“Do you want to be a lump of coal or do you want to be a diamond?” That’s the first question I ask to begin my stress management seminar called “A Diamond is Nothing More Than a Lump of Coal That Handled Stress Very Well. ”
We seem to have some interesting misconceptions about the stress in our lives. The most common is that stress is something to be avoided at all costs, and true happiness comes from being totally stress free.
That’s just not true in the real world. If you don’t believe me, check out the results of a study conducted into the effects of stress on performance. In the study, subjects were instructed to watch trains pass at a crossing and to write down a five digit number on the side of the train. At first the trains came by slowly, then continued to speed up until the numbers were just a blur going by. The researchers then counted the number of errors in copying down the numbers on the train. Here’s the results - when the trains were going very fast, there were many errors, as might be expected. The interesting thing is that there were just as many errors when the trains were going by slowly. The best scores were when the trains were going by at a moderately rapid rate.
One of the lessons for us in this study is that a certain amount of stress, managed properly, not only does not harm us, it’s necessary for optimum performance.
Back to the question with which I started this column - “Do you want to be a lump of coal or a diamond?” There are questions, beliefs and actions that go along with being a lump of coal, and there are questions, beliefs and actions that go along with being a diamond. Let’s take a closer look at each of these categories.
Lump of Coal Questions and Beliefs
Why does this always happen to me? A good victim question that takes away all your power to do anything about the situation. This shouldn’t be happening, it’s not fair! Another victim belief. Same result - no power or strength fo change. If it’s stressful, I shouldn’t do it. Then you may not do much, because stress is an indication that you are still alive.
Lump of Coal Actions
Giving up. The worst thing we can do when dealing with stress. An old quote helps us understand why we do this - “when you’re up to our posterior in alligators, it’s difficult to remember your original intention was to drain the swamp!”
Taking it out on others. Stress seems to roll down hill onto the other people around us.
Becoming “stressed out”. Becoming stressed out freezes our creativity and sense of humor, and leaves us stuck.
Diamond Questions and Beliefs
How can I make this work for me? Another old quote applies here - “when life hands you lemons, the only winning choice is to make lemonade. ” While that my sound too nice and easy, think about it for a moment. Simply asking the question “how can I make this work for me?” opens up our mind to the possibilities and creative choices available to us.
I can handle it. When it comes to handling stress like a diamond, this “the phrase of champions. ” An even better phrase is “in how many ways can I handle it and enjoy the process. ”
Living a life of fulfillment and purpose. Managing stress well allows you to live a life well lived.
Confronting stress head on. Seeing stress as a challenge allows us to be proactive and creative in designing a “diamond life. ”
Making stress work for you. The number one way to make stress work for you is to take action. Taking action allows you to sharpen your skills and become a diamond. Now, just to be clear - am I saying that stress is always good for you? Of course not. There are certain types of stress as well as certain times in our lives when the healthiest thing to do is remove ourselves from the source of stress.
Am I saying that there are ways to handle the stress in our lives that can make it work for us, that allow us to thrive instead of just survive? You bet I am!
A lump of coal or a diamond. Which will it be for you?
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