Stress has a bad reputation. One of the biggest problems we have in our lives is not stress, it is an excess of stress, or what I like to call distress. This misunderstanding between stress and distress prevents us from recognizing not only the value of stress, but the necessity of it.
Without recovery is when stress becomes distress. Unfortunately, most of us associate the word stress to the damaging consequences of distress. This negative association causes us to try and avoid stress altogether. But just as we need recovery in our lives in order to grow as human beings and achieve success, we also need stress.
Stress is defined as a) physical pressure, pull, or other force exerted on one thing by another or b) importance attached to a thing.
Only by exerting force or attaching importance to any area of your life will it lead to success and results in that area. Your muscles will not grow without exerting force on them. Your business will not make any money unless you attach importance to it and exert some pressure on your being and your actions to make that business grow. No matter what area of your life you choose, you need stress to create the results you want.
As human beings, we are cyclical creatures. Our entire lives are dictated by a stress-recovery cycle. The real problem is that most of us are overstressed in our mind and heart, and under stressed in our body and spirit. Consequently, obesity is an epidemic and over 80% of people are unfulfilled in their lives while the negative effects of mental and emotional stress run rampant throughout the world.
Numerous studies have validated that too much stress, especially mentally and emotionally, leads to serious health concerns including heart problems, poor mental and physical health, and even death.
In our battle against these negative side effects of distress we spend hundreds of dollars and a countless number of hours on books, seminars and articles on how to prevent or conquer stress itself.
To save you all that money and time, all you have to do is shift the paradigm through which you view stress. You may have heard the saying what you resist, persists. So stop resisting stress and start moving toward it. By embracing it, as opposed to fighting it, you will find that the stress-recovery balance will begin to sort itself out naturally. You will become responsible for creating moments of stress and recovery at will instead of being a victim of stress and at the effect of external circumstance.
For that very reason, wealthy entrepreneurs live not only successful lives, but fulfilled ones. They find the right balance between stress and recovery by choosing stress and choosing recovery when they need it.
Richard Branson, one of the most successful and fulfilled entrepreneurs of all time, runs 400 companies while engaging in death defying adventures all over the world, such as flying a hot air balloon over Mount Everest. He attributes physical fitness to his ability to maintain such high levels of productivity. By stressing his mind, body, heart and spirit at the right moments, he has created a multi-billion dollar empire, and the best part is, he has a lot of fun running it.
So here are 7 reasons why you too should start stressing yourself out and embrace the power of stress to transform your life:
1. Stress is a sign that you are pushing your limits – Most of us spend our entire lives having never discovered our true potential. We remain comfortable living a life of ease because it is too scary to venture out into the unknown. T.S. Elliot once said, “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” If you want things to go differently in your life, you must be willing to do things differently. Infinite possibilities lie waiting in the unknown, but you will never what they are unless you venture out there. To do so is scary and stressful, but the rewards are eternal. Running your first marathon may be terrifying and you won’t know what to expect, but it is the precise act of putting stress on your body, your mind and your heart that leads to you discovering what lies waiting for you beyond the boundaries of your limits.
2. Stress is necessary for growth – How do muscles grow? They only grow when we put stress on them. Arnold Schwarzenegger didn’t become a Mr. Olympia and a legendary bodybuilder by sitting on his couch every day of his life. He became one by putting stress on his body. In order to grow mentally, we spend years of our lives in schools and colleges putting stress on our minds. The same thing applies to all four elements of our being: the mind, body, heart and spirit. Without stress each one of these will atrophy and die.
3. Stress is a powerful precursor to change – Tony Robbins began his journey to being one of the greatest speakers and personal development gurus of all time because he was stressed out about the conditions of his life. He could no longer take living in the back of his car so he took action and changed his destiny. Studies have found that more than 90% of people will do more to avoid losing ten thousand dollars than they would to actually gain it. Most human beings do more to avoid pain than to gain pleasure. As a result, by inducing stress upon ourselves and igniting a fire beneath us, we become inspired to avoid that pain and change our lives for the better. The problem for most of us is that we want to create a new reality, but we are too comfortable and not stressed enough about our current conditions, so we never take action. Get stressed about the now and transform your future.
4. Stress can be fun – Ultramarathoners often say, “It doesn’t have to be fun to be fun.” Pushing your body, mind, heart and spirit to the limit is exciting. There is a reason why activities like skydiving or running a marathon are constantly found on the bucket lists of thousands all over the world. For although they induce stress, they also bring out our greatness and power as human beings. Last May, I spent one month dragging a 190-pound sled 550km/350miles across the second largest icecap in the world. Every day of the journey put immense stress on my body, mind heart and spirit. Yet, I found incredible peace, joy and beauty in those moments because of the stress, not in spite of it. The daily stress on all four elements of my being showed me that I was capable of more than I ever thought possible and what could be more fun that that?
5. It makes recovery all the more appealing – Some of the most relaxing experiences I have ever had in my life were after accomplishing something grand and magnificent. After a long 20-mile run, the recovery period is heavenly. I then feel great sitting down on a couch, watching a movie and kicking back with a beer in my hand. I know, in the very core of my being, I have earned the right to relax and recover. Think about it in your own life. What are those moments when you feel best about yourself? Isn’t it after you do something amazing and relax knowing that you have earned that feeling of real accomplishment?
6. It meets a basic human need – We all have a need for uncertainty or variety. Without uncertainty our lives become boring and mundane. We need something to shake up the daily routine and make life exciting, passionate and worth living. Choosing stress at the right time is a great way to meet our need for uncertainty because it either takes us into an unknown place or it induces pressure on our current reality. Both of which add excitement and variety to our lives.
7. It transforms the impossible into possible – When Reinhold Messner first climbed Mount Everest without Oxygen, most of the world thought it was impossible. Doctors were convinced that no human being could survive in such high altitudes without supplemental oxygen. Yet, Messner achieved this monumental feat by putting his body and mind through the unimaginable stress it takes to climb the tallest mountain in the world, without oxygen. Since then a countless number of climbers have achieved the same feat because one man proved it was possible. If you want to achieve the impossible, push every inch of your being into stress and show the world that impossible exists only in the mind.