They say diamonds last forever — and that may not be too far from the truth. Look no farther than this highly prized non-metal for an excellent example of resilience under pressure. Research by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory found that diamonds hold up shockingly well under pressure. Not only are they able to hold their crystal structure when compressed to 2 trillion pascals — 5x the pressure of Earth’s core — but actually become stronger.
So what makes a diamond, a diamond? Chemically speaking, the physical world around us responds to atmospheric pressure in a variety of ways. While other solids may crumble or change states, a diamond’s ultra-strong “interatomic” bonds allow it to remain stable at both high and low pressures. In other words, diamonds shine just as brightly in the depths of the earth as on the fingers of the newly engaged.
As beauties born out of extremes, diamonds offer an interesting parallel to our world of competition and performance. We too are forever under some sort of pressure, whether it be imposed by society, coaches, parents, friends, teammates or even ourselves. The pressure to be faster, stronger, smarter, or skinnier. To keep pushing even when we know we need a break. To rise to the occasion. To make the game-winning shot. To come back after a setback. At times it may feel oppressive or never-ending. Squeezing us and testing our resiliency up to the absolute limit.
I too have felt the weight of expectations to perform and feared the crushing blow a loss or bad day would bring. In college especially, I wanted so badly to live up to my coach’s and my own expectations of success at the NCAA level. As one of the top distance runners coming out of high school, I had some experience dealing with pressure. However, difficult classes, tough training, and the self-imposed stress of “living up” to the image of perfection I had created in my head, quickly saw me crumble.
Forging ourselves into diamonds doesn’t mean escaping the pressure, but rather embracing its refining nature. Unfortunately, this was a lesson I learned the hard way in college, at first choosing to fear and hide rather than strengthen my own personal “interatomic” bonds in response to the pressure. Just as the carbon atoms that make diamonds strengthen in response to the compressions of the earth’s fiery core, we have the capabilities as athletes and human beings to remain stable in even the most extreme circumstances.
By utilizing tools like positive self-talk, visualization and prayer, I slowly began to mold strong connections between my mind, body and spirit. Recognizing that all athletes, Olympic or high school, experience the nerves and even fear that comes with pressure also helped me take positive steps forward. Just as we all must deal with gravity, athletics comes with pressure at all levels. Ultimately, I have found that those who not only withstand pressure, but thrive under it, utilize a wealth of mental tools, and thus create internal power to absorb the squeezing and crushing around them.
Whether we are facing a world championship tennis match, a difficult conversation with a teammate, or a season-ending injury, we have the capabilities within us to thrive and shine. With each additional mental tool or skill gained, especially through my experiences with RISE, pressure is no longer a burden, but a source of power. If pressure is what makes a diamond, a diamond — bring it on!
❤️- Written by RISE Mindpower Coach Sophie Watts – Team USA Pro Triathlete
Multiple Sprint, Olympic and 70.3 Triathlon Podiums
2019 Pan American Games Qualifier
2018 USA Triathlon Female “Rookie of the Year”