How To Tip The Balance: Challenge Strategy

Tipping The Balance stems from a very simple but very important idea about how humans approach pressure situations. To approach pressure as a challenge, your personal coping resources must meet (or ideally exceed) the demands of the situation. You need to have sufficient resources to cope with an upcoming event in order to prevail. If the demands are too much for your resources to match, then a threat state will be activated, and performance may suffer. Psychologists call this cognitive appraisal.

Demands vs. Resources

So the task is simple. Strengthen your resources so that the demands of that pressure situation are outstripped. We call it “Tipping The Balance” because in effect, you need to outweigh the demands with your personal resources. Imagine a set of weighing scales. On one side you have demands. Demands are always heavy in pressure situations; its what makes important situations so stressful! On the other side you have your resources. If you are able to strengthen and enhance your resources to the point where they outweigh the demands, a challenge state will prevail. So Tipping The Balance is about outweighing situational demands with personal resources. As you read in the previous section, this is extremely helpful for performance.


The Resources

But we need to know what the resources are, so that we know how to develop and strengthen them. Thankfully, Professor Marc Jones and colleagues laid it out for us in 2009 with their groundbreaking work on challenge and threat. The scientific literature points to three major resources:

  1. Self-Efficacy
  2. Perceived Control
  3. Achievement Goals

 You may have heard of these important psychological constructs before. When approaching pressure with high self-efficacy (belief in your ability to prevail), high perceived control (you have autonomy over your skills), and a focus on approach goals (what can be gained), challenge occurs, and your performance sails. But when approaching pressure with low self-efficacy, low perceived control, and a focus on avoidance goals (what can be lost), threat occurs, and your performance sinks.

Research shows that this cognitive appraisal process of demands vs. resources can happen very quickly and can occur consciously (you are aware that it is happening) and unconsciously (you are not aware that it is happening). So getting to grips with your demands and resources is a crucial part of fulfilling your potential.

The Challenge Strategy

We explore and investigate the power of resources in helping people to optimize their performance. In doing this, we have developed a program, or series of interconnected strategies that help people develop and maintain their resources to ensure they Tip The Balance when the going gets tough. We call this The Challenge Strategy to Tipping The Balance. More details of this can be found in here and here.