Let’s start with a quick agenda.
- Stress is self-induced. To a degree.
- Stress is a chosen response to stimuli.
- Work creates stress.
- We chose our work.
- Therefore, WE have to change to reduce stress.
The YB12 ‘Best Year Ever’ process includes, as do many training programmes of its ilk, input on overcoming stress. Like Canfield, Covey and others, we suggest that stress is often the result of our response to an event. The psychologist Dr Robert Resnick created the formula E+R=O, where E is the Event; R is our Response to the Event; and O is the Outcome. The premise is that events tend to be outside our control, while responses are wholly within our control. Maths students already see how the only way to change O, given that E is a constant, is to change the value of R.
People who suffer from stress have not, either deliberately or passively, taken control of R. There may be perfectly good reasons why that is, but there it is. It could be fear of an imagined result (as all results are imagined until manifest); or it could be a response to a real threat (although the assumption that the threat will come to pass or only have one outcome is within our power). Either we take control of it, or it takes control of us. We can decide how we face it, even if we cannot alter the course of the event. We decide, deliberately or by accident, to be stressed – or not.
Traditionally, work is the primary cause of stress, usually for the reasons given above. An unwanted consequence of ‘work’ causes tension, and we buckle at the thought of the negative consequence if we fail, don’t do enough, the results aren’t favourable, and so on. It can also be the sheer drudgery or perceived pointlessness of the work, or the repetitiveness of it.
Work, as a rule, is something we have chosen to do. We work bloody hard at getting a job, jumping through hoops in order to be posted to a role we want.
The point I am (finally) getting to is this: as we chose our work, and as we can choose our response to the ‘stresses’ (small ‘s’) of that work, we needn’t be stressed IF we look at our tasks in one of two ways. They are:
- Love your work.
- If you can’t love your work – love HOW you work.
I can best illustrate this concept by illustration. I was once tasked with some real drudgery in a role I HADN’T chosen, but one which it was felt I was magnificently competent to do. (My own fault.) I hated it for a number of reasons, which space won’t allow me to state.
But one way of overcoming the stress that resulted (and I was on the verge of collapse at one stage, I assure you – even I was surprised) was to challenge my productivity. I like measuring my productivity, so instead of ‘I have to do all this stuff’ I decided to think, ‘How much of this stuff can I do in a day?’
In the end, my record was 1,000 ‘tasks’. I admit I don’t ever want to do that again – I was knackered – but how ‘stressed’ was I when I told everyone what a lot of work I had achieved that day? Not at all. I had won, the tasks hadn’t.*
Look at the job you worked hard to obtain, but which now irks you. What about that work could you take control of so that YOU ran IT, instead of the other way around?
*For more on that story, buy my book Effective Time and Life Management, available in Kindle or Paperback form from Amazon at that link.