How to Stress Less this year

This is a simple philosophy or way of looking at what happens in life to help you cope with things and feel less stressed. It’s taken from Stoic wisdom and philosophy and I first heard it on a podcast from someone who’s name escapes me (sorry, whoever it was!).

It’s simply this.

Control what you can control, cope with what you can’t, and concentrate on what’s important. 

Control what you can control

Most of the time, we are stressed and focussed about things that we can’t control. The weather, the economy, what someone else thinks of us, whether the train will be on time or not, whether there will be any delays on route. We can’t control any of that. We might be able to control the route we take in the car, or whether we get the train in the first place, but once we’re on the train, we can’t control whether it arrives on time or not. It will arrive when it does. You will be on time, or you won’t. You can’t (at that point) control it.

Where in your life are you spending time thinking or worrying about things that you can not control.

Charlie Jones, an award winning commentator at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games was assigned to cover the rowing. He interviewed the competitors and was asking them questions similar to

“What happens if it rains or wind gets up, or the current is strong?”

“That’s not in my boat.” Was the reply.

They can’t control that. They can only control what they do in their boat.

My friend, Leon Taylor, a silver medal winning diver from the 2004 Athens Olympics also had a similar philosophy about controlling the controllable.

When he took is second from last dive at the Olympics, he didn’t look up at the scoreboard. What was the point? He couldn’t control what the judges would give him now. And if he had looked up, he would have seen he was in 4th place (again, like the 2000 games) and that would have thrown him off.

Instead, he could control what he did in the 20 minutes between dives. He went and played a silly games (Pass the Pigs) with his synchronised diving partner, and then went into the jacuzzi, did his visualisations, breathing and warm ups.

Then he went out and took his synchronised dive. And they got enough to get a silver medal!

Control what you can control. Leave everything else.

Cope with what you can’t

We have to be strong. We know that things are going to happen that we can’t control. We’re going to miss a connection en route to an important meeting. We’re going to get splashed with a puddle by a passing car one day. We’re going to lose our job or that promotion.

We are not defined in life by what happens to us, but rather how we respond (or cope with) what happens to us.

Learn to build resilience, flexibility and tenacity to cope with what is thrown at you.

Concentrate on what’s important

A lot of us major in minor things. By that I mean, we over state things that really aren’t that important to us. Is that minor argument really worth the stress? Do you really need to watch another pointless video, or work on that presentation to get you the promotion?

I heard it said once by the late great Stephen Covey that “the main thing, is to keep the main thing, the main thing.”

Don’t get sidetracked into things that zap your energy and attention. Concentrate on what’s important to you.

If you learn to live by this one sentence, you’ll see the stress melt away.

Control what you can, cope with what you can’t and concentrate on what’s important.

What do you think about this? Let me know below.

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