Stop Trying to Manage Stress – Part 2
Last month we discussed trying to manage the external stresses that others seem to be putting upon us. As we learned,
A + B = C
where A = Actual Event, B = Brain’s Perception and Value Judgment, and C = Conclusion or Reaction. Many folks spend all of their time, energy and money trying to control (A) external events believing that it will change C. Yet, other people and the events (A) cannot make you do anything! It is your brain’s perception (B) that causes your behavior (C).
So, this month we’re going to talk about YOU. More specifically, we will discuss your expectations and how they are causing MOST of your stress. (Yes, I actually said that YOU are causing most of your stress.)
Let’s look at an example. If you expect to be able to drive in rush hour traffic without having to slow down, put your foot on your brake, or have someone merge in front of you, how much stress do you feel when someone “cuts you off?”
Here in Houston, I see a variety of responses to this unmet expectation. Some people honk their horns, others tailgate the perpetrator, still others wave to their neighbor with only a single digit in the air… ok, and some people do all three of these things at the same time. If you question them about their behavior, they will tell you something like “Well, they made me do it. If they weren’t such a stupid driver or if they stayed off the roads, life would be less stressful and I wouldn’t have to react like that.“
The truth is that the “stupid driver” cutting them off (A), did not cause their reaction, (C). It was only B, their brain’s perception, expectation, and judgment that caused C. How do we know that is was their expectation (B) and not reality (A) that caused their reaction? Take that same driver and reset their expectations. Tell them that 12 people are going to cut them off or drive stupidly in front of them on their way to work today. What happens when the first driver makes them put on their brakes? Any horn honking? Finger waving? No. In their mind, they’ll say “That’s one. 11 more to go.” Simply by changing (B), the brain’s expectation, you change C.
In last month’s newsletter, I shared with you the comments that I get from parents and spectators while umpiring Little League Baseball. Now, if I had the expectation that everyone was ALWAYS going to agree with every one of my calls, I would surely become upset by those comments (You can read them by clicking here.). However, I take my own advice and try to set realistic expectations so that I react in congruence with who I am and who I aspire to become.
Sometimes my initial thought (B) may be much like the Houston rush hour driver’s thought to respond angrily toward the spectators and “stupid” parents that don’t even know the rules. 🙂 If I reacted to these thoughts, I’d go over and tell them to be quiet or ask them if they’d like to put on the equipment and take my place. But then I realize that it would add more value to the game if I simply ignore their comments and stay true to who I am. In this response, I do my best and stay focused on giving the kids a great experience of the game of baseball.
Many folks have very high expectations of themselves and the world around them. Any attempt to have them lower these expectations is viewed as outrageous. I mean, what would happen if they stopped shooting for the stars and only shot for the clouds? That’s preposterous!! is often their reaction. Yet, when we look at how the brain works, dreams (the stars) set the direction; goals set the destination. When you get these 2 things mixed up and transpose them, you set yourself up for stress and lots of it.
If your destination or goal is ‘perfection’ or ‘making everyone happy’, when will you reach that destination? Would you agree with me that the answer is never? Ok, so if that is your expectation, how often will reality match your expectation? How often will you get the opportunity to celebrate your success? (Never? Right?) What would happen if you decided that today you were going to use “perfection” as the direction (not the destination) and set a realistic, achievable goal? For example, rather than having the goal of changing the world (or your team or your management’s expectations), what if your goal today was to add value to one person’s life? Do you think you’d have the opportunity to celebrate that at the end of the day?
When you learn to become more aware and mindful of your own unrealistic expectations, you will “magically” lower your stress. You will laugh at the unrealistic thoughts that your brain is giving you and throw them away. You will choose to set more realistic “destinations” that still take you in the direction that you currently dream of. The great thing about this approach is, if while shooting for the stars, you land on the moon and celebrate; while you are celebrating you have the chance to look around. If you look down upon the earth and become fascinated with the ocean and decide to explore that new realm, you aren’t a failure. You simply change your direction and live a more fulfilled life knowing that your goals (stops along the way) added value and joy to your journey. You don’t have the opportunity to change your direction if your destination is the stars because anything less than the stars is failure.
So, here are a few tips for you when dealing with your expectations.
- When you feel frustrated, anxious, stressed, or discouraged,
- take a deep, relaxing breath,
- be present in the current moment, and
- observe your brain’s expectations.
Are you hearing the word “should” in your head?
“They should be doing this.”
“It should not be this difficult.”
This is what we call “shoulding all over yourself”. To continue a theme from last month’s newsletter:
- Broaden your perspectives. If you have completed your VQ Profile and received your free First Steps Report, ask yourself your Centering Questions from page 5. These questions will instantly transport your mindset to one of your strengths where you can find more options (which naturally lower your stress level.)
- Be aware that YOUR expectations play a large role in your stress level. Remember that another person’s expectations of you have no “real” impact on you unless YOU allow them to impact you. You do NOT HAVE to do anything. You may choose to, but you are always at choice. There is power and peace in choices. Remember that you have them.
Attempting to manage the outside stress can be the cause of stress. Not effectively managing your “inside” expectations will compound your stress. Spend your time, energy and money on the ONLY thing on this planet that you can truly control… the perspectives that you take when looking at the world and your response to your own thoughts about the event or situation.
Coaching groups are starting up again soon (along with the school year.) If you are struggling with stress and want to get a better handle on your thinking and find more peace, sign up today!! You have nothing to lose and a lot to gain.