Outsmart life’s challenges
Stress creates unproductive panic, inhibits creative thought, contributes to chronic illness and is just plain exhausting. But no matter what’s going on in our lives, we can tap into our inner resources to keep stress from doing its damage.
Different strategies work for different people. Below are some of the most effective ones…
The Inner Game
We are all playing an inner game whether we recognize it or not. That means that while we are all involved in outer games (overcoming obstacles in the outside world to reach our goals), we are at the same time faced with inner obstacles, such as fear, self-doubt, frustration, pain and distractions. These inner obstacles prevent us from expressing our full range of capabilities and enjoying our time to the utmost.
The secret lies in knowing that you have choices about how you look at external events, how you define them, how you attribute meaning to them and how you react to them mentally and emotionally. The key is to recognize that every person has the internal wisdom to bypass the frustrations and fears that pull them into the negative cycle of stress.
Become your own CEO
Feeling powerless and victimized is among the most common sources of stress. You’re likely to feel more in control if you consider yourself the CEO of your life. To do so…
• Write a mission statement. What is the primary mission of your life? Examples: To create prosperity for myself and my family… to pay attention to my inner life as well as my achievements… to help others in my work or personal life.
• Identify your main product or service. What do you provide to others? These could be specific to a particular business or profession. Example: As a doctor, my services would include being up-to-date in my knowledge… knowing the best specialists to refer a patient to… seeing patients quickly.
• List your company’s resources. Include both internal resources—positive personal traits, such as your compassion, intelligence and humor—and external resources—your financial assets, friends and possessions. Ask yourself whether you are getting as much from each of these resources as you could.
• Consider whether you have given up too much control of your corporation. What would it cost to buy back some of your shares?
Example: Did you sell too many shares of yourself for your big home? If massive mortgage payments fill you with stress—or force you to remain in a job that fills you with stress—perhaps you should move into a smaller home and take back those shares.
This CEO thought process serves as a reminder that we are not helpless. Your life is yours, and you get to decide everything. It is always your choice, even if you decide to comply with the wishes of someone else. Once you become aware of the limits that you place on your choices, your freedom will evolve and your stress will ease.
Trying to control things that are outside our control is enormously stressful—yet many of us unwittingly do this. When you feel stressed, consider…
What don’t I control here?
What am I trying to control here?
What could I control here that I’m not currently controlling?
Confronting these questions can help us focus on things that we can accomplish and reduce our stress over things that we cannot.
Example: When a man who is stressed over his wife’s poor health asks himself these questions, he realizes that her health is not something that he can control, so he should stop trying to. What he can control is his attitude toward life. By remaining upbeat, he can help his wife remain upbeat.
The Magic Pen
Select a stress-causing situation in your life, then write down your usual inner dialog on this subject. Once you have written everything that comes to mind, take out a new piece of paper and imagine that your pen has been magically endowed with one of your positive inner resources. This resource might be your clarity, compassion, candor, serenity or patience—any trait that you consider a personal strength. Try to empty your mind of all thought, then let your magic pen write a message to you about this stressful subject. Don’t censor the pen—let it write everything.
Example: A man feels guilty about his grown son, who can’t find direction in life. If he endowed his pen with his compassion, the pen might write that he did his best to raise his son and that his son is doing his best to live his life.