A dear friend shared an article by Nicholas Petrie the other day. Nicholas is a senior faculty member at the Center for Creative Leadership- basically he works with CEOs and their teams to create resilience strategies for their companies. Through his own personal battles and anxieties, and with the help of his mentor, Dr. Derek Roger, he came to learn that stress is not caused by other people or external events, but by your reactions to them.
Hogwash, you say? There was a time I would have been right there with ya. There is always plenty of blame put on a boss, competing deadlines, being short-staffed or any other external events when it comes to stress. Right? Well frankly, not really. Derek and Nicholas met with plenty of executives that have extreme levels of pressure but low levels of stress.
The only time pressure turns into stress is through the process of rumination- i.e.- obsessing over the past or what might be in a negative light. Of course, as leaders, we do need to be able to reflect on past lessons, but it should be done analytically with a positive fallout- and as we say it in Ritz terms- reviewed as a process problem; not a people problem. And then, you move forward.
Ruminators are typically miserable and don’t step out and shine- they stay stuck with what is on their plate and never break out.
How do you break out? Nicholas and Derek recommend 4 steps:
- Wake up. For real… stand up and move your body. Shake your head. Snap out of the worrying and ruminating. It does nothing good physically, emotionally and is not career productive-yes I’m going with that is a word.
- Control your attention. Don’t be a hamster on a wheel going around and around thinking about the same old things and never getting anywhere. Nicholas recommends drawing a circle on a page and putting everything you can control inside. Everything you can’t control, write outside. It doesn’t mean that you don’t care about the outside things, but fretting over them is not going to help anything. Focus your energies on the things you can control- the things inside the circle. I have to say it is amazing what the simple act of writing things down can do…
- Keep perspective. Ruminators tend to catastrophize. Don’t… that only prolongs and amplifies your ruminating. A couple of things that I find works for me is 1) Asking if this will matter a year from now? 3 years from now? Or 2) What’s the worst that can happen- and how would I deal with that? Once that’s settled, I tend to be able to focus a bit better without all the worry.
- Let it go. Yes, the hardest step. After all, if it was that easy we wouldn’t be talking about it to begin with. First, accept that the situation ‘is what it is’- like it or not. Second, decide what you have learned from the situation, event or issue. And third, take action. Sometimes the action is to shake it off and relax. But sometimes, the action is to kick butt and take names. Only you know. Trust your gut. I don’t know about you- but mine has never steered me wrong.
Do you associate pressure with a negative emotion? I would actually suggest looking at it as a positive- it’s the lifeblood of being- think of it as passion and wanting to be the best you can be. If you don’t feel pressure at all, seems kind of boring- right? Once you start thinking of pressure and stress as 2 separate things, pressure may cease to be a negative in your life….what do you have to lose?