Managing stress was at the center of a coaching discussion I had with a CEO a few months ago. He was very successful and his success is attributed to the hard work he put in to his job. He gave his job first place and was willing to work late in to the evening, work on weekends and travel extensively for the success of his organization.
He had not adequately developed his team to take over responsibilities as he preferred to get things done on his own. While this worked for a while, it was taking its toll when the organization grew to a larger scale. He was also having issues at home as his two teenage sons had lost interest in studies and sports and preferred a lazy life engrossed in video’s and games using the expensive devises the father had purchased for them. His wife had given up trying to get him involved in family matters and was trying to manage on her own, but the absence of the father’s love, guidance and attention could not be compensated adequately by her. This is a source of stress when he returns home.
Matters at work are becoming worse for him due to the emergence of a competitor who was taking a large share of market share, resulting in drop in profits and pressure from the board of directors to address it. He has been given six months to turn around the company or leave. This is also causing him tremendous stress. Due to the lack of exercises and proper timely meals his health has deteriorated and the stress has a big impact on his sleep. He is exhausted when he wakes up due to the poor quality of sleep causing a negative cycle causing more stress.
After listening to his story, I suggested a very powerful stress management tool I use at my ‘Mastery of Self’ training. This technique titled ‘choice’ requires the stressed person to ask him/her self, two powerful questions;
- How do I take good care of myself right now?
- Can I change the situation, if not can I change my attitude?
After asking himself the first question he gave himself the following answers;
- I need to be calm and preserve my positive energy so that I can find solutions to deal with this situation
- I need to care for my family and create a positive environment so that we can use the positive energy to overcome this challenge.
Then he asked himself the first part of the second question, can I change the situation;
- Yes, I can help change the situation by giving my wife and children some time so that I can start being the husband and father that they had missed.
- I can start having conversations with my team, listen to their concerns and ideas and start implementing what’s practical so that I can send the message that I am transforming in to a better leader.
- I can change the situation by making my family happier and my business more successful in a small way by taking these steps.
Then he asked himself the second part of the second question as he could only partially change the situation; If not can I change my attitude? This answer starts with an ‘attitude of gratitude’. What can I be grateful for right now?
- I am grateful that my business is still profitable although the level of profitability has declined.
- I am grateful that my family is sill with me andwife cares for my children and my children are responding to my care and love.
- I am grateful that I have customers who appreciate the services of my company.
With the attitude of gratitude, he started feeling good and the stress started receding. He accepted my suggestion that he was not stressed, but he was actually ‘blessed with responsibility.
Then he stayed in the second question and asked, what attitude change will help me to improve this situation?
- I need to be relatively unconcerned about what I can’t control and focus on what I can control. Therefore, I need to focus on my business, develop my team and delegate important projects to them.
- My family is my oxygen; therefore, I need to give them time that is liberated by delegating at work
- My health is my wealth; therefore, I need to look after my health by allocating a few minutes a day for exercises, take nourishing food and get quality sleep.
- Instead of being pressurised by my board, I need to try and understand them and respond positively.
I reminded him of the work we had done on purposeful living and inquired from him if he sees a relationship between the actions and attitude changes he was planning. His eyes lit up at the question and he said, how did I miss that these were the same actions I planned to live purposefully? If I had taken these steps at that point I would have not been in this situation now. I was running behind goals rather than focusing on being purposeful.
I reminded him that there were other aspects of purposeful living that include being of service to his social concerns in addition to himself, family and his team and that these steps are the vital building blocks to build himself to be fit for purpose.
With the attitude change he started living purposefully. His state of mind, his health, the harmony in the family and his business started improving. He had regular interactions with his board of directors, team and customers and started bringing about important changes in the organization. His state of health, family life and business started improving.
Stress is a choice. Stress is the negative interpretation of pressure. Those who take the pressure positively and the challenge that caused the pressure as a blessing, use it to grow emotionally, spiritually, mentally and physically. Therefore, those with a sense of purpose and who attempt to live purposefully can convert their pressure in to success easily, as they know that such pressure makes them fit to be of service to this world in line with their purpose.
Click on A Glimpse of our Purposeif you would like to start finding your ‘purpose’ or to renew your existing ‘purpose’. Ideas about how to live purposefully can be seen in the blog post; Building ourselves to be fit for purpose.Once a glimpse of the purpose is seen, it becomes easier to live purposefully and this will help convert pressure in to success rather than in to stress.
This story is based on real life coaching experiences of the author; the details of the CEO referred to in this post have been adjusted significantly to preserve confidentiality. I hope it provides a practical solution to those facing similar situations.
My blog post of the last six months addressed the impact of violence, religion, politics, sports sales and the insurance profession on the lives of people and how to respond from the frame of purposefulness. We continue to explore purposefulness, this time in relation to stress.
I hope this short blog post inspires you to find ways of making sense and dealing with experiences and struggles you encounter trying to live purposefully.
I wish you purposeful living!