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Stressed Out (#68)

Every day, people all over the world wake up stressed. Some will be worrying about how they’ll find food or shelter for the day; others will be thinking about a presentation they are giving for the first time; and there are even those who will be legitimately stressed about coordinating the management logistics of their multiple multi-million dollar homes. Regardless of the reason, they’re stressed out.

At his speaking engagements, one of my mentors and coaches, Warren Rustand, often offers a $10,000 reward to anyone who can leave the room and return with a can of stress. His rationale behind this compelling offer is that “stress is an internal response to an external force.” It’s something we bring onto ourselves in reaction to what’s going on outside of us.

Stress emanates from pre-historic times. By boosting our adrenaline and fueling short-term improvements in attention and memory, it’s a biological purpose is to temporarily trigger our flight or fight response. The operative word being “temporary.” The problem is that most of us are functioning in stress mode far longer than our bodies are designed for, and its making us increasingly sick and unhealthy.

According to my good friend Dr. Heidi Hanna, a leading expert on stress, the biggest issue with our current stress epidemic is that most people don’t fully understand what exactly is stressing them out. She explains that “In today’s hyper-connected society, we have access to more stimulation and information in one day than we are wired to process in a lifetime.  Because the brain is hard-wired to constantly crave more, most people struggle to disconnect and recharge even when they have time to do so.”

To reduce stress, she suggests building in time to regularly recharge throughout the day by meditating, breathing deeply, and taking the time to reflect on things you are grateful for.

Recently, Warren and Heidi teamed up for a fascinating video discussion on stress. Warren’s belief is that a main source of stress stems from uncertainty in our lives and that we can improve our stress levels considerably by focusing in on three seemingly unrelated areas to stress:

  1. Clarity of Vision (Why). Understanding what we are here to do; our purpose.
  2. Certainty of Intent (How): Clarity about our actions and goals in service of our purpose.
  3. Power of Values (Who): Understanding what our core values are; our core values relate to number one and number two, and allow us to make key decisions more easily.

At the end of the day, the way to prevent or alleviate stress is to be more aligned in our lives, have greater clarity about our actions, and believe that we have control over each and every situation. That feeling of not having or being in control is frequently the greatest cause of stress. While not a quick fix, taking these steps will help to reduce the pressure from external sources of stress and make us happier and more productive.

Quote of the Week

“If you ask what is the single most important key to longevity, I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress and tension. And if you didn’t ask me, I’d still have to say it.”

George Burns

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Getting Uncomfortable (#61)

In theory, the more comfortable we are, the more successful our lives should be. However, the opposite has been proven true. The more vulnerable and uncomfortable we get, the more successful we can be.  It turns out that comfort often creates complacency and avoidance; it gets in the way of what we really want.

Think about all of those difficult decisions or conversation that you have put off. In most every case, it only serves to delay the inevitable. From personal experience, when I procrastinate having a challenging conversation or making a difficult decision, it’s because I’m trying to make too many people happy. However, it comes at the expense of getting the outcome that I really want and is a drain on my energy and productivity.

In my quest to get better at getting uncomfortable and addressing things head on, I’ve sought experts on the topic, such as Dr. Brené Brown. She’s spent the past 13 years studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame and is the author of three #1 New York Times bestsellers: Daring GreatlyThe Gifts of Imperfection, and Rising Strong.

After thousands of interviews with high achievers, her assessment is that our willingness to be uncomfortable is actually one of the greatest contributors to our ultimate success. Our ability to “lean into discomfort” and walk towards (not away from) uncomfortable situations defines who we are and our capacity for success.

She states that, “When we step back and examine our lives, we will find that nothing is as uncomfortable, dangerous, and hurtful as standing on the outside of our lives looking in and wondering what it would be like if we had the courage to step into the arena—whether it’s a new relationship, an important meeting, the creative process, or a difficult family conversation.”

I’d encourage you to watch Brené’s TED talk on The Power of Vulnerability. It’s one of the top 5 most watched Ted talks in history. You can also listen to her podcast interview with Tim Ferris.

I’ve mentioned this before, but regret is about what we don’t do, not what we do. When faced with a situation that requires you to be vulnerable or uncomfortable, making the choice to be brave will likely lead you to the best outcome.

Quote of the Week

“He or she who is willing to be the most uncomfortable is not only the bravest but rises the fastest.”

Brené Brown

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