Stress is a bigger subject than I have time to fully cover this morning, so I am going to concentrate on two particular aspects – SURVIVING Vs THRIVING. I want to show you how to move from survival to thriving; and what is necessary.
Setting the context
Many people ‘think’ they work best under stress…
And the truth is that stress is useful up to a certain point. In fact it was the ‘stress response’ that allowed us to survive as a species over 10’s of 1000’s of years. The stress response is great for avoiding danger. The physical responses it elicits in our bodies allows us to physically perform at a generally higher level – IN THE SHORT TERM and provided there is LIMITED COMPLEXITY for the solution required.
So yes, we may work OK under stress – UP TO A CERTAIN POINT.
In the fantastic book by Steven Kotler called ‘The Rise of Superman’ he talks about the adventure and extreme sports athletes – climbers, sky divers, big wave surfers, Extreme Games athletes, etc. – who dislike the term adrenalin junkies because they know that their ability to not only survive but get into the realm of THRIVING (and achieving amazing human feats) exists AFTER they stop stressing. It is called getting into the ZONE. Or what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (a leader in the positive psychology field) called ‘FLOW’.
We all know that adrenalin is one of the main hormones released when we stressed. And it sets up all those body responses we need to jump into action – like elevated heart rates, energy redistribution, dilated pupils, etc.. But too much adrenalin and we actually slow down. I experienced this first hand when I had my first amateur boxing fight in the army. The adrenalin actually caused me burn out more quickly. I got sluggish pretty quickly.
So adrenalin is a great kick starter, but if we want to do out best and most creative work (even in the boxing ring), we need to move beyond it and into a FLOW state.
‘Flow’, according to Wikipedia is defined as: ‘completely focused motivation. It is a single-minded immersion and represents perhaps the ultimate experience in harnessing the emotions in the service of performing and learning.’ This is where your creative genius and THRIVING in life exists.
What I would like you to take away
Don’t believe you are more effective when you are under pressure or stressed. This makes sense up to a certain point and then your creative and problem-solving faculties are reduced.
You are more creative (so provide better solutions and are more likely to thrive) when you get into a flow state. This is where you are completely immersed in the activity, focused on it entirely, stretching yourself a bit, but in a relaxed / joyful kind of way.
If you have set yourself a deadline and it causes you to become more than a little stressed, it is time to revise your plan and timeline. It might be better for everyone to extend the timeline if possible. This is exactly what happened with me with my book. I was loading myself up with too much, so could not do my best work on each singular piece. Will it piss some people off to change it? Maybe. Will I lose some business in the short-term? Maybe. But will it allow me to thrive in all areas of my business and life over the long-term? You bettcha!
If your boss, partner, parents, etc. sets you an unrealistic timeline, let them know that they are not likely to get your best work. You will not be at your creative best. Stretching – good. Snapping – bad. 😉
Know that surviving is not thriving. Just because you get stuff done under pressure (created by others or you), don’t make the mistake of thinking it is your best work and likely to take you onto bigger and better things. Know that your best happens when you have a little pressure, but not too much. Too much pressure will make you more dog-like (reactive and stressed) and less genius-like (responsive, creative and in flow).
Here’s to you THRIVING through more conscious, knowledgeable and wise choices!
If you do have any comments or insights you would like to share, head over to the Blog, or jump on my Facebook page to continue the dialogue (and pick my mind).
You know where to find me – Palma de Majorca Spain (or on the other side of an email) – if you want to get into a bit more THRIVING and a little less surviving.