Stop Creating Stress!


Stress can be a crippling thing for us as humans. It can stifle creativity, create tension in relationships, and otherwise render us largely unresourceful in pursuit of our goals. The harsh reality is however that the stress we experience is created, often unknowingly, by ourselves. What jerks we are to us, huh?

We experience stress when we experience large amounts of pain in a certain area of our lives. Pain here is defined as any time our model of the way we would like the world to be does not fit with our current circumstances.

If you have bills due and are a bit short on funds, you are experiencing pain.

If you desire a harmonious relationship with a significant other, but find yourself butting heads much more than sharing great experiences, you are experiencing pain.

If you want to look like a beast in a tight white tee but see love handles and a lack of arm development, you are experiencing pain.

You get the idea…

So any time we feel as though things are not how we would like them to be, we experience pain. When we experience enough pain, or feel that we are helpless in remedying the situation creating the pain (suffering by definition), we stress.

While pain can be a powerful driving force for change, it can render you dead in the water if you allow it to evolve to the point of suffering and dismiss your ability and responsibility to improve the situation and produce the outcome that you desire.

Pain is a necessary inevitability in life, suffering is a choice.



Are you operating your own high-output stress factory?

In learning to eliminate undue stress, we must first accept that the stress itself is a creation of our mind. It is a combination of our internal representation of the situation (see Blueprint to Beast Toolbox: Volume One) and our perception of our potential ability to positively affect the situation.

Once we do this, we can begin to view the situation that is causing us to create the stress and assign desired outcomes to the events. Creating an outcome allows us to focus on the end solution, and begin to take action, being flexible in our approach along the way.

How could we represent the data that is producing the pain in the above three examples and create outcomes that would eliminate it?

How could we remedy the financial hardship situation? Certainly not by placing our focus on the data at hand regarding our present shortcomings. Not by stressing over the manner in which we will accomplish the objective of getting above water.

How would the guy in the relationship that is at odds with his model of the ideal situation create a fix? Not by doing what he has been doing, communicating in the same manner. Not by focusing on the list of negative events or interactions that have recently transpired.

How about the guy who isn’t looking the way he wants to in the mirror? Will he fix the situation by stressing over the idea that he won’t be beach ready in seven days when he would like to be? Will stating that he’s a mess that women don’t find attractive help anything along?

Of course not.

In all of the above instances, the only thing that will bring about a change for the better, hence eliminating the pain source and consequently the associated stress will be creating a desired outcome, taking action towards accomplishing said outcome in small, manageable pieces each day, and being flexible as to the methods used in the face of dynamic, changing circumstances.

If the eye is on the prize, or more accurately the subconscious is locked on the newly created outcome (standard), the path will become clear.

This process greatly effects how we represent the situation internally as well. Nothing fuels us more as humans, or provides us with more gratification than progress. While we’d all like to become wealthy overnight, build a huge, global brand, or shed twenty pounds of bodyfat (which we didn’t gain overnight), those happenings are not possible.

What is possible is a series of actions, taken over time, which each put us a few steps closer to our target. The act of accomplishing these smaller tasks while focusing on the outcome we seek to create fills us with an emotional experience that is diametrically opposed to helplessness. We recognize that we are capable, resourceful beings, and that reaching our goals is something that we alone are responsible for.

The fun is in the chase.

I’d like to use a recent client interaction to illustrate how this process is used to eliminate undue stress.

“Paul”, an overseas client from the land of kangaroos and Koala bears expressed to me in a recent session that he frequently found himself stressing over not being as “productive” as he would like to be in pursuing his entrepreneurial vision.

Paul, like all of my clients, has clearly defined standards for each of his five major life headings (body, relationships, career/professional life, finance, mission). He indicated that his focus work, which he had been assigned after our first session, was producing great results in terms of helping him focus on the outcomes necessary in each to create his ideal life each day. The problem was that he was stressing about his progress in the professional life heading, and that stress was spilling over into the others (as it undoubtedly will), particularly the relationship heading.

I found this interesting, considering he was so focused and clear about his objectives and standards, having turned in some of the best work on the assignments I give my clients early on that I have seen.

Within a minute or two of discussing with him the causes of this stress, I was able to pick up on his frequent use of the word “productivity”. This sent up a flag for me. I asked him to elaborate on what it meant to be “productive”. He went on to describe a model in which he would accomplish a series of tasks throughout his day within assigned timelines, i.e. 3 pm- create X, 4pm- send emails. The dynamic nature of his day to day life was throwing up obstacles, preventing him from meeting his timelines which he had created for himself the day before.

I asked him where he got the idea to create this time-bound to-do list.

He informed me that he had created this practice because he had always worked best on his own schedule, in highly concentrated bursts of productivity. Being more of a “free spirit” than his co-workers in his day job, which he is working to fund his lifestyle and pursuit of his own venture, he found it difficult to operate within their more general “rank and file” methods of conventional “productivity”.

I asked him if these time hacks were created in accordance with due dates on assignments at work, or otherwise being directly influenced by his superiors. He told me “No”, stating that his level of proficiency at his job afforded him much more flexibility in his manner of operating.

I went on to inquire at what point in his life was he the most “productive”, as in what was the period in which he felt he operated the most like he wishes to now. He told me that his latter years in college, when he and a group of others were working on some heavy projects and developing things on their own, was the time that he felt he was operating at the peak of his capacity to be productive. When asked to describe how his day to day looked at that time, he painted for me a picture of a young man with a ton of ambition, a load of responsibility and work, and a very active social life. He described late night sessions in the lab, working non stop from sun up to sun down on weekend days at times, and battling hangovers while producing top quality work.

Can you see how this model differs from the much more “rigid” one which he was attempting to create?

You have to understand that Paul is a born overachiever. His accomplishments in life thus far are impressive to say the least, as is his desire to push past where he currently is situated. He is a resourceful and capable machine, with a tremendous capacity for accomplishing a variety of objectives and achieving great success.

What he does not have a great capacity for is operating inside the model of others who are not “wired” like he is.

Paul is like me in a lot of ways. We both are most “productive” in short, concentrated bursts in line with our own schedule and lifestyle. We don’t always fit in a more conventional situation. In fact, such a situation, or attempting to conform to one, produces pain for us.

Now, we can create that pain for ourselves, attempting to force a square peg into a round hole, or we can accept that we operate perfectly fine in the way which we are best setup to operate, choose to work in that manner, and impact the living hell out of the world with our contributions.

I instructed Paul to focus strongly on the outcomes he wanted each day, trash the time-bound to-do list, replacing it with a short list of must-accomplish tasks in easy to manage chunks, and to remember that being “productive” extends into his other four headings as well. Laying on the couch stressing about how much he “sucks” at being “conventionally productive” at work, stressing about what he “should be doing” to work on his business but lacks the energy to do (as a result of his ultra-productive workout session earlier), is not going to push him towards his outcomes in any of those areas anymore than it will towards enhancing his relationship with the beautiful woman there in his home seeking his attention.

Lacking the energy to be “productive” towards his career outcomes, he has the distinct opportunity to watch a movie with his woman and focus on “producing” in that department.

Paul now understands that with five life headings to work towards standards in, he has the ability to represent any situation as an opportunity to be “productive”. He also learned that he’s “not broke”, so we’re not going to fix him.

What is it that’s causing you pain?

Identify it. Get clear about exactly what it is. Then assign an outcome to the situation or circumstance that you desire to produce. Create a plan for small, incremental steps towards reaching your target, and remember that you may need to deviate from your initial plan along the way in order to arrive at your destination.

I’d like to hear what it is that stresses you out. Feel free to post to me in comments.



2 Responses

  1. Dave

    This post reminds me of when people say “Don’t stress out about things you can’t control!” Well, to me, that’s exactly what makes sense to stress out about. If I can control it, I fix. It’s the stuff I can’t control that is so hard to let go.

    March 28, 2014 at 10:03 pm

    • You’re absolutely right. The interesting but is that, out of the five life headings, relationships are the only ones we cannot entirely control. When there is another person involved we can influence; but not control.

      Everything else is on us!

      Thanks for commenting.

      March 28, 2014 at 10:06 pm

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