If you are trying to transform your life or going through transition, there will be rough spots. You may think of them as stress but what if you thought instead of the natural tension you feel during an adventure?, The trick is in being able to tell the difference. To our body they are very similar – all tension – the difference is in how we hold them in our minds. Ultimately it is easier to be happy if we think of getting through the tensions or adventures of life. Stress we hold on to in a negative way and it makes us unhappy. This article explores this premise.
I am a teacher, and also a lifelong learner. In recent years, I have taken on several steep uphill learning curves, such as learning to live in a new country, learning advanced technology, etc. Consistently I noticed that great tension is felt just before a breakthrough in learning and understanding. Therefore, as a teacher, I suggest to students that when stressed in learning situations everyone focuses on aiding the growth (work harder) rather than focusing on diminishing the tension. Self help guru Brian Johnson reminds us that our relationship may also be a matter of perspective. When we are a TWO and our problem is a FiVE then we feel stress, but if we are in a TEN then we do not. In learning situations then, it becomes clear, that it is our growth in our personal capacity (our learning) that will diminish the sense that we are stressed. An example might be when we learned to drive a car, at first we were nervous, now we are not.
There is a second way to look at stress, as an indication that we are currently more concerned about being done with the task than we are with the task itself. From a holistic viewpoint, we all have a greater purpose in life, and sometimes we may have difficulty seeing that purpose in the minute details of what we are doing. I think of call-in-for-support jobs as an example. It must be very hard to keep a positive focus when our job is to listen to people complaining all day long. Looked at from another point of view, if the person felt their purpose in life was to be helpful to others, this job could be seen as a way to help them fulfill that purpose. It all depends not on the task itself, but on how we think about the task in relation to our personal greater good. Any job can be pleasurable or miserable depending on our point of view.
Decide whether this energy you are currently calling stress is: #1 actually tension created by the learning, or #2 stress created by wanting to be finished with what you are doing.
If #1, take a deep breath and push harder. When we acknowledge and lean into the tension created by growth it becomes easier. Give yourself permission to feel the tension and it begins to go away.
If 2), then you need a change in perspective or in context. Not willing to quit the situation that has you stressed? Then
Take a step back and think about the general topics in life that make you happy. Do you like social interaction in general, then how can you increase the social interaction in this task? If you like yourself best when you are loving and caring, then see how you can make this task include loving and caring.
Share your situation with people you trust, see if they can help you change your perspective.
The last step in the cycle of change or the first step in a new beginning
After we have put a new perspective or attitude in place we need to remember to come back to ourselves in a few days and ask how it is going? Sometimes the shift has been enough and our enjoyment of life has gone up enormously. Other times not so much so.
This leaves the process then as either finished or ready to move on to the next cycle of discovery. To use our earlier example, if the call center person could not change their attitude enough to enjoy their time at work, then they should investigate where else their talents for customer service might be better used, or, perhaps they should go back to school to enlarge their capacity and prepare for a later change in the work they do.
I hope that these thoughts are helpful, if you want to comment on any general or specific ideas that come to mind we can continue the conversation about the skills folks need to reinvent themselves. Which ones would make your six best list?
E. Alana James, Ed.D. writes, speaks, and consults with individuals, businesses and universities on the use of action research and other scientifically based processes that engender change.