When you experience stress, recognize that this is coming from your own mind, not the world — and look for the belief triggering it. One way to do this is to identify the “should” in your thinking, such as “He shouldn’t have done that,” or “I should be in better shape.”
Next, gently try to see why — at this time — that belief may not be true in reality. Can you see the factors that have made it the way it is? Identify them. That’s why what happened happened. Learn to see and address these honestly instead of denying or blaming them.
At first, this is hard. You’re using mental muscles for the first time. The more you do it, the easier it becomes, and the more resilience and wisdom you develop. Then put this into action! We want people to take action, but from clarity instead of frustration.
Federal leaders are under enormous pressure with budgets cuts, hiring freezes and increasing workloads. Do you have any advice to help them cope with the stress of the job?
First, stress doesn’t come from what’s going on in your life. It comes from your thoughts about what’s going on in your life. Budget cuts don’t produce stress. It’s your thoughts about budget cuts that produce stress.
Here’s why that matters: Instead of learning to cope with or manage your stress, when you recognize that stress is a reflection of your own thinking, a door that had long been closed opens up. Great performance doesn’t come from pushing through stress. It comes from transforming your thought process so that you can recover that wasted energy and approach your challenges from an entirely different perspective.
The idea isn’t to say, “Oh, it’s all in my thoughts. I have to be more positive.” This isn’t about becoming passive or accepting. I’m talking about a deeper change that requires greater accountability and a new skill set.
How would you go about resolving tension between an employee and his boss?
I’ll give you an example at a high level of how this works. I was working with a team of financial advisors. One junior partner believed that his boss should trust him more. This belief was destroying his morale. It wasn’t the boss, but the belief itself that derailed his performance. He went through our process to challenge his own thoughts and came out of it realizing that in reality, his boss should not trust him more at that time because of a number of past experiences.
He saw ways in which he hadn’t worked to communicate his concerns. He had withdrawn and blamed his boss instead of stepping up and saying, “I believe you don’t trust me. Can we talk about what happened, and what I would need to do to earn back your trust?” So going from the belief “My boss should trust me more” to realizing that’s not true, and here are the reasons why it’s not true, opened his eyes so he could see reality and act differently in the future. A new relationship emerged as a result. It wasn’t positive thinking or acceptance. It was real insight.