In business and in life, if you're easy to stress, you're easy to outcompete.

In his book How Life Imitates ChessGarry Kasparov, the greatest chess player of all time, describes how mental stress helped him topple Anatoly Karpov to retain his title after an epic duel in December 1987. He writes, "[Karpov was] one move from reclaiming his title...but under pressure...he missed the best move..." 

The business world, like a chess match, is replete with psychological pressure. Just as a bad decision at a critical time cost Karpov his best chess move, a bad decision at the wrong time can cost you a brilliant business move.

You're more likely to make a bad decision if you struggle to perform under stress.

One of the most valuable habits you can cultivate to thrive in the  business  world -- as in chess-- is to learn how to recover as quickly as possible after a bout of emotional stress. 

Why is it so difficult to detach from emotional stress?

Emotional stress diverts your attention from your long-term goal so your mind can be  maneuvered by your activated, negative emotions.

In the moments that follow a stressful experience, your mind revisits your emotional memory of the experience and replays the scene. 

Each time your mind replays the scene, you re-experience the event. Every time you re-experience the event, you trigger the same emotions you experienced when the event actually took place. 

Your brain perceives the memory of the event as if it were real, even though it is over.

Don't tell your mind what to think -- tell it what to do. 

To "snap out" of your stressed state, your mind needs to adopt a new goal, but you can't tell your mind what to think because your thoughts are under the control of your emotions.

As I describe in my book Stress-Proof rather than telling your mind what to think, tell it what to do. 

One trick is to tempt your mind with an activity that is challenging enough to overwhelm your attention and that offers an instant reward when you overcome the challenge.

The temptation of the reward motivates you to engage with the challenge. In the process of overcoming the challenge, your mind adopts a new goal.

As soon as your mind is absorbed by a goal, it doesn't have the capacity to dwell on your stressful experience and replay the scene. Your emotions stop being aroused and they calm down.

When you're stressed, "thought follows action."

An empty mind can keep inciting your emotions after emotional stress. This is why one of the worst things to do after an emotionally stressful experience is to relax by doing nothing.

The moment an emotionally stressful experience is over, always do something intense that absorbs your attention. Don't let your mind wander.

While your thoughts guide your actions when you're calm, at times of emotional stress, your actions can guide your thoughts. 

Published on: Jan 29, 2019
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