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Family, work, kids, health, wealth and happiness.

In life, there is so much to do and so little time to do it. We want to be perfect and excel in everything we do, and we compare ourselves to others to see how well we are doing. After all, the mark of success is doing better than other people, right?

We live in a competitive world full of judgement and expectation. Life is fast-paced and we need to be on top of our game to succeed. With so much to pack in and care for, every second counts. In order to keep up, we need everything to run like clockwork. Unfortunately, life doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes events conspire against us. Everyday life can frustrate or prevent us from achieving our aims and objectives.

Imagine the following scenarios:

  • You have been suffering from persistent migraines for the past month. You phoned the doctor, but the best appointment you can get is two weeks away. Meanwhile, your boss is on your case. A merger is just around the corner. No one knows if his or her job is safe and there’s tension in the air.
  • Your head is all over the place and everything seems a blur. Your child has a temperature and won’t settle. You have been up all night and are now running on empty. You can’t find childcare, so you need to take the day off work. Meanwhile, you have a deadline that has to be met and you are stuck at home with a child requiring constant attention.
  • Today, you have a meeting with your investors and the accounts need to be prepared. Meanwhile, two key staff members have just handed in their notice. Your sales figures are down and it’s the end of the month. One of your biggest clients is demanding the impossible and another client is refusing to pay you for work done. You have costs coming in from everywhere and your right-hand man is demanding a raise. No two ways about it, running a company is a stressful business.

Everyone experiences situations and circumstances outside of their control. Contrary to popular belief, you can’t plan for or control every eventuality. None of us are mind readers nor can we be certain how the future will play out. Everyday life can be unpredictable, volatile and extremely stressful.

That said, stress is the opposite of success. We all need to take active steps to reduce our stress levels if we want to remain on top of things. Scientific research shows how stress negatively impacts health, energy levels, speed of thought, decision-making, creativity, productivity and performance (according to Baumeister 2007). The best thing to do is try and stay calm.

All of this makes sense in theory, but what good is theory when you are in crisis mode? You may not be able to control how events unfold, but you can control how you react. Knowing you can react well to unexpected news and changes in your environment is an empowering process. It leads to feelings of relief, control and raised confidence levels. Keeping your head in a crisis gives you access to greater levels of mental resource to deal with the situation at hand.

When it comes to achievements, we should avoid measuring our success against others because people’s life circumstances are very different. Instead, we should measure our success in terms of how well we responded to the challenges presented to us. Ultimately, it is a more practical and fulfilling measure of how well we are doing.

Don’t hold yourself accountable when life throws up unexpected consequences. Some situations can’t be anticipated and are just outside of our control. They are not an indication of our ability to get the job done. Remember this and you are more likely to stay in control, no matter how stressful things become.

Next time you feel stressed or are under pressure, try following these steps:

  • Stop and take a deep breath.
  • Take active steps to reduce any strong outbursts of feelings and emotions.
  • Don’t think about the situation until the strength of your feelings subsides.
  • Determine what’s within your control and what’s outside of your control.
  • Before you do anything, take a bit more time out to process this information.
  • Focus solely on what’s within your control, then make an action plan.
  • Put this plan into action.

Manage your emotional reaction first, then deal with the situation. You will feel calmer, have greater control and will be more likely to make good decisions. — Jonathan Lipitch

Jonathan Lipitch is a professional coach, psychologist and management consultant. He works with individuals, businesses and organizations to reduce stress, boost productivity and raise performance. Lipitch is also a visiting lecturer and keynote speaker.

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