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The Superpower that Shapes your Success and Fulfillment

development growth pressure stress Apr 18, 2024

Ever feel like stress has a secret vendetta against your happiness? You’re not alone. The reality is stress is both a motivator and a merciless oppressor holding us back. Read on for how to make stress a superpower and a powerful ally for good in your life, as well as what to watch out for.

Stress Upside #1: Motivation and Focus

In the most stressful parts of my career, I can look back and credit the stress I was under for helping me to bring out my “A game”, or at least the best that was in me. I certainly over-compensated by studying too much, reviewing too much, losing sleep at times, internally deliberating too much, and probably very inefficient in how I prepared, but stress drove me to make sure I was as ready as possible. This is a very positive aspect of having stress present in our lives as we realize it is working “for” us vs. “against” us.

Stress Downside to Watch #1: Health Problems

If you allow stress to overwhelm you, it can lead to significant health problems like high blood pressure, weight gain, cardiovascular problems, immune system deterioration, and overall burnout. Being self-aware is massively important, as is listening to what people tell you during times of stress. If your friend or significant other asks if you are OK, maybe it’s a good idea to listen to them and try to understand what they are telling you.

Stress Upside #2: Resilience Building

Over time I learned the value of stress in building resilience. Through experience I was able to see that adversity plays a role in my life, and it leads to confidence and a feeling that facing a challenge is not a “headache” but an opportunity to step up, deliver, and grow. The process itself of dealing with adversity is always hard, but in hindsight, it is always a growth opportunity as well. Over time this becomes clearer and the only way to understand this deeply is to experience it yourself.

Stress Downside to Watch #2: Mental Health Issues

Stress contributes to mental health issues such as anxiety disorders, depression, and panic attacks. The constant “grind on the mind” can affect mood regulation, leading to persistent feelings of worry, sadness, or agitation. If persistent and not dealt with, these can lead to serious life and death consequences. Realizing this may be present is your life is a massive step in the right direction. Another big deal? Seeing it in others and saying something to them.

Stress Upside #3: Performance Enhancement

There is no doubt that stress enabled me to do more in my career. It provided me with the necessary energy reservoir to take on the challenges of the day, to meet problems head on, and to avoid side-stepping difficult conversations that led to growth. If you want to lead a life of high performance, make stress your friend and learn how to get along with it.

Stress Downside to Watch #3: Impaired Decision-Making

One of the biggest downsides to stress in my life was paralysis – literally unable to assemble a coherent thought and come out with a lucid approach on a challenging issue. Days, weeks, and in some cases, months were lost, when all I really needed was a bit of focus, energy, and courage, and about an hour to make a decision and frame it up for others to move forward. If I could reach back in my career and apologize to everyone I caused pain and anxiety for in those times I didn’t make a decision in a timely manner, I would do so immediately!!!!

Stress Upside #4: Problem-Solving Skills

When using stress in a healthy way, it allows you to develop problem solving skills. It forces you to search, experiment, and try things leading to solutions in ways that may surprise you. The key is to lean into the challenge and allow stress to push you closer to a solution. Give stress a seat at the table and the power to keep you in the hunt for a solution. Not only will you solve the problem, but you will be a different, better person in the end.

Stress Downside to Watch #4: Strained Relationships

Our normal self that shows up day to day tends to be different than how we show up under duress or fatigue. One of the biggest downsides to stress is the impact it will have on our relationships. Most of the time in my life when this happened to me, the issue itself came and went just fine, but the impact it had on relationships was longer lasting and more severe than the problem itself. I wish I had found a better way earlier in my career to deal with this. I would have had better, richer, and more rewarding relationships.

Stress Upside #5: Personal Growth

Stress can be the nourishment in your career to take you from an acorn that takes root and eventually turns into a towering oak tree. It will literally lead you to personal growth, success, and fulfillment if you allow it to. You must see it as the positive influence it can be, while watching the downsides. If you want to be a lifelong learner using stress as a positive influence will accelerate your development.

Stress Downside to Watch #5: Decreased Quality of Life

On the other hand, barreling through life without a positive relationship with stress will guarantee you a decreased quality of life. You risk eroding most good things in life – relationships, fulfilling work, a sense of accomplishment, and even a good night’s sleep. As mentioned physical and mental health is at stake as well. The downsides of a poor relationship with stress are immense, comprehensively bad, and potentially life ending if taken to an extreme.

It’s time to take stress from being a silent saboteur that lurks in the shadows of your life, to a powerful ally that leads to a lifetime of passion and purpose, filled with success and fulfillment.