Mary Poppins was onto something when she melodically declared, “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” Unfortunately, there’s a lot more stress available than sugar in the average day. But fortunately, a “spoonful of stress” can also be quite motivating when you need to tackle a big job. It’s all a matter of how you perceive the stress.
When you’re in leadership, you’re very familiar with stress. There’s a lot resting on your shoulders. You have to make strategic decisions that impact others for better or worse. You have to handle confidential situations that other people won’t (and can’t) understand. It can be very lonely at the top, which is why it’s so important to know how to handle stress in a healthy way.
Not All Stress is Bad
It’s no secret that stress can be harmful to your health. It can lead to a myriad of health issues. However, in small doses – a “spoonful” at a time – stress can be very beneficial. It releases adrenaline that can boost your alertness and cognitive functions. Just think of how fast you can get ready on the mornings you oversleep and realize you have 10 minutes until you need to be pulling out of the driveway.
We all experience stress, so knowing how to manage it is important to living a balanced life. I have found this, Worrier Vs. Warrior, by Mark Merrill, to be a great encouragement as I strive to manage my own stress in a healthy way. Stress management is a life-long journey, but the tips in this article are great reminders.
- A Worrier is passive. A Warrior is proactive.
- A Worrier is paralyzed by fear. A Warrior admits fear, but does what’s needed anyway.
- A Worrier only finds peace when things go their way. A Warrior finds peace regardless.
- A Worrier becomes isolated and lonely. A Warrior seeks wise counsel and advice.
- A Worrier obsesses with problems. A Warrior searches for solutions.
- A Worrier lacks trust. A Warrior trusts God in all things.
Being armed with these statements provides a good defense against the dangers of stress. Instead of stressing over stress, use it as a motivation to act. These statements can be applied to personal and professional situations.
Worrier vs. Warrior in the Life of an Executive
I’ve taken these juxtaposing thoughts and applied them to the life of an executive. I’m sure you can think of your own applications. Part of being a Warrior is preparing your mind for battle. I recommend considering what these may look like in your life.
Passive Vs. Proactive – Don’t be threatened by your competition; learn from them. If they are excelling in some area, consider what you can do to boost an area of weakness in your organization.
Paralyzed by fear vs. motivated by fear – Accept a dissatisfied client’s criticism and use it to improve. If we don’t hear honest criticism, we won’t know where we’re missing the mark. We need to know what to focus our attention on in order to improve. Yes, it hurts to hear someone complain about you or your organization, but it can be a great lesson that can launch new successes.
Peace when things go their way vs. peace no matter what – Peace is found when you know your purpose is greater than yourself. I’m not perfect and neither are my clients and employees. Sure, I want to do my best, but recognizing that we’re all fallible gives me the freedom to make mistakes and not be devastated.
Isolated vs. seek wise counsel – Because business leaders have to bear a lot of burdens on their own, it’s imperative that you have close relationships with like-minded executives. My mentors, advisors and round-table connections have been invaluable to me. Being able to let your guard down in a safe setting is critical to maintaining a healthy amount of stress. These comrades can be (and have been for me) a sounding board and a source of great wisdom.
Obsessed with problems vs. searching for solutions – Getting bogged down in a problem can drain you mentally and physically. Rehashing the issue and obsessing over the nuances of the difficulty won’t bring a resolution. As I develop the mindset of a Warrior, I set aside discouraged feelings and channel that energy towards finding a solution.
Lack of trust vs. trusting God – At the end of the day, I know God is in control – and that’s a good thing. Knowing that the world is not relying on me to get everything right is very comforting and relieves a lot of stress. I have learned that when I feel overwhelmed, acknowledging my own limits is the quickest way to change my perspective. This is true professionally and personally.
So, appreciate a few spoonfuls of stress as you tackle challenges. Use your body’s natural response to stress to propel you to action. You might just accomplish things you wouldn’t otherwise take on.
Of course, we don’t need to go looking for more stress to do great things. I’m sure we all have plenty as it is. But with the stress that comes your way, learn to be a Warrior and not a Worrier.
We also want to learn from each other, our fellow co-laborers. Please let me know your best methods for being a Warrior and managing stress.