He sipped his coffee and looked out again at the lake. It was a beautiful early morning at this Midwestern body of water. A light fog rose from the water’s surface. A duck’s call echoed along this former river channel. Far off, we could hear a fisherman’s boat engine fire up as he tired of one spot and decided to move on to another. It was the kind of morning that causes serenity to fill your lungs and slowly replace the smoke of the drive and press of modern life. It was peaceful. It was free. But there was a tension on my friend’s face as a result of the subject I had raised in the middle of this peaceful morning.
“That really is the question, isn’t it?” he said when he finally spoke. “That is the question I and my executive team grapple with at the end of the day. We have brought in gurus and psychologists but they say the same things we have all always heard. It seems like you can work on one side of that equation or the other, but achieving both sides feels… illusive.”
Then he asked the question that all of us who want to make a difference in this life ask: “How do we lower our stress and still keep our edge?”
And that really IS our question isn’t it – both sides of that question? Down deep we think we might know the answer, but we are afraid we will not like it. We are afraid the answer is: “You can’t.” But we would be wrong.
Most of us have this quiet sense that we might be able to do something about our stress but if we did, it might also limit our ability to play our game at the highest level. And we like the idea of accomplishing something in life, which is natural. We all have those desires and so we do not do anything substantial about our stress. We band aid it; we try to mute it. But there is a part of us that secretly believes we live on it. We were all designed to want to do something significant with our lives, to make a difference, to make a mark showing that it was important that we existed. From birth forward, we have this drive to fix things or build things or make things better in our lives or for others and unless something in life pushes us off that course, we look for ways to accomplish. We believe if we want to accomplish anything in life we have to care deeply and caring deeply brings stress. We believe if we get rid of the stress, well, then we have to say goodbye to the edge that causes us to accomplish as well. But, again, we would be wrong.
In the past, I have written in this blog some about the “how” to accomplish this and will unpack it here more in the coming months, so keep checking back. But for now, here is the 30-second version.
How do we lower our stress and still keep our edge? By focusing on consistency and excellence over targets and ambition.