Stress is part of life, they say, especially if you are trying to move up in your career or take your business to the next level. You just have to deal with it. So stress management has become a business worth billions in itself.
But what if that's just one big lie?
What if the only reason you're stressed out is because the wrong reality is running around in your head?
That's the view of leadership expert John Murphy, author of Miracle Minded Manager. Working in his own consulting firm and helping executives around the world reach their best, Murphy's conclusion essentially is that the bulk of life's stress comes negative narratives we feed ourselves--that is, whatever you believe to be true is true, and to have peace, you have to change the narrative. That means you have to abandon the constructs your ego constantly tries to feed you, and that you must learn to see and address deep underlying issues, rather than putting a Band-Aid on surface level problems.
"Perception can be very misleading," Murphy says. "We can all look at the same thing and interpret it differently--a person, a traffic jam, a computer. It isn't anything 'out there' that upsets us. It's what we think that upsets us. [...] The mind is the only thing we have control over.
"Stress is a response to the mind. It doesn't happen to us. It comes from us. Therefore, whenever we are feeling anxious or afraid, it is wise to stop and consider why. In this situation, why am I choosing stress? What thoughts or beliefs am I holding in mind? This helps us get to the root cause of the problem and detach from it. Why manage something when we can delete it? Why solve problems inside a box when it is the box (ego thought system) that is the problem?"
As a real-life management example from Murphy's book, let's say you have a customer support call center. Calls are flooding in, so you hire more techs as a solution and tell techs to limit time on each call so they can assist more people. Problem solved! Except you're still going to have a headache, because you're not addressing why more people are calling the support center to begin with. Techs are stressed from the quotas and customers are unhappy from lower-quality help, too.
Or maybe Jane Schmane from one cubicle over keeps interrupting your work to tell you "mindless" stories. What if asked yourself why she's drawn to you or needs to talk and mentored her, rather than focusing on what you're not getting done?
So Murphy offers four steps to help you mindfully face any frustrating situation.
1. Let Be
"Shift from a mode of resistance to allowance. It is what it is. Be present. Be mindful. Be awake. Be aware. Be contemplative. Be patient. Be kind. Quiet the mental chatter with deep breathing and meditation."
2. Let Go
"Let go of negative assumptions and projections. Let go of criticism and judgment. Let go of fear and duality--the us-them, win-lose, right-wrong mindset. Let go of control issues, insecurity and doubt. Surrender the ego--the root cause to hostility, grievances and guilt. Drop any emotional baggage weighing you down and empty yourself of conflict."
3: Let See
"See a different world when you remove the filters obstructing your view. See people and situations in the world with enlightened perspective. Wow! This annoying person is calling for love and appreciation - just like me. This traffic jam is a reflection of my life - congested, imbalanced, stuck. The computer? Maybe I am the one who has been a little slow."
4: Let Flow
"Flow is effortless manifestation. It is our essence. [...] It is day and night, summer and winter, power and grace, always in perfect harmony and balance. Flow is where we are meant to be - when we allow it!"
In sum, elimination of stress and the acceptance of peace comes not necessarily from changing the world, but rather from clearing away all the learned clutter that prevents us from changing our view of the world. Even the biggest systemic "realities" (e.g., work "HAS" to happen from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) are up for reinterpretation and rewriting, and arguably, inner calm and innovation both stem from the same challenge of perceptions. Communicate your new thoughts and way of seeing, and you'll teach others to reach flow, too.