Why Aiming For ‘Zero’ Stress Is Not The Ideal Target

Have you ever thought it would be great to have ‘ZERO’ stress in your life? 

I know I have. 

There are times I am cranky because I am getting stressed-out over something or other.

Or other times where I am just feeling a mild level of stress in my body. 

At these times I wonder what it would be like to have ZERO stress, all the time.

As if that were the ideal target. 

And maybe it is. 

Maybe that is what ‘enlightenment’ is all about. 

Or maybe it isn’t. 

I have no doubts that every luminary person we can think of – who we consider as enlightened or self-actualized – also had their fair share of stress, and in most cases (if not all) had high levels of high stress experiences throughout their life. 

The first thing I think is relevant to this conversation is that I am not even sure that ZERO stress is attainable, or even the penultimate achievement in life.

No stress might actually be the bit just before we take our last breath. 

So today I am going to talk about how ‘zero’ stress may not a worthwhile target. 

Let’s now look at the reasons why.

Reason We Do Want Some Stress: Number 1

As I talk about a lot, including last week when we discussed ‘doubt‘, it is great to be ‘realisticoptimist.

I suggest that we set our target as something which is actually tangible (and achievable), as opposed to the target being more of a mystical ‘unicorn‘.

If I actually set my sights on a life with ZERO stress, the chances of me attaining that (day-to-day) are pretty close to zero. 

Yes, I know we want to aim for the stars, and hit the moon.

But from a practical perspective, it’s not great for our personal psychology, if we aim for something that is very highly likely to forever allude us. 

It can cause feelings of failure, or not being good enough, or thinking that there is something ‘broken’ within us, or the likes. 

We want to have targets that are a stretch, but are not so ‘out there‘ that we never get to feel a sense of satisfaction or achievement in our lives. 

If you set a target of “over 50% of the time I experience pure peace, with little to no stress“, it is likely to be a stretch for most of us but it is also something that is possible.

And you can turn up the percentage over time (relevant to your own personal growth), as you bring more peace and stability to your nervous system.

Just don’t set unrealistic targets, which may adversely effect your self image, if they are too much of a stretch for you for now.  

Reason We Do Want Some Stress: Number 2

You may have heard about the idea of ‘positive’ stress. 

Stress that is beneficial for us in order to achieve our goals and desires. 

Without some stress we can slip back into apathy and remain as a couched potato, who has no ‘energy’ to take action. 

So stress can be a great source of fuel (energy) to create forward motion, and help us achieve our bigger goals.

Stress can be a subtle feeling that something needs to be done. 

Meaning it can be a really useful signal that something needs to happen.

An action needs to be taken. 

Or something needs to be rechecked or redone or realigned. 

As such, it can actually be a great source of FEEDBACK. 

So when we have a conscious relationship with stress, it can fuel us into action, and be an early warning signal that something needs attending to. 

Obviously TOO much stress and we slip straight into a physiological stress response and fight, flight or freeze. 

Again, some stress, but not too much stress, is the ideal target. 

Reason We Do Want Some Stress: Number 3

This is more philosophical

I have a belief that (some) stress is feedback that I am moving forward with my life. 

That I am stretching, growing, and leaning into my full potential. 

That I am doing something worthy. 

That I care about what I am doing. 

And I only care, because what I am doing is actually meaningful.

It lets me know I am in the game of life and playing a decent hand. 

I am not waiting around on my butt, waiting for things to be handed to me, or done for me. 

I am in the arena and giving life the reverence it deserves. 

ZERO stress to me, is equivalent to an overly safe life, an apathetic life, and a waste of the innate talents, strengths and the potential awesomeness we all have within us. 

We are created to be awesome; so not stepping into the game – and feeling the feedback of stress – is a missed opportunity IMHO. 🙂

But be aware…

You know – if you have followed me for a while – that I believe EVERYTHING becomes better if we add “CONSCIOUS AWARENESS” to it.

Although I am of the firm belief we need stress in our lives – if we want to live a fully expressed life – we also need to stay aware of what our level of stress is at any point in time. 

We never want to get to a 10/10 on the stress meter. 

And we also want to start taking specific actions when our stress levels start to creep higher than about 8/10. 

That is, be more consciously aware and have contingency plans in place to wind it back, BEFORE it gets to a 9/10 (or stays at a 9/10 for any extended period of time).

We can do a 9/10 occasionally, but we want it as a surge capacity. 

Not the norm. 

My thinking is we want to oscillate between about 5-8/10 on a general basis. 

Occasionally we will dip back to a 2-4/10 to rest and recover

And we can ride a peak of 9/10 for a shorter period of time. 

But getting over 9/10 on the Stress Meter means the types of interventions available, start to get more evasive, more hit-and-miss, with longer recovery times, and with higher potential for longer-term consequences. 

My final point is that someone else cannot manage this for us

We need to check in, on a regular basis, to see where we are at. 

This is why I teach all my clients to do a Weekly Meeting with Me Inc., as a weekly self-check-in, to reduce the likelihood of getting above a 9/10.

In Summary

We don’t actually want ZERO stress. 

We also don’t want to be feeling stress higher than 9/10. 

We want to sit somewhere in the middle and oscillate higher or lower for short periods of time, so we can surge to get something over the line, or retreat for deep relaxation and re-calibration of the nervous system. 

PLUS if you set the target of ZERO stress in your life, you are likely to ‘fail’ in hitting it, and can therefore start developing a self-image or self-belief, that there is something wrong with you. Be careful of going down that path. 

My Parting Words

I like the idea of being a realistic optimist

And yes, I have heard it said that ‘unreasonable‘ people change the world. 

However, my experience has been that in ‘real life’ even the uber achievers have had to work for their achievements and build them up over time. 

There were times where they had to be realistic in where they were starting, what resources they had available, what they knew (and didn’t know), and the level of energy they could sustain. 

I remember a line from an old movie (1986) called ‘The Highlander‘, which was: “It is better to burn out, than fade away.”

I personally like something between those two options.

Sometimes I like to burn brightly.

Sometimes I like fade down (to recuperate). 

But most of the time I am somewhere in the middle.

My key point today: 

Some stress is actually okay (and not a sign you are failing in life or your spiritual journey).

What is your ‘story’ or beliefs about stress?

It is worth checking them out.  

Take today to become aware of your general stress score, and the week to do something specific with that knowledge.

Take care,


PS: Have you read or listened to this book yet? 18 Ways We Make Life WAY Harder Than It Needs To Be

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