What impact does stress have on our lives?
Stress throws us for a loop. It keeps us from stepping up as a leader in our careers. It prevents us from performing our best in sports or even making it to the gym for a workout. It keeps us from making choices and decisions that move life forward.
There are dozens of physical symptoms of stress, as documented by The Mayo Clinic, including headaches, fatigue, chest pain, sleep problems and more.
I have often wondered if it needs to be this way. Must stress hurt our chances to achieve and wreak havoc with our lives?
What if stress isn’t kryptonite?
The problem with stress is that for most people it gets in the way of living a great life.
However, what if stress had no impact on how we can perform at work, in our lives or on the playing field? Wouldn’t that be great?
I believe it’s possible.
On countless occasions, I’ve been stressed out before important meetings or athletic events, but still showed up and performed well. Beyond stress, even when I feel a little down on myself, I can engage fully with the world. I can make things happen regardless of how bad or good I feel.
I don’t need to feel good or be 100% confident to do well.
Here’s another story I heard from a sports performance coach, specializing in mental conditioning, who worked with a top ranked Heavyweight boxer. They were coaching on the notion of being able to perform at a world-class level, regardless of if the fighter felt poorly or not.
The boxer was resistant and didn’t think it was possible, having been brought up with the belief that to do well, he needed to feel well and think 100% positively. Visualizing success. Affirmations. Positive self-talk. That kind of stuff.
After debating for a while, the boxer had a revelation: that even on sparring days when he felt awful, he could still step in the ring and have an outstanding practice. Why should competition be any different? Did he have to feel great and have a supremely positive mental attitude to emerge victorious in the ring?
Clearly, the answer was no.
Beyond positive thinking
If we need to be stress-free, zen-like, laser-focused and optimistic to perform well in life, we are bound to be disappointed a lot. Favorable mental states are great when they happen. The problem is, they are fleeting. I’ve never met someone who has a positive attitude 100% of the time, yet, we need to live our life 100% of the time!
Instead of relying on feeling good and thinking good thoughts, we can take heart that our mental state doesn’t have to define the level of our performance. Our thinking (which is the source of all our emotions and feelings, good and bad) tends to fluctuate on its own. Sometimes we feel good, and sometimes we feel bad. Sometimes we feel good and bad only moments apart!
Here’s the key: regardless of our changing thoughts and feelings, we can engage fully with the world and produce results that defy expectation. We can feel crummy and do something great. It happens all the time.
Take a look at your life. When have you not felt so good, or been caught up in negative thinking, but still had things work out for the best? If you are like me (or the many leaders and professionals I’ve coached), this has happened more times than you can count.
The proof is in your life experience. Start noticing how you can show up to your life and career irrespective of how you feel about it. Notice how you can still produce results. When you start seeing that your mental state (and stress level) doesn’t need to stop you in your tracks, you will find a whole new sense of freedom.
With this freedom, you will find a new source of energy to create great things and make the impact you have been meaning to make on the world.