As a leader, you can find the calm, clear mind you need, right now … and turn stress into an opportunity.
Chronic stress has disastrous consequences. It diminishes your ability to think clearly and respond appropriately, and it contributes to serious health problems, from insomnia and addictive behavior to high blood pressure and cancer.
The cost of stress are also enormous for organizations — from increased healthcare expenditure to poor performance, demoralized workers, high turnover, bad judgement, safety errors, and poor customer relations.
As a leader, your own ability to deal with stress has a huge impact on others, too, because the decisions you make — and the tone you set — affect so many people. Indeed, the stress that is created, perpetuated, and distributed by leaders — often unconsciously — can adversely affect entire teams, organizations, and communities.
In my experience coaching some seriously stressed-out leaders, few know how to take the time — and few have the courage — to acknowledge — even just to themselves — that they are experiencing stress, as if admitting this would be a sign of weakness.
Many leaders also don’t know how to distinguish “good” stress — the kind that comes from the temporary adrenalin rush of competition — from “bad” stress that comes from overwork, too many demands on their time, chronic anger, and fear. They just become addicted to stress in general.
So, the critical question to ask yourself now is:
Can you really afford to keep going in this way?
The first step of transforming your relationship to stress — as described in my article, Get Real — is simply to become more honest about what’s happening right now. If you’re feeling stressed, just stop for a moment to acknowledge this to yourself, privately.
Though this may seem a simple thing to do, stopping for a moment to acknowledge that you are stressed is a big deal. For as soon as you acknowledge that you are stressed, the locus of control begins to shift back from other people to you. Because it’s your feeling. And that’s something you can do something about.
Once you make this shift, you can start to deal with stress more effectively. You can stop being a passive victim of external “stressful” circumstances. You can handle stressful situations in a way that is, well, a lot less stressful. For example, you can do something, such as a moment of meditation, to unhook yourself from that stress response quickly.
With practice, your habitual response to stress may start to seem like a rusty old suit of armor that you don’t need to wear anymore — for you now have the ability to just step out of it. This enables you to respond to the demands of life with more skill, freedom, and flexibility. And you are spared the extra stress caused by responding to stress stressfully.
It’s not that you will never get stressed again. But once you have decided to invest in the moment, you will get the ability to establish a calmer state of mind at will. You might even discover your own “quick access key” — a way to access a calmer state of mind at a moment’s notice.
This is the ultimate leadership tool. It gives you presence of mind. And, with this quick access key, you can even pivot situations of extreme stress into real opportunities.
Once you have the ability to enter a calmer state of mind at will, you have the ability to open a big window to a better way of working … and not just for you, but for your entire team and workplace.
And it all starts with you, right now.
And it really only takes a moment.
Read the next article in this series: Cultivate Presence
For updates follow @MartinBoroson or #investinthemoment