How to stay cool under pressure, according to Barack Obama

Sarah Harvard

Former President Barack Obama shared his secrets on how he was able to remain calm and level-headed under immense pressure throughout his presidency while speaking at a tech conference this week.

The 44th President of the United States told attendees in Salt Lake City, Utah on Wednesday that there some truth to his nickname “no drama Obama,” despite admitting he would still be ridden with fear over making a mistake.

“I have an even temperament and I don’t get too high and I don’t get too low, but that doesn’t mean that throughout the presidency and throughout my professional career that there weren’t times when I was constrained by, ‘Man I don’t want to screw this up. I don’t want to let people down,” Mr Obama said at a conference hosted by software company Qualtrics. “I don’t want to be seen as having made made a mistake or having failed’.”

It wasn’t until his second term did Mr Obama experienced a “shedding of fear” that he said helped him perform better.

“There’s no doubt by the time I was in my second term I was a better president than I was in my first term and it did not have to do with analysis or policy,” he added. “It had to do with what comes with any career — whether it’s sports or teaching or you name it — you get enough reps, enough repetition and familiarity with the nature of the problems that you start being focused on the task and not how-are-you-doing-on-the-task and the self-consciousness that comes with that.”

The former president said his change of attitude with focusing on the tasks at hand, rather than being fixated at the performance of it, helped him make strides when it came to the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris Climate accords.

He was able to overcome his anxiety that made him fixated over making possible mistakes by learning how to become more comfortable with tackling the large complex problems.

Rather than being obsessed with poll numbers or commentary from pundits, he would focus on “advancing this vision that I have and I hope the country will share, that we create a better country.”

He did this by not letting the press distract him. Mr Obama said he does not look at social media comments or watch pundits on cable news including the commentary insulting and praising him.

“If people were complementary, people assume you know more than you did,” the former president said before noting that an inflated ego can be just as detrimental as low self-esteem.

Mr Obama viewed the public commentary about him “unhelpful” and “not useful to me in doing my job or solving a problem, but designed to feed possible anxiety.”

But what happens if the former president does make a mistake?

“And if I make a mistake we’ll figure out how to make up for it,” he said, “we’ll learn from it.”