I’m under an excruciating amount of pressure to deliver — to deliver a successful startup, to create and execute a vision for my life that will make me happy and help the world for the better, to pay off a mountain of past debt, to find a place to live, to understand who I am at every waking moment of the day — the list goes on. Add to all of that the social obligations of family and friends and there I am… living in my very own pressure-cooker.
There was a sudden break in the pressure I felt the other day. Walking down the street, the following question hit me like a ton of bricks in the head:
“How much of this stress I’m feeling is real pressure from the outside world placing immediate (key word) demands on me and how much of this pressure is imagined, self-induced pressure due to fears, miscalculations and anxieties?”
What is the difference between externally and internally induced pressure? Mostly, time. Partially, perception. Our concerns and fears about our inability to deliver on our own goals is sometimes valid. With so many factors at play feeding the uncertainty of our ability to deliver positive results and more demands being added to our plate every day (especially if you’re an entrepreneur), the eternal question many of us wake up and go to sleep wondering is not “When will I get everything done?” but “What’s going to happen when one of the balls drops because I can’t possibly get everything done?“.
Unfortunately, we tend to miscalculate the negative repercussions those “dropped balls” will have on our lives (mostly seeing the outcome as far more dire than it could ever be in reality). Our exaggerated perception of the “worst case scenario” is what adds stress to our lives that can cave-in anyone’s chest.
Just the same, time is not our enemy. Our perception of time is our enemy. Valid external pressure is stepping off of the curb and seeing the headlights of a car approaching at an accelerated speed a mere 50 feet from you. The need to act or react is immediate. Self-imposed internal pressure is stepping off of the curb and seeing the headlights of an oncoming car three blocks away and thinking (much as you would if the car were 50 feet away), “I have to do something now or I’m going to die!”. We have more time than we believe we have to finish our tasks and goals. The problem isn’t that the car is three blocks away is approaching faster and will soon run you over, but that we focus on the car to begin with instead of the immediate task of getting across the street and letting the crosswalk signs guide us (putting our faith in the processes and laws built into our environment to protect us from being hit by the car to begin with).
So why am I saying all of this? Because while a certain amount of self-imposed pressure is actually productive (and sometimes helps us to solve our problems), it is more often than not paralyzing and counter-productive. I had to admit to myself that my “real versus self-imposed pressure” was 70 percent real 30 percent self-imposed. Doesn’t seem awful right? Here’s the kicker, I realized that the mere 30 percent self-imposed pressure I inflicted on myself was was causing me more anxiety than the “real” pressure the world was placing on me. I was being done in by my own thoughts and fears.
So I’m asking you the following question: “How much of the pressure you feel on a daily basis is real and how much is self imposed and exaggerated by you?”
- Zen Motivation: the Stress Free Way to Get Things Done (talesfromthelou.wordpress.com)
- John Tropea: Deepak Chopra: Stress and the Brain (huffingtonpost.com)
- Splintered by Stress (scientificamerican.com)
- Get Rid of Anxiety by Off-Loading Fears on Paper or by Humming a Tune [Brain Hacks] (lifehacker.com)