The Myth of Stress

by Feb 19, 20204 comments

A Buddhist parable tells the story of a monk confronted by a fierce tiger while on a quiet walk. The monk becomes motionless. He knows that just beyond him is a cliff and just below that cliff is the rocky shoreline and the turbulent sea. The monk is caught between the tiger and the sea, and so he chooses to lower himself over the cliff. Holding onto a thick vine, he is filled with gratitude that the vine sustains his weight. During his prayer, the monk notices a bright red, juicy strawberry growing on the cliff face. Looking up, the tiger is snarling at him. Looking down, the waves are crashing and pounding onto the rocks below. The monk breathes a breath of deep gratitude and plucks the strawberry from its vine and, putting it into his mouth, savors the moment.

Stress is like that.  It exists if you let it.  But it doesn’t, if you don’t.

According to recent research by Korn Ferry, work-related stress levels globally have risen nearly 20% in three decades. The root causes of the stress spike include the threat of losing one’s job to artificial intelligence and the pressure to learn new skills just to stay employed (a condition I have written about extensively in my book, The Bellwether Effect). But two bigger stress-causing issues, according to 93% of respondents, are a change in top leadership, such as a new CEO or division head. and too heavy of a workload, “A bad boss and too heavy of a workload often go hand-in-hand,” says Bryan Ackermann, managing partner for Korn Ferry Advance and Digitized Services.

And when we are stressed, we transmit that negative energy to everyone with whom we connect – and this generally turns out to be a poor leadership strategy! Additionally, stress lowers creativity, innovation and performance. Stress, then, is counterproductive to all our best intentions in the workplace.

But we have choices. Stress is simply a description of our reaction to an event.  We can choose to be a victim, feel ground down, harassed and angry, or we can simply shrug it off, smile, and enjoy what we are doing in the moment. If you are cut off in traffic, you have a choice – yell and curse the other driver (we call this stress) or smile and continue to enjoy your day.  It’s a choice.

Some tips to help you remove stress from your life – forever:

How will you choose to react today?