Let me tell you a little story that I think accurately depicts how stressed I was on a daily basis.
Telemarketing. The bullpen of sales. If there’s anything that gets the Cortisol pumping, it’s meeting quotas while chugging your 4th coffee before 9:30am.
I’d say I’m a soft-spoken guy. Loud parties exhaust me. I like spending 3 hours on a bike ride and blogging. Naturally, I was working at a job where my entire paycheck depended on me being obnoxiously extroverted over the phone hundreds of times a day.
My cubicle was right next to my boss, a legendary salesman and true manipulator. He could hear every phone call I had, and proceeded to berate and criticize me after every bad phone he overheard.
I was in the middle of a phone call that wasn’t going very well – I was trying everything I could to keep this person on the phone and interest them into buying, but they were frustrated with me, annoyed, and were ready to hang up.
Soon afterwards, the call ended – no sale. My manager jumps up, and begins his public assessment of me. He’s loud enough for the whole area to hear. He brashly explains how I messed up, what else I could have done, and most importantly – how the whole thing was my fault.
“You control the conversation. You control whether people bought or not. You choose whether you succeeded or failed.”
I believed him. I believed it was my fault, and I began stressing out more wondering how else I could have controlled the person on the other line, howI could have made the situation end in my favor.
I hopped back on the phones, with no break – just another coffee refill.
The root of my stress was believing the lie that I am in control of anything other than myself.
This spread to other areas. When my wife was frustrated with me about some small thing, I bought into the lie that the more I worried, pined over what I did wrong, and generally beat myself up for the mistake, she would forgive me faster, or the situation would resolve quicker.
I would wake up at 3:00am, remembering something I had forgotten about work, and clinging onto the thought that I needed to do X, Y, and Z to escape that feeling of panic.
Of course, this mindset + 6-8 coffees a day + 4-6 hours of sleep a night = a super happy, healthy, fun life.
I remember telling my wife that Monday-Friday felt like I was drowning in an ocean, and Saturday-Sunday I was able to cling onto a floating piece of wood and catch a few breaths, before I began drowning again.
It took me a long time to realize worrying about the problem did nothing to solve it. In fact, it made it not just a little worse, but a lot worse.
Here’s a 30 second clip from Bridge of Spies. Tom Hanks’ character is informing his client, a suspected Russian spy, that their court case looks bad, and that he might face prison for the rest of his life.
Here’s the one thing I can tell you about how my life is far less stressful. (I hope it’s more impactful than the 100,000 other “How to Be Stress-Free” articles out there.)
I realize there are many things I need to do: at work, as a husband, for my blog, friends, whatever.
I need to give the best performance I can with what I can control – namely myself, my words, and my actions.
After that, it’s out of my hands.
I can’t control what my boss thinks, what my wife thinks, what anyone else thinks. Therefore, I should save my energy, emotions, efforts, and actions for things I can control, instead of spending mass amounts of them on things I can’t buy.
How have you become more stress-free? Or better yet, what do you need to change in your life to do so?
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