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The Simple Way to END STRESS On Mental & Emotional Levels…

11 January 2011 No Comment


There’s what’s known as the Serenity Prayer:

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

and then there’s the Stress Prayer:

Grant me the stubbornness to struggle against things I cannot change, the inertia to avoid working on the behaviors and attitudes that I can, and the foolishness to ignore the difference…most of all, grant me a contempt for my own human imperfection and the limits of what’s logically possible.” (adapted from Neil Fiore)

———— Some Basic Points ————

1.) Criticism, humiliation or other forms of pain in our past cause us to develop phobias (fears in response to certain things, in this case certain types of work), and these phobias are what block us from taking action.

2.) PROCRASTINATION IS PUTTING OFF WHAT YOU FEAR: it’s a phobic response to work associated with anxiety, and it’s also addictive because, in a sense, it actually rewards you by lowering the tension that anxiety creates.

Besides the terror of anxiety, worry and overwhelm, there’s also:

>> the fear of failure (rejection, inadequacy, etc.) and, interestingly,
>> the fear of success as well, because success raises expectations

(i.e: you fear that you’ll have to work even harder to maintain that level of success once you reach it, and eventually fail under that pressure)

The best way to handle stress and anxiety in general is by letting go of the things you don’t control (what’s referred to as “healthy boundary functioning”).

The best way to handle stress in regards to a specific task (something you do control because it’s your responsibility) is by de-constructing the stressful approach you’re taking towards that task…

———— Stress Originates Psychologically ————

Stress DOES NOT come from the task itself – it comes from the mental construct you have of the task or the method you’re using to get it done.

We get stressed by thinking of goals in vague, intimidating and overwhelming ways: we tend to have two-dimensional, kindergarten perspectives about our goals as if they’re these mega-huge superstructures that we’ll somehow magically “do.”

We tend to ignore the natural path of trial and error between where we are and where we want to be, and experience anxiety and stress as we attempt to instantly make that transition.

Niel Fiore, in his book The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination, uses a client of his as an example:

“As an eager and productive new lawyer, Joel found great satisfaction in working on depositions and briefs that he could do quickly. However, he shied away from more complicated cases, and his fear and procrastination began to get in the way of his advancement in the firm.

Whenever he was forced with an important or risky case, his physical and emotional reactions were so strong that he felt stuck…unable to do anything. His worrying resulted in insomnia, indecisiveness over small issues and an excessive use of coffee and alcohol. He worried about making a mistake, about his inability to handle the case, about how much work he’d have to do to just adequately complete it, and about his devastation if he failed. In his own words:

I get so intense about the possibility of losing the case that I stop myself from ever starting the necessary preparation. This makes me so anxious that I can’t decide how I’m going to handle it: how I’d approach the opposition, where’s the best place to start and so on.

Then I get so frightened that I’ll make a mistake on my choice of what to do that I waste additional valuable time. Eventually, my nervousness and procrastination leave me unable to find time to take depositions and meet court dates…

——— Wisdom and Solutions ———

From this, we can learn three major “thinking faults” we all seem to share. Look to see which ones apply to you:

african american woman stressed out with headache1) We assume we should know the right place to start, so we get indecisive and look for perfection from the very first step. We forget that there are almost always multiple adequate ways to start something and that, even if there weren’t, it’s always better to just get into the flow anyway.

We get caught in the trap of perfectionism and right-or-wrong thinking…once we assume that everything has to be perfect from jump all the way through, we either never get started or never gain enough momentum to finish.

2) We enhance that initial anxiety by assuming we should be able to start and complete a project without any anxiety at all. Our self-criticism builds on the initial worry itself, with inner-dialogue like, “I need to discipline myself. I should know better already…” and

3) We get additionally self-critical in the sense of “I should be done already,” or “How will I ever finish if this is all I can come up with?” We’re constantly comparing our imperfect progress with an imagined, fully-complete ideal.


1) Solve the first issue by giving yourself permission to make mistakes: whenever you catch yourself in your perfectionist urge, just STOP and remind yourself it’s okay to do things wrong.

In fact, the next time you start working on something, start with the INTENTION of doing things wrong just to get yourself out of the perfectionist habit and get yourself into a flow.

2) Solve the second issue by anticipating anxiety and stress in the first place. Understand that it’s completely natural to experience a certain level of stress because you’re learning a new way of doing about things. Like I was telling a friend on facebook the other day:

african american woman using phone

So on one hand, if you’re like most of us, you’re probably not only in the habit of procrastinating, but you SEE YOURSELF as a procrastinator as well…

This takes more then just some knowledge or insight to change… don’t expect to just transform because you understand it now. You’ll have to spend some time working on yourself and making minor improvements OVER TIME.

3) Solve the third issue by remembering the Chinese wisdom, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

I got scared and intimidated A LOT when I first started writing my book…one of the things I told myself to get through it was:

If I can write sentence, I can write a paragraph, and if I can write paragraph, I can write something the length of an article. If I can write something the length of an article, I can write something the length of a chapter, and if I can write something the length of a chapter, I can write something the length of a book…

And when I first start drumming, I never focused on becoming as good as everyone else around me (I used to rehearse with “The Cadets of NYC” a highly-advanced drum corp based out of New York).

I just focused on learning one thing a week: we rehearsed on Sundays, so throughout practice I’d just silently observe all the other players and choose one cool thing I was going to learn before the next rehearsal.

Throughout the week, I just concentrated on mastering that one thing and before I knew it, I built up an arsenal of cool songs and tricks I could do almost perfectly without effort.

Similarly, stop looking at your goal as a single skyscraper you need to leap in a single bound, and start mentally sub-dividing it into smaller, more manageable pieces of work.

If you have a deadline to meet, break the project down into realistic segments of work that actually feel “accomplishable” and give those segmented tasks miniature deadlines themselves.

For instance, if you’re goal is to create a video and upload it to youtube,

Step 1) Make an outline of what you want your video to contain
Step 2) Record the footage (or choose the images in the case of a slide-show)
Step 3) Make the audio content (or choose the background music)
Step 4) Edit & Finalize the video
Step 5) Create a youtube account and upload the movie file.

This is a major component of “The Now Habit” and “GTD” (Getting Things Done): focusing on the next action that can be done in the present moment

When you learn to look at projects this way…instead of facing a large, looming, impossible task, you’re now facing small units that you can actually see yourself accomplishing.” ~ Niel Fiore, Ph.D


p.s: Burn the thoughts, beliefs and attitudes of the happiest, most effective people into your mind and you’ll feel how THEY feel, do what THEY do and get the same results that THEY get! Click here to find out how EASILY…

malcolm x think knowledge
>> Overview of the Conquer Yourself series
>> The 5 STUPID THINGS Intelligent People Do (Preventing Their Success)
>> See below to “Share the Knowledge” w/ some of your friends, and
>> Check out the latest from the blog, “Today’s Transcendence…”

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