Your All-Stop Cure to Stress? Embrace Discomfort
Today, I am here to talk about stress. You know what I am talking about, the kind of stress that permeates your life, that seems never-ending. Stress can come from your work, your relationship, your health. In a competitive society such as ours, the stress ebbs and flows but never truly disappears.
My friends tell me that I am one of the happiest and most productive people they know. I work ridiculously long hours, while balancing a rich social life, an active dating life, and a rigorous weightlifting schedule, on top of my commitments for self-growth (e.g. journaling, accountability meetings, etc). How do I cope?
A few months ago, I attended the SociaLIGHT Conference in Toronto, a gathering of 1,000 young entrepreneurs who are set to change the world through social innovation. There, I had the privilege of hearing Hal Elrod, author of The Miracle Morning, speak. For those who are unaware of Hal's story, he was young and upcoming sales professional whose life ended when he entered a fatal car crash. He was hit by a drunk driver who was on the wrong side of the highway, where Hal's car was thrown into traffic and then hit by a second car right after. Hal was dead for seven minutes, before he was brought back to the world of the living. Doctors thought that Hal would suffer permanent brain damage and/or physical disabilities, and that he may never walk again. A miracle happened: Hal left the hospital seven weeks later and rebuilt his life, before hitting his second rock-bottom: going half a million in debt due to the recession.
Knowing Hal now, as the dynamic and elite success coach, you would never think that it was his story. Hal is not only a survivor, but he is a fighter. He says the action that changed his life was saying three words: "Can't change it." Originally worn as a rubber band on his wrist, every time Hal encountered a stressful event, he would allow himself to feel the discomfort, to acknowledge it, and then to let it pass. He would snap the rubber band on his wrist, say the words "Can't change it," and move on. Hal understands the true meaning of courage; courage is being able to sit with the discomfort, not ignore it. Courage is acknowledging that stress is a natural part of life, and having the strength to pick the best choice.
Most of the time, at least in the first world, pain is self-inflicted. In a world where we have access to food, clothing, and shelter, we are doing much better than the majority of the world. Many of the things that cause us agony (e.g. a bad breakup, a job rejection, the daily commute) are not that bad that they should be debilitating, or even worse, traumatic. And even when things are really, really bad, one can still choose the higher road: to be brave, to pick a healthy way of dealing with the bad. If we cannot change the past, as Hal says, why agonize about it? Why worry and regret and ruminate, when the event has already happened? Thus, we should think and live like Hal, to acknowledge that life is tough, but that we can choose how we respond to it.