Page 16

PE_Oct2014

Stress is Happening IN You man Michel de Montaigne, who said, “My life has been full of terrible misfortunes, most of which never happened4.” There’s now a study to back up Montaigne. This study found that 85 percent of what we worry about never happens5, and that the 15 percent that does happen turns out better than we expect. We laugh at Montaigne’s comment because we see ourselves in it, but we often miss the message. So here’s the message: most of our stress is a form of mental suffering we inflict on ourselves by believing thoughts that aren’t even true. I knew a lawyer who was in litigation over a dispute between two large corporations. There was a lot at stake and this lawyer, who I’ll call William, thought he was losing the case. He blamed it on the opposing litigator, who he described as unscrupulous and crooked. William was stressed about the case and he was becoming increasingly difficult for his legal team to work with. He was taking the case home at night. He thought about it incessantly, lost sleep over it, and as his stress level increased, he began to lose his edge and make bad decisions. By the time I ran into him he was exhausted. Biologically, where there’s stress, there’s fear, so I asked William, “What are you afraid of?” “Losing the case, of course,” he said glaring at me as if I’d asked a stupid question. “And if you lose the case, what are you afraid of?” I asked. “Looking like a fool,” he said nervously. “And what’s the fear of looking like a fool?” I asked. “I’ll lose my reputation,” he said, and I could see terror flash in his eyes. “So what’s the fear of losing your reputation?” “Well ... I’ll lose my clients ... and my job ... and my livelihood.” All at once, he looked like a deer caught in headlights. When I asked him what he was feeling, he said, “I see myself pushing a shopping cart down Main Street.” You can see in his last statement how far the mind can travel when we are afraid and really stressed. This was the story running in the back of William’s mind, and the more stressed he became the more he believed the story. So, I asked William, “Have you lost the case yet?” “No,” he said, “it’s still on-going.” “Any chance you might turn things around and win?” I asked. “Well, yes,” he said. “I suppose there’s an outside chance. You never know what a jury might do.” Next I asked, “Do you really think people see you as a fool?” “No,” he said somewhat self-consciously. “People respect me.” “If you lose this case will you really be in jeopardy of losing your clients?” “No, it’s not very likely,” he said. “Everyone knows you win some, you lose some.” He began to breathe easier and the lines on his forehead began to relax. “Will you really be asked to leave the firm if you lose the case?” “No,” he laughed. “They’re making me a partner.” It was the first he’d smiled in some time. “So,” I said, “It’s safe to say that you won’t be pushing a shopping cart down Main Street any time soon, right?” “Right,” he laughed. So I asked William: “Who would you be without these fearful thoughts?” “I’d be calm,” he said. “My mind would be clear. I’d sleep better. My decision-making would be a lot smarter. And I’d be nicer to my team.” This had a happy ending: When William went back to work on the case, he was at the top of his game. He wasn’t undermining himself with stress-provoking thoughts. A better life is as near to us as our own thoughts. In the last twenty years, biology has established that the vast biochemical environment that constitutes our brain and body is shaped by our mental state6. So, become keenly aware of stress-provoking thoughts and tell yourself, these thoughts are in me, not in reality. Then choose not to believe them. If you don’t believe a stressful thought, it doesn’t turn into stress and anxiety. The ticket to the health, wealth, and love we seek7 is cultivating a mental state that every day brings a little more peace8 into our experience, a little more empathy9 into our heart, and a little more gratitude10 into our attitude. This is how the door swings open to a better life. PE Notes 1 Robert M. Sapolsky, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers: The Acclaimed Guide to Stress, Stress-Related Diseases, and Coping, Macmillan, Sep 15, 2004, p. 4 2 http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20046037 3 Jill Bolte Taylor Ph.D.,My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey, Plume Publishing, 2009, p. 24 4 http://thinkexist.com/quotes/michel_de_montaigne/ 5 Robert L. Leahy, The Worry Cure: Seven Steps to Stop Worry from Stopping You, Crown Publishing Group, 2006, p. 105 6 http://new.livestream.com/accounts/2635433/events/1887199/videos/12398965 7 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/don-joseph-goewey-/stress_b_5567325.html 8 Richard J. Davidson, Buddha’s Brain: Neuroplasticity and Meditation, Signal Process Mag. Jan 1, 2008; 25(1): 176–174. 9 http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201310/the-neuroscience-empathy 10 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ocean-robbins/having-gratitude-_b_1073105.html Don Joseph Goewey is Managing Partner of ProAttitude, a training and consulting firm focused on ending work stress, and author of The End of Stress - Four Steps to Rewire Your Brain Email don@proattitude.com 16 Submit your Articles Personal Excellence essentials presented by HR.com | 10.2014


PE_Oct2014
To see the actual publication please follow the link above