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"If you change the way you look at things,
the things you look at will change."
- Wayne Dyer
An article in yesterday's Cape Times caught my eye. It talked about how business leaders around the world appear to be experiencing rising stress levels, if we are to believe a certain publication called the International Business Report.
The article got me wondering about whether this trend extends to individuals in their private capacities? My intuition tells me that it does!
Times of increasing unpredictability
I'm sure you'll agree that we live in times of increasing unpredictability. Unpredictability heightens our inability to control situations or the outcomes of events or processes. With diminished control comes more uncertainty - and with heightened feelings of uncertainty you get…
You guessed it - increased levels of stress!
Without painting too dark a picture, it's important to complete the cause-effect chain. Prolonged stress is well known for it's contribution to premature death through heart attacks, various cancers and, sadly, suicide.
So what can we do about this 21st century scourge?
A solution in the cause of the problem
In my opinion, ironically, the clue lies in the very cause of the problem - change!
Yes, the answer to the problem of stress lies in our own ability to bring about change within ourselves. I'm not talking about radical and improbable change like restructuring our human DNA - I'm talking about the need for a simple mindset change.
Let's face it. There's not a huge amount we can do, at least in the short term, to reduce the pace of change that is taking place in the world. So, for now, rising unpredictability is something we'll have to live with.
Something we can manage
However, the next link in the cause-effect chain happens to be something that we can manage - our inbred human desire to control situations and events!
An important teaching strand running through the New Insights life coaching programme is that we are responsible in life only for ourselves. Each of us has the right to choose how we wish to experience life. We have been given the gift of free will and the power to control how we act on, react to and interact with, our environment.
What many of us fail to appreciate is that when we seek to use our power to control our environment, or others, then we cross an important line. By applying our power to force external change we impinge on the rights and freedom that others have been granted to live life the way they choose to do so.
Live and let live
You've no doubt heard the saying "live and let live". It aptly describes what I am trying to put across. Live life the way you choose as you are fully responsible for you. Likewise, let others live life the way they choose as they are fully responsible for them.
When you start to realise that the only thing you can control - or need to control - is you, because that's where your responsibility starts and ends, then life takes on a whole new hue...
You will start to become more understanding and tolerant of your environment and others as you learn to appreciate that we are all unique and distinctive human beings. We each have a right to enjoy our own experiences, no matter how fabulous or bizarre they may seem to others - provided, of course, that we don't seek to control or manipulate others in the process.
Unfortunately, controlling or manipulating others is a common way in which people seek to relieve the stress associated with their inability to take full responsibility for creating the experiences that they desire. The easy alternative is to take it out on others.
Let me offer a simple (but unfortunate) example:
Our local paper recently reported the beating of a senior citizen in a road rage incident. Apparently an impatient young 21 year old got so incensed by his inability to overtake a slow moving vehicle in front of him that he forced the car to stop and set upon the elderly occupant, spraying him with pepper spray, punching him three times and leaving him at the side of the road.
This is a classic but extreme example of someone who tries to get his way, not by taking responsibility but by attempting to exert control over others who he perceives to be standing in his way.
A different mindset
A large part of the stress that we experience in modern day society can be overcome simply by taking on different mindsets. By acknowledging that we are fully responsible for our own lives and that others are fully responsible for theirs and by refraining from attempting to exert control over others so that they may be what we want them to be, we liberate ourselves from the stress that comes with feeling out of control.
Learning to appreciate that constant change in our environment is there to afford us variety, to challenge us and to provide opportunities for personal growth - not to threaten us - is the secret to leading a less stressful life.
In harmony with the environment
A dancer on stage learns to appreciate the audience mood, the music and the lighting in the theatre and to use her body, attitude and training to create harmony with that environment - not to try to control it!
So, if you're suffering from stress, I urge you to do two important things that will bring you great relief:
- Start to look at your environment in a more curious, accepting - and less confrontational - way. Realise that you are not responsible for it or for others and stop wasting your energy on trying to control what you cannot control.
- Take full responsibility for who and what you are. Realise your power to effect change within yourself and act to take back control of your own life.
Warm regards - Bill.
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