‘Stress is part of my job!’
‘I work at my best when under stress and pressure!’
‘I’m stressed because I have so much to do!’
‘My boss/colleagues stress me out!’
‘I’m under pressure because of deadlines!’
‘My children stress me out!’
‘My partner/wife/husband doesn’t listen and it’s stressing me out!’
These are the typical day to day things that people say in relation to stress and pressure. These statements all point to factors outside of ourselves (boss, work, partner etc…) as the cause of our stress.
The above is how we have been taught about how we operate regarding how we feel. Something happens out in the world and our feelings respond accordingly to that event. It is evident everywhere you look, from movies, the news to advertisements. They all point to the idea that our feelings are caused by external events, circumstances or material objects.
‘Buy a house and a fancy car and you will feel successful’
‘Study hard and get a good job and you will feel secure’
Again, examples of how feelings of success and security are attributed to external factors. The evidence looks compelling, and it appears that way. However, there is one simple fundamental misunderstanding taking place here. One that is obvious and yet, elusive.
Here is the truth about how the mind works:
EVENT/CIRCUMSTANCE THOUGHTS FEELINGS
As you can see there is one fundamental piece that’s missing in the previous diagram and that’s THOUGHT. Thought is the only link to your feelings. Your feelings are ALWAYS brought about by your thinking that’s occurring in that moment. This fundamental misunderstanding is the key to change and high performance.
‘Stress is part of my job!’ – A false belief made up of thought
‘I work at my best when under stress and pressure!’ – This may be the case but it’s exhausting!
‘I’m stressed because I have so much to do!’ – Your thinking about how much you have to do is stressing you out
‘My boss/colleagues stress me out!’ – Your thinking about boss/colleagues is causing your stress
‘I’m under pressure because of deadlines!’ – The pressure is created by your thinking regarding deadlines
‘My children stress me out!’ – Your thinking about your children in that moment is creating your stress
‘My partner/wife/husband doesn’t listen and it’s stressing me out!’ – It’s all to do with how you’re thinking about them in the moment
So, going back to the title, stress and pressure are a construct of thought, not of the event or circumstance. Something happens in the outside world, you have thinking about it, and in turn you generate feelings in response to your thinking. You truly perform at your best when you have very little on your mind. Or to put it another way, when you’re not caught up with your thinking. When your mind is free from overthinking, it allows thoughts to flow, it creates space for you to have new fresh thoughts and insights about the tasks at hand or whatever circumstance/event you face.
Stress and pressure, is your ability to overthink in your mind and that creates a ‘mental road block’. It creates tension in the body which hinders performance.
Athletes know this too well. This tension caused by overthinking vastly reduces their ability to perform on the day. A relaxed mind is a relaxed body. They call it getting into the ‘zone’ in sports but it rarely spoken about in the business or personal world.
In fact, the ‘zone’ is our default state of mind when we are not caught up in our thinking. I will cover this in detail in a future article.
High performance for me isn’t the ‘rah rah…come on let’s do this’ over inflated motivation that a lot of people think of. People think they need to be this way to be at their best and get things done. It does work for people but is often accompanied by a crash and burn. It’s exhausting.
For me, high performance occurs when the mind and body is free and relaxed. It’s a calm and not so serious way of being in the world. It doesn’t take away from the importance of getting things done on time, but from this place, the mind is free to perform optimally and produce outstanding work from fresh thought and insights that usually aren’t available from a rushed and cluttered mind.
Sustained, consistent and optimal high performance occurs when you approach work that was previously seen as stressful and pressured, from a place of clarity and free flowing thought.