Friday, June 5, 2009

Push Yourself To Leverage The Power of Positive Stress

Let's face it, setting goals and trying to achieve them causes stress - and it's usually stress we can handle. . . most of the time. And so, we take on more and more every day, not realizing the toll it's taking on us, until it's too late. The stress stops being a positive influence on our lives and begins to destroy the very thing we are striving to achieve.

At first it feels good - you are making things happen and completing your goals. You feel good about yourself and the energy it brings to you. Unfortunately, it's very easy to push yourself too hard and too fast to achieve what you want - because you want everything . . . right now. And by going too far, we almost always end up losing all the gains we made in the first place.

So the key is to set goals that drive you forward, but not so fast that you can't handle the stress and that pace.

The Difference Between Eustress and Distress

The difference between your current reality, your day-to-day life, and your dreams causes stress - good stress (eustress). It is this stress that drives you forward to achieve your goals and make your dreams come true. It causes you to take actions and do the things that you must do, to change your current reality.

Eustress is a good thing. But as we know, too much of any "good thing" always turns bad.

When we push ourselves too hard, or a crisis comes up that we didn't anticipate, that eustress can quickly turn into distress (the bad stress in our lives) - the stress that comes from feelings of inadequacy, overburden, and failure.

While eustress will give you the energy every day to make your dreams come true - when you feel distress, it is destructive. You will do just about anything to make it go away. Change the condition that is creating it - as fast as you can.

What Happens When Good Turns To Bad

Without constant monitoring and self awareness, it is very easy to push yourself over the top and go from the positive of eustress to the destructive of distress.

When this happens, it's important to make a decision - either work through the distress, knowing it's short lived, or relieve it. In order to relieve the "distress" caused by chasing your goals and dreams, you have two options:

1. Change your current reality and make your dreams come true

2. Change your goal to ease the stress.

So, do you really have a choice? Not really - because you CAN NOT change current reality. Life, right this minute, is what it is. It takes time to change your current reality. It takes daily action and focus over time to change your current reality.

However, you can change your goals, making them easier to achieve or removing them completely from your life. Literally, you remove the stress, by eliminating what you want from your life - because it's easier (less stressful to live without the pressure of growth burdening you with pressure to perform.

Unfortunately, that is exactly what most people do. They simply lower their goals and begin down the dark side of life - a life void of drive / personal development.

When you lower your goals and ease your stress, you give up on living.

Think about this as you go through you day, today. Is the stress you are feeling, eustress or distress? It is a fine line - even when it's coming from your efforts to achieve your goals. You want create enough stress that you feel uncomfortable being where you are, but not so much that you give up or breakdown.

Your goals will drive your actions moving forward. There will be days when you push yourself too hard. And others when you barely push at all.

Be the Willow, not the Oak when Dealing with Stress

The key to growing day-to-day is to first being honest with yourself with where you are - your current reality. And then setting and analyzing your goals each and every day. When unforeseen, uncontrollable events begin to build up, and the eustress goes over the edge, you have crossed a threshold that you must reign in. Either you power your way through it (because you know its short lived) or you make some adjustments to your goals. Be a Willow Tree here not an Oak Tree (bend but don't break). Stick to your goals, but give yourself a little more time or energy to make them happen - be flexible enough to allow yourself to keep moving forward.

Push yourself - but do it in a healthy way.

The truth is if you land in the "world of Distress" too long, not only will you not reach your goals on time, but will most likely give up on them completely.

I'm sure you can even tell me of times when you broke the threshold of eustress to distress. And may have even broken it recently a bit. That's ok - you need to know where the threshold is - but make sure you come back quick.

Come back and give yourself room - to bend like the willow in the wind - is very important.

What's amazing about life though, is the more eustress you can handle and work with today - the more capable you are of increasing that in the future (you adapt and grow). It's like a muscle that grows stronger with exercise. But there will always be a threshold - be careful and make sure you have a system (often times an objective outside observer) to remind you to bend / not break when you get to close.

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