Feedback? More Like Needback

Do you want to get better at what you do?

Of course you do!

We’re all wired to want to be better, but sometimes it’s hard to see beyond our current situations.

“I’m good where I am.”

“I’m fine doing this the way I have been.”

“I’m so friggin good, I can’t get any better.”

Oh, honey…

Listen, we’re all biased. We don’t always mean to be, but it can be difficult to get a different perspective on ourselves when we spend 24/7 looking through our own eyes. To get better, however, that new perspective is necessary… Maybe a few new perspectives.

When I write a script, I never submit it without asking someone else for their opinion on how I can make it better. This is the first time that person is seeing this script I’ve read over and over for the last week, so chances are, they’re going to see it differently.

That’s the key benefit of asking for feedback.

A common misconception of receiving feedback is that you have to do what the other person suggests. If multiple people who aren’t in contact with each other have the same ideas, that’s definitely a sign you should do something, but if one person says, “Cut this line,” I always make sure to take a step back and ask myself:

“Is keeping this line making my script better?”

“Is it true to the character?”

“Does it advance the action or positively contribute to a joke?”

Whether I choose to keep the line or not, I was able to see the script through new eyes, explore new possibilities, and build my self-awareness, which are all necessary steps to create personal growth.

No matter what you’re working on and no matter what the person offering feedback says, he or she has provided you with a new vantage point and, from there, you can access a new level of self-awareness.* You now have new options and can decide whether to get other opinions, use the feedback, or ignore the feedback, but either way, be grateful to the other person for helping you glimpse a fresh perspective and contribute to your growth.

*Although if they call you an asshole and to never talk again, you may want to reconsider who you get your feedback from.

What’s Your Work Experience?

When you’re filling out a job application or updating your resumé, this is a question you have to consider. Your response is probably a list of previous jobs and brief descriptions that you think make you sound way better than how you would describe those jobs to a friend. Great. Now your prospective employer knows the version of your story you want them to know:

  • Provided quality customer service to customers
  • Accurately calculated ROIs for new company initiatives
  • Efficiently mopped

Looking back, however, what’s more important is your real work experience, or your experience of work. Think of the last job you had, what was your experience? Was it focused on making money to provide for yourself and your family? Was it centered around meeting and working with cool people? Were you there to give back to the community or fulfill a passion? Was it a positive, negative, or just “eh” experience? Was it filled with stress, dealing with impossibly difficult people, and a lack of motivation? Or was it enjoyable, filled with supportive people, and an inspiring, engaging environment? When we think of an experience, we think of something that happens to us or around us, when in reality, our experience is something we create for ourselves based on our perspective. If you work for an accounting firm because of the benefits, you’re going to have a different work experience than you would if you were there because you cared about your coworkers. Ask yourself, “What experience did I create for myself and others at work?” Then ask “How can I improve my current work experience, not only for myself, but for those around me too?”

One of my first days working at a restaurant in Cleveland, one of the people training me told me, “This place is bullshit. Get out while you can.” He was fired not too long after this and, according to him, the reason he was fired was, unsurprisingly, “some bullshit.” I have now worked there for over two years, but I know that if I were to spend it looking for “bullshit,” I’d find it and not enjoy the job like I have. Instead, I focus on providing guests and coworkers a fun, memorable experience by making my positive experience contagious. Though it isn’t my dream job, I have enjoyed every minute of it, all because of my conscious choice to mold my experience to make me and those around me better.

How can two people work at the same place and have two completely different experiences?

Imagine you’re a camera operator at a basketball game. You’re positioned along the baseline under the basket. On the opposite end of the court, a foul is called, resulting in boos from the home crowd and protests from the players. The TV broadcast then cuts to an instant replay from your camera’s angle to see what exactly happened, but because of where you were positioned, you didn’t get a clear shot of the incidental contact between players. However when the broadcast switches to another camera angle closer to the action, the foul becomes evident. Both cameras witnessed the same play, but each captured a different story.

The work experience you create is determined by what you choose to see. If you choose to see the “bullshit,” then it’s going to be tough to create a positive experience for yourself and the people you work with. If your focus is on creating a positive, rewarding experience, the “bullshit” will be harder to come by. What work experience did you create at your past jobs? What work experience are you creating for yourself at your current job? What kind of experience do you want to have? What can you do to change your experience into one that is enjoyable and fulfilling, but also supportive of those around you? Your call to action today is to assess your perspective of work, decide what type of experience you’d like to have, and take one step toward creating that experience for yourself.

Your experience depends on your camera angle, which determines your subsequent action, creating your result. I can’t imagine you wanting to be surrounded by “bullshit,” so create your work experience the way you want. The better your experience, the better the experience for those around you, and the better you perform.

Education: How to Make the World a Better Place

Want to make the world a better place than when you found it? Make the people around you better than they were when you found them.

We can spend years discussing the merits of gun laws, higher taxes for certain people, lower taxes for certain people, term limits, universal healthcare, equality, everyone gets a million dollars, etc. Actually, we have spent years discussing and debating these things, and the world is improving, but I’d like to take a moment to bring a new idea to the table so it can improve even more: education.

This isn’t exactly a new idea – we’ve known the education system has needed help for awhile, we just keep putting it on the back burner so we can argue about what someone shared in an email. As the world changes and continues to get faster and faster, we have a need to become people who can live and thrive in a fast-paced, ever-changing world. Meanwhile, our education system is stuck debating whether it’s okay to say a three-letter g-word in classrooms, and its ultimate end product is employees who adhere to this antiquated system.

This has nothing to do with building better schools, free college, or school choice.

This is about making our kids better people than we were. Because they have to make the world better than it was when they got here, they can’t do it with the same ideas we had. We have a responsibility to teach people how to make our ideas better, how to make other people better, and as a result, how to make our world better. Can we say with honesty that our curriculum inspires this attitude? How we contribute to the world hinges on what we learn as children and, now that we’re adults, how we teach our children. How are we teaching our children to treat others? To treat themselves? Is it making the world a better place?

What if you had learned in preschool that other people are different than you, and that these differences are what bring us together? Conflict originates from the belief that it is our differences that separate us when, in fact, they are what make us better. As kids, we didn’t understand why other people had their own motives and were never taught how. To learn how to navigate this world, we absorbed the beliefs of our parents, friends, and teachers, but we never learn how to improve upon them.

What if this class existed? Something called, I don’t know, “World Betterment 101” (I’m open to new names) where kids learn to:

  • accept and appreciate the points of view and beliefs of others
  • work together as a team to complete projects (sharing and being open to ideas, communicating through listening, and supporting one another)
  • use their strengths to better their weaknesses
  • understand the importance of failure, rejection, and mistakes and how to use them as opportunities to grow
  • focus on the gratitude for what they have and for what they have the potential to create
  • forgive
  • treat, not only others, but their surroundings and possessions as if we are them
  • have faith in possibilities, even when solutions seem impossible
  • get excited to expand your mind to new ideas

Learning the alphabet, colors, numbers, and shapes may be kind of a big deal, but learning to work together and make the world better is even more important. Think about how different your life would be if you had this educational backbone?

I just had another idea: change how we see teachers.

Any time we have a thought about someone or something, certain pictures come into our conscious minds that elicit feelings. What are the first thoughts and feelings that enter your mind when I say the word “hangover?” “Congratulations?” “Relationship?”

According to Miriam Webster, the definition of “teacher” is “one that teaches,” but a teacher does so much more than just teach, they’re tasked with being a dynamic influence on the futures of many people. When you hear the word “teacher,” what do you think? For me: authority figure, disciplinarian, tutor, school, homework, educator, and “Listen to me, David!!!” come to mind. For many students, especially those who can’t stand school, the word “teacher” carries a negative connotation. To my teacher friends, “teacher” means: underpaid, under appreciated, overworked, patience, work, school, sacrifice, stressful, and rigid, but also inspiration, understanding, leader, and mentor.

Speaking of the word “mentor,” according to Miriam Webster, the definition of “mentor” is “an experienced and trusted adviser.”

When I hear the word “mentor,” I think of someone who guides, inspires, and pushes me to be a better me. When it came to my teacher friends, they thought of guide, wants to make a difference, wisdom, teacher, role model, leader friend, confidant,

Though changing the title of “teacher” to “mentor,” may not overhaul people’s perceptions of education, it will help. The term “teacher” also serves as an abstraction that de-humanizes them and serves as a barrier in building relationships. Who do you think you would have a stronger relationship with, a teacher or a mentor? When I think of the dozens of people who have had a huge influence on my life, only five of them are teachers.

What if students saw their teachers as experienced and trusted advisers? How would they treat them? What if teachers saw themselves in the same way? If you were a mentor to your students, how would you approach your work differently? What if the government saw teachers as mentors instead, would, say, standardized tests be as important as they are now, does individual growth become more important?

Keep in mind, these are just ideas from one perspective. I’m no expert by any means, but I did stay in a- Nope! Not going to say it. I did not stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night, and am therefore not an expert on staying in Holiday Inn Expresses!

Sorry about that. Sometimes I think on my keyboard… Back to what I was saying.

I’m no expert on education by any means, but I think it’s time to start thinking of ideas for solutions that move us forward from getting mired in the problem. For change to occur, new perspectives are needed. That’s all I want to provide here. The world needs new ideas, and ideas are created by people like me and you. As they say, “Ideas are what built IKEAs, but ideas can also build better futures.”

(How many times can I write the word “idea” in one blog post?)

How do you think the ideas I presented would improve people? (People = the end product of our education system) What long-term problems can be solved if we learned concepts like empathy, appreciation, and creativity at a young age? What else do you think children could learn so they live a life that revolves around making the world better? If I were to call you a mentor, what do you picture yourself doing to earn that title? What ideas do you have that create a better world for yourself and those around you?

TED is a rabbit hole of useful information. Feel free to get lost in the ideas of these dynamic thinkers, working to make the educational system a better place. Trust me, it’s much more illuminating than falling into the Infinite Facebook Abyss:

“Never stop asking questions because the world is going to keep needing answers.” – Someone who answered the question “When do I stop asking questions?”

“Because without questions, there are no answers.” – The person who asked “When do I stop asking questions?” to his Motivational Quotes 101 professor following his response.

Okay, how many times did I use the word “ideas?”

5 Simple Steps to Show Your Team You’re on Their Side

Have you ever watched an episode of a soap opera, then, a few years later, tune into the same soap opera to find former friends as bitter enemies, former enemies as close allies, and former actors replaced with someone bolder and more beautiful? So goes the way of the soap opera. I suppose if you were to write an hour-long TV show that airs five days a week, you’d need to have your characters stab each other in the back, break alliances, and form new ones in order to keep things fresh. In the real world, however, if you want to be productive and keep your company on the air for over twenty years, backstabbing, withholding vital information, and working solely for personal gain isn’t going to do the trick. It doesn’t matter if you work at General Hospital or you’re located in Dallas, Knot’s Landing, or your zip code is 90210, a toxic culture will ensure turnover, decreased productivity, and a lack of passion. Whether you’re the CEO, HR director, or an accountant, if you consistently demonstrate that you’re willing to go out of your way to support your team, it will build their confidence, eagerness to produce, and inspire them to support those around them as well. If your workplace has developed a culture of support, your team can focus on what’s important, rather than be distracted by the ill intentions of others, and you increase your chances of success. Since we only have one life to live, we might as well live it to the fullest and transform work into something that excites us, so here are five simple ways to to demonstrate to your team that you’re there for them:

1. Create connections

You should probably see other people…
If there’s someone you work with who you aren’t very familiar with, make it a goal to learn five things about that person. Even better, take the time to learn about those who you don’t exactly see eye-to-eye with. Do they have kids? Pets? What are their names? What kind of things do they do together? What sort of hobbies do they have? What’s the coolest thing they’ve ever done? Learning about your coworkers will transform them from just another colleague to a real human with needs, desires, and passions. When you build a rapport with another person, it will be easier for you to take a step back and see yourself in them (but with different kids, experiences, and needs) through their humanity the next time you disagree on something. It also gives you a repertoire of conversation topics if you happen to get stuck on an elevator together.

2. Get excited about going the extra mile

You’re slogging through a looooong stressful day and the clock seems to be going backwards when suddenly, Janet from accounting knocks at your door and hands you a cup of coffee without you even asking. Even if you don’t drink coffee, this small action offers you a split second opportunity to reframe and refresh your situation because it communicates that someone cares about you. If you’re going out to pick up lunch, ask people if they would like anything. When you’re walking across the office to make copies, see if those around you need anything copied too. Distribute foot massages without expectation of reciprocation. Okay, maybe check with people before you crawl under their desks and start to remove their shoes, but the spirit of caring remains the same and can build goodwill between team members.

3. Smile

If someone had a rough morning with kids who don’t want to go to school, an argumentative spouse, or a coworker who doesn’t understand that “I don’t want a foot massage” means they actually don’t want a foot massage, a smile can go a long way. Simply making eye contact and sharing a genuine smile as you pass someone in the hallway can break up the snowball effect of a bad morning. Make it a habit to be happy to see everyone and others will be happy to see you.

4. Celebrate successes

Sure, it’s great to recognize the professional accomplishments of a team member, but to get the whole team invested in and excited for the successes of someone outside of work demonstrates that you care for their personal well-being too. Anyone can give a pat on the back for a job well done at the office, but to be interested in the success of someone outside of work bridges the gap between professional and personal relationships. It also gives them the internal inspiration to continue bettering themselves and to celebrate your personal successes too

5. Root for the home team

The people around us are the most important tool we have at our disposal. The beautiful thing about life is that we all have goals and, though some may be the same, we all have different reasons why we want to achieve these goals. A common misconception is that “there isn’t enough to go around,” however, this is blatantly false. We are wired to compete for resources so that we can survive to produce offspring and keep our species strong. The resource-abundant world in which we live has made this wiring obsolete, yet it still can rear its head and dominate our thinking: “He didn’t deserve that promotion, I did!” If, instead of competing for superiority, we worked together to make each other better, we would tap into a resource we don’t have at our disposal if we decide to fly solo: a supportive teammate. Focus on achieving your goal, but if the opportunity arises to share information, resources, or connections with others, don’t hesitate to do so. This has the potential to establish a supportive relationship that can flourish even more in the spirit of mutual growth. Disclaimer: be sure you aren’t working against yourself; the goal is to be constantly working to better yourself and those around you. In addition to being wired to compete, human beings are also wired to reciprocate; an evolutionary trait that won’t become outdated anytime soon. By shifting the focus away from being better than those around you, you can use that energy to focus on bettering yourself and those around you, a focus that can pay exponential dividends in the long run.

Now That’s What I Call Everything

NOW

NOW. Is that what I call music or is it the word my parents would use emphatically so I would get off my ass and do something? Now is both and it’s so much more. Now is so much more than three letters or the title of a never-ending music compilation that started in the 90s. Now is like pi: infinite and ever changing. Now is everything. Now is all we have. If you want to make a change, the best time to do it is always now. Life is just an infinite series of nows. Now was yesterday’s tomorrow. Now is tomorrow’s yesterday. Now is when I am writing this blog. Now is when you’ll be reading it. My initial subconscious response to, “I need to write a new blog post,” was, “Just do it tomorrow!” which is silly considering it will never be tomorrow, but it will always be now. If I had a dollar for every time I put something off until tomorrow and didn’t end up doing it at all, I’d be wearing a smoking jacket in an expensive, wood-paneled study, swirling a 21-year old single malt around a snifter, and dictating every word of this blog to my loyal manservant Javier. I don’t know any Javiers, which means there’s no reward for putting off taking action. Other than our thoughts, the most powerful tool we have is right now. This very moment, you, me, the lady next to me drinking a peppermint hot chocolate, the president of the United States, the homeless guy begging for change next to the 50th Street 1 Train station, Elon Musk, and the inmate on death row have the same opportunity: to make the most of now. The biggest obstacles to making the most of now are yesterday and tomorrow; past and future; what happened and what could happen.

Out of the Now and Into the Past and Future

       Time is such an abstract concept that don’t even try to wrap my head around it. What I know about for sure is the power of right here, right now. To dwell on past or future is to cost ourselves the opportunity of the present. When I was in Tennessee last week, I met a very pretty girl at a restaurant. We had a fun, lengthy conversation about food and bourbon (two of my favorite things), said our goodbyes, and parted ways. The entire time, a little voice in the back of my head was whispering, “Ask her for her number,” but every time, I responded, “There’s no way she’s going to give it to you – you’re only here for two days.” The next night, fate decided I should have a second chance, so she came running across the room at a random bar, hugged me, and struck up a conversation. Here was my train of thought:

“Dude, get her number!”

“What if she says no? Besides, you’re leaving after your presentation tomorrow anyway. There won’t be an opportunity to hang out.”

She went back to her friends and we continued on with our nights, but as I put on my jacket to leave, she came back and asked what I was doing the next day. She was giving me every opportunity to get her number, but my head was too in the future to notice:

“It’s getting late and I’ll be so tired tomorrow morning if I stick around. Plus, she probably doesn’t even like you.”

I explained to her that I had to drive an hour for my presentation the next morning, but she gave me another opportunity: “I’m off work tomorrow, maybe I’ll come watch you perform.”

In case you lost track, she had given me at least four opportunities to get her phone number, including the previous night. At this point, I had to ask her, right?

“That’s a long drive just to see me present. Plus, it’s early in the morning and I’m leaving right from there to go back to Ohio.”

Facepalm.

If I had a dollar for every time I have facepalmed myself while thinking about this exchange, I’d be wearing an invisibility cloak and hunting endangered lions on the plains of Africa while dictating every word of this blog via cranial implant to my loyal manservant Javier. I don’t know any Javiers, so it’s obvious that kicking myself over past events isn’t exactly moving me toward lavish, morally questionable safaris. In that moment, I was subconsciously basing my decision not to get her number on past situations where I had failed to get phone numbers and had my ego bruised, and also on a potential future situation that wasn’t guaranteed to happen. How could I know whether or not she’d give me her number? Instead of being in the now and listening to what my subconscious was telling me to do, I was stuck thinking about what could happen instead of what was actually happening. We became Facebook friends (a consolation prize), hugged, and parted ways. Instead of taking control, I shifted my consciousness out of the moment and put control over the situation into her hands. As I left, I remember thinking to myself, “I hope she comes tomorrow.” She didn’t, and it was because I chose to live in the past and future instead of living in the moment. Was she really trying to give me a cue to get her number? I can never know for sure, but I do know I can learn from this and stop facepalming myself when I think about it.

Stop Facepalming Yourself

       Fun fact about facepalms: if done properly, they hurt. Facepalming is painfully metaphorical for what happens when we live in the “what-ifs” of the past and future. When I think “What if?” in regards to this phone number situation, I imagine all the fun I could’ve had with a pretty cool girl, thus leading me to another mental facepalm:

“David, you’re so stupid. You should’ve asked for her number and invited her to your presentation. It could’ve been so fun! Instead you had to be a big IDIOT and leave!”

When I talk to myself using this tone, it doesn’t exactly generate any warm, fuzzy feelings. What this self-talk is actually doing is taking me out of the moment – the same thing that happened at the bar. When we spend now dwelling on past what-ifs, shouldas, and could’ve-beens, and future what-ifs, that-won’t-works, and I-can’ts, we take our attention away from the what-can-I-do-nows. There’s nothing wrong with thinking about the past or future as long as it’s working in your favor now. Past events are opportunities to learn from and positive possible future events act as goals. Right now is an opportunity, but so are past events and future goals.

The past is just a series of former nows that we can use to learn from in

The present. Because decisions we made in past nows have led to now, that can only mean what we do now creates

The future. Just like now was yesterday’s future, tomorrow’s future is also going to be now. Yet another opportunity.

Take what you learned from past nows, do something now, and in future nows, learn from what you do with your current now and keep taking action. The next time I’m faced with a situation like I was in Knoxville, I’m going to re-direct my thoughts to the opportunity of now and do something about it. No more facepalms. Just NOWs.

What About Now?

       The next time you feel angry, sad, stressed, tired, self-conscious, nervous, etc., check your thoughts. Chances are they’re focused on the past or future and not the opportunity you have available to you now. Try it the next time you’re stuck in traffic and thinking about your boss yelling at you for being late or all of the things you could be doing, realize you’re missing out on now. The next time you’re about to give a big presentation and thinking about forgetting parts, getting laughed at, or failing to make the impact you want on your audience, realize you’re missing out on now. The next time you have an opportunity to ask someone out on a date, but you’re thinking about how they might say no and looking foolish, realize you’re missing out on now. Catch these thoughts and say, “Yeah, but what can I do now? How can I make now the best now until the next now?” Isn’t it silly to think, “I can’t wait until the next time I’m bored, pissed off, or way too nervous to do something,”? By leaving the now we make these outcomes inevitable. What do you have? All that exists in your life right now. Now ask, “How can I transform now into what I want?”

If I had a dollar for every time a past now led up to my present now, I would have the exact dollar amount I do right now, sitting in a Starbucks typing on my Macbook about my hypothetical manservant Javier while the song “This Moment” by Janine and the Mixtape coincidentally plays over the speakers (Seriously. You can’t write this stuff. Okay universe, I’m listening). This is my now. How can I make it the best now until the next now?

This Study Could Change the Way We Think

Every so often, there comes a scientific discovery that dramatically changes the world. Many of these studies have no impact on our day-to-day lives, and we’re left saying, “That’s great, but what does that have to do with me?” I spend a lot of time asking questions and doing research on thinking and how it affects our results, so I find some interesting articles and try to apply what I learn to my life. This article, however, made my jaw drop. A psychology student at Colorado College decided to do a sleep study on two groups of students for her thesis, and the results are incredibly far-reaching. And yes, the results do have something to do with you, me, and everyone else.

Here’s the link to the report on the Colorado College Placebo Sleep Study if you want to read it yourself: https://www.coloradocollege.edu/newsevents/newsroom/the-power-of-positive-sleeping#.ViemgEuXHKB

If you don’t want to read it, let me sum it up:

The subjects of the study were informed that, using new technology, the quality of their sleep the night before could be measured. This was a lie. They informed one group that they had an above average night of sleep and the other that their sleep quality was below average. Each group was informed that their sleep quality had a direct impact on their cognitive functioning. The groups were then given the same test to assess their ability to listen and process information. Guess who performed better? Basically, if you believe you got a good night’s sleep, no matter the sleep you actually got, you perform better the next day.

These findings are revolutionary and are another instance of scientific proof that it isn’t the event, but our perception of the event that determines how we respond and perform, and how we perform directly impacts our results. This means that whatever we face, if we believe or don’t believe we can overcome it, our results will respond in kind. Wait, what?? You mean I could have made that sale, got that date, or achieved that goal even though I didn’t? Yep! And because you weren’t able to get the win, it can only mean you let thoughts like “I can’t” or “It isn’t realistic” get the best of your thinking process. Believe me, I’ve been there.

Let’s apply this to work. Suppose your boss came up to your desk and said, “Mr. Peterson is very interested in committing to our product; I just need you to give him one last selling point. Can you do it?” Now suppose your boss said, “Mr. Peterson doesn’t seem too thrilled about our product; could you go try and convince him otherwise?” You would respond differently to each challenge. Just like the group of students who believed their sleep aversely effected their performance, the latter work situation is much more likely to produce a negative result. If you believe with every fiber of your being, with no inkling of a doubt, that you’re going to make the sale, guess what? Your sales pitch is going to be infused with confidence, positivity, and further actions that will produce the intended result. If you don’t believe the client is interested in coming on board, your sales pitch isn’t going to be very confident, and may come across as desperate. You may include certain sales pitches that you wouldn’t if you had belief in the outcome, and these pitches might not be the strongest selling point of your product.

Essentially, positive thought -> positive action -> positive result. Negative thought -> negative action -> negative result. It’s not often we find that positive thought -> positive action -> negative result. You don’t prepare an apple pie and, when it comes out of the oven, expect key lime.

So when you find yourself doubting the power of self-belief, take a look back at the philosophies on self-belief of Aristotle, Plat0, Socrates, Confucius, Buddha, Jesus, Descartes, Twain, Emerson, Gandhi, Oprah, and Yoda. Need more sound scientific evidence than some of the names that transcend history?

Here:

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1998-10-21/news/9810210019_1_placebo-effect-poison-ivy-patient

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/07/020712075415.htm

http://news.stanford.edu/news/2007/february7/dweck-020707.html

Learn more, achieve more, earn more, and live a more positive, fulfilling life. All you have to do is believe you can and you’ve given yourself the most important head start you can, no matter how much sleep you’ve gotten.

(If only more people read about things like this and less about what’s wrong with (insert political candidate here), Lamar Odom and the Kardashians, or about people being bullied and how bad it is, this world would be a much more self-aware, positive place. So please, share this blog post with people you know and care about – it can have a positive impact on the way they see themselves, and I don’t know anyone who doesn’t need a little self-belief.)

Stop Stressing: 6 Ways to Eliminate Stress

“I’m so stressed out right now.”
“Do you like being stressed out?
“No.”
“Then don’t be.”

If only it were that simple…

But guess what? It is.

I know you’re thinking, “He doesn’t know what I’m thinking.” You’re probably also thinking: “What does he mean, ‘It’s simple to not be stressed out??’ I call bullish!t.” I thought the same thing until I put techniques into practice that I learned by studying spiritual teachers, psychologists, and neurologists who have mastered inner-peace. Right now, I am working on all facets of launching my own business while working a second job. The to-do list is constantly growing, no matter how hard I work, so it should be easy to slip into some serious stress. But I don’t because I like having fun, and being stressed out isn’t fun. My guess is you like having fun too. Have you ever noticed that when you’re feeling stressed, your heart rate quickens, you break out into cold sweats, your vision blurs, you can’t think straight, your breath shortens, your head starts pounding, you’re constantly on the brink of tears, and you’re tempted to punch the next person who says, “You don’t look so good”? These are some of the instantaneous effects of cortisol, the chemical our brains release when we get stressed, and these are the furthest things from fun. Some of the long term effects of the continual release of cortisol include heartburn, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, random aches and pains, lethargy, acne, ulcers, depression, an underachieving immune system, heart attack, stroke, cancer, diabetes, memory loss, infertility, irregular periods, commas, and semicolons, and most importantly, erectile dysfunction. Yeesh! This blog is a call to action. Nobody wants to have a mental meltdown, heart attack, or erectile dysfunction (unless you’re on stage wearing sweatpants), so what can you do about stress? These are the six steps I take on a daily basis to catch stress before it has a chance to affect my penis. (Note: there are many techniques that are out there, just waiting for you to discover them. What works for one person, may not work for everyone.) You can turn your life around by kicking stress in the mouth and then replacing it with joy, inner-peace, and mental freedom. Here’s how:

1. Change the way you talk to yourself

If you have read any of my previous writings, attended any of my presentations, or engaged in a deep conversation about life with me, this is always my first step. Why? Because we’re driven by our programming, and we become programmed by what we tell ourselves over and over and over and… You get the picture. If we tell ourselves “This thing is really stressing me out!” a ton of times, our brain acts on this command. The more we tell ourselves we’re stressed out in certain situations, the easier it is for our brains to oblige. The more our brains oblige, the thought becomes lodged in our subconscious, and before we know it, we become stressed without even having the time to say, “This situation is stressing me out.” It’s like typing ‘f’ in your internet browser’s search bar and being taken to Facebook without having to press more than 2 keys. When we start to hear the toxic words or feel the negative emotions, all we have to do is listen to the words we’re saying to ourselves, question them (Is it really true that this thing is the worst ever? Is this thought helping me or hurting me? What’s are the best-case, worst-case, and realistic scenarios here? Etc.), and replace them with thoughts that don’t stress us out.

“I’m getting this done in time and my audience is going to love it.”
“Every step I take is bringing me closer and closer to my goal.”
“If this situation were to turn out in my favor, what would it look like?”
“What step can I take right now to get from where I am to where I want to be?”

Since I’ve trained my brain to think these thoughts to replace the stressful ones, they always bring about an inner calm and a sense of excitement – definitely better than breaking out into a cold sweat, especially if I have to shake someone’s hand.

2. Look at the situation from a different perspective

You’ve been hit by the stress bus (ouch), but there’s still a chance to save yourself! Quick, change the camera angle through which you see the situation! There are two ways to do this:

A.) Realize it’s not the situation, but your thoughts about the
situation that are causing you stress.
B.) See the stress as an opportunity to grow.

A.) Realize it’s not the situation
I recently had a projector malfunction on the morning of a presentation. The first thoughts that went through my head included, “This is bullsh*t! How could this happen to me!?” “I’m going to have to wing it, it’s going to be terrible, and I’m never going to get to speak again!” “I’m going to be so late – they’re going to hate me!” Once we have thoughts like these, our actions follow. In this case, I proceeded to barrel through the house, knocking things over, forgetting the whiteboard I was going to use in place of the slideshow, and cussing my way down the highway at 90 miles an hour (even though I had plenty of time to get there). My heart was pounding, I had an abnormal amount of pit sweat, and I almost got into a car accident. That’s when I saw an overturned semi truck on the side of the road and I was finally able to catch one of these illogical, toxic thoughts. I immediately re-framed the situation and started to laugh when I got to the, “Are my thoughts helping or hurting me?” question. The answer was obvious, but because I was stuck on the idea of the situation being more powerful than my thoughts about it, I couldn’t reframe until I mentally took myself out of the situation and was able to adjust my perspective. That’s when I:

B.) Saw the stress as an opportunity to grow
Feelings are our subconscious’ way of telling us if we’re on or off track. Once we realize it’s not the situation, but our thoughts about it that are eliciting the feelings, it becomes easier to see that we’re off track. That is the silver lining of stress: it’s a sign that things aren’t going great, but if we succumb to the stress, we miss out on an awesome opportunity to change our behavior through new thoughts. When we feel stress, it’s an opportune time for us to say, “Hey, that’s a feeling I don’t like. I should do something about it!” instead of saying, “I’m so stressed out and I hate it. Work is stressing me out, my partner is stressing me out, the way the birds seem to be waking me up earlier and earlier is f*cking stressing me out.” Use stress as a launching point to find a solution, but don’t focus on the stress for too long.

3. Breathe in the moment

That sounds a whole lot like “smoke weed, dude.” Even though drugs, cigarettes, junk food, sex, or alcohol provide a temporary respite, we can’t solve an internal problem externally. Real change comes from within, which is where our breath – the thing which gives us life – comes from. If you’re feeling stressed, sometimes the best thing to do is:
> Close your eyes
> Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose while simultaneously
pushing out your belly (this is called diaphragmatic breathing)
> Exhale slowly out of your mouth. Do this a few times while focusing on
the air flowing in and out of your body. In fact, notice your body and
feel gratitude that you can feel your feet, legs, torso, hands, arms,
shoulders, neck, and head. You exist and that’s kind of a miracle
considering the vast infinity of the universe.
> Replace any thought that may try to pop up, thank your brain for trying
to think, and remind it to focus on how awesome just being and breathing
is.
This technique introduces more oxygen into the brain and gets the blood flowing, as well as bringing you a sense of calm. When we get stressed and start to shorten our breath, it limits the flow of oxygen to the brain and cells. When this happens you start to think, “I’m going to die,” which makes no sense if your stress is being caused by a significant other’s lack of responses to your texts. This method takes a little bit more practice, but I promise, it can become one of the most cathartic and exciting parts of your day.

4. Do one thing at a time

One of my self-talk replacement questions from number one is, “What step can I take right now to get from where I am to where I want to be?” The most important part of that sentence is “What step can I take right now?” When we get stressed out, our thoughts quickly tend to snowball into irrationality because we’re taking ourselves out of the moment and thinking about everything that needs done or could happen in the future. This doesn’t make sense. Why? You only have one brain. Even though it’s a powerful brain, by creating all of these negative, potential future situations, it can’t focus on what needs to be done right now in order to avoid those situations. “What can I do right now?” There’s always only one thing to do at a time. Take a deep breath and get to work on that one thing, when that’s done, get to work on the next one thing, and so on. When our negative thoughts snowball, we get overwhelmed and slip into a self-induced paralysis, thus bringing our imagined horror-filled future into the present. When you feel your thoughts slipping into the future and bringing you stress, simply ask, “What can I do right now?” and do that thing.

5. Reach out

My philosophy is that life is a people business. I look at everyone I meet as a family member, friend, client, customer, etc. – no matter how rude (they’re probably just dealing with stress). The cool thing about other people is that no two human beings share the same perspective. Sometimes, when we’re in a stressful situation, it becomes difficult to objectively view the scenario. So reach out to someone, even if it’s the person whom you believe is causing you stress, tell them what you’re trying to achieve, the obstacle that’s stopping you, and what you’ve done so far. Don’t complain, argue, blame, or make excuses, otherwise you’ll push the other person away or they’ll simply tell you what you want to hear. Open up, be honest, give them those three bits of information, and just listen. Don’t think or interrupt – just listen. Many times, we already know the answer deep down, we just need an alternate perspective to confirm it. Then be willing and excited for the time when someone comes to you in a pinch. Human interaction is really a fascinating medium, and, at it’s highest potential, can be used to boost ourselves while simultaneously boosting others. That’s a pretty sweet concept. Take advantage of it.

6. Realize that it’s not that serious

Think about how many times you’ve been stressed out and remember that you’re still here, in one piece. You’ve overcome every single obstacle and roadblock that you’ve faced and you made it here today. These stepping stones make us who we are, and sometimes we may slip and fall, but we’d never learn to swim if we didn’t get in the water. That’s all stress is: an opportunity to learn, grow, and take your life where you’ve never taken it before. We’re all on our own journey, but think about how boring Lord of the Rings would be if they just walked right into Mordor, said hi, plopped the ring into the volcano, and went home. Things would go from a quest to an errand in a second. Sometimes the situations we find ourselves in seem so serious, when in reality, they’re just situations and we have the choice to make them serious, or enjoy the journey of learning how to overcome. If it’s a big deal, it isn’t. If it’s super stressful, it’s super not. Just learn to see whatever it is in a way that makes you laugh. Why? Laughter releases endorphins – chemicals that have the opposite effects of cortisol – from your brain. Laughter strengthens your immune system, boosts your energy, diminishes pain, relieves tension, increases blood flow, relaxes your muscles, eases fear, expands perspective, strengthens relationships, maximizes creativity, and so much more. I’m pretty sure it results in a healthier sex drive too.

“I feel so good right now.”
“Do you like feeling good?”
“Yeah.”
“So then keep doing it.”

It’s that simple.

PS.) Remind me not to wear sweat pants on stage.

Sources:

Achor, S. (2010). The happiness advantage: The seven principles of positive psychology that fuel success and performance at work. New York, NY: Broadway Books.

Amen, D. (2000). Change your brain, change your life: The breakthrough program for conquering anxiety, depression, obsessiveness, anger, and impulsiveness. New York, NY: Times Books.

Katie, B., & Mitchell, S. (2002). Loving what is: Four questions that can change your life. New York, NY: Harmony Books.

Pietrangelo, A. (2014, August 25). The Effects of Stress on the Body. Retrieved October 6, 2015, from http://www.healthline.com/health/stress/effects-on-body

Shimoff, M., & Kline, C. (n.d.). Happy for no reason: 7 steps to being happy from the inside out.

Smith, M., & Segal, J. (2015, August 1). Laughter is the Best Medicine. Retrieved October 6, 2015, from http://www.helpguide.org/articles/emotional-health/laughter-is-the-best-medicine.htm

Tolle, E. (1999). The power of now: A guide to spiritual enlightenment. Novato, CA: New World Library.