, some users will struggle to accept that they must seek professional help as they are probably suffering from drug delusion or worse – addiction. In this instance the substance is asserting control of them and they do not control their use of the substance.
Dr Steve Harris. Motivational speaker, team building, conference speaker, keynote speaker