Stress is rampant in today’s world.
We are inundated with information to read and act on, decisions we have to make, problems we have to solve, places we have to go, people we have to get back to … things to do.
And when we can’t seem to do it all and do it all well, the stress starts to mount up.
Here is a simple equation I heard many years ago that just might help you think about how you manage your stress. It is:
Stress = Expectation – Reality
In this equation, Reality is the immutable element. Try as you may, try as you might, you can’t change what is – you cannot change the reality of any situation.
What you can change however, are your Expectations.
Let’s take an example.
Let’s say you think you can get a promotion at work this year. You work extra hard, take on more projects, put in longer hours, believe and hope you’re doing more to outstretch your colleague who is also up for a promotion this year. In fact, after all that work, you expect this promotion now. Surely you’ve done more than enough to show you’re capable and deserving?!
Let’s say though that the reality is that your colleague who is also up for promotion is more senior and more experienced and there is only one slot available for that promotion. In reality, it’s 95% certain your colleague will get the promotion over you. You can see it already right? – you’re setting yourself up for a huge disappointment.
See, the reality may or may not be known to you. You may not know what the final criteria is for that promotion is but what you expect is what sets you up for disappointment … or stress.
You can work just as hard that year without the expectation of a promotion at the end of it, and I assure you that if the reality of your colleague being promoted comes to fruition, you won’t be stressed or disappointed about it. It will just be what it is.
If you are expecting more than is realistic or than what exists in reality, you get a positive value for stress. The larger your expectation is when compared to the reality … the greater the stress.
So to manage stress, you’ve got to manage your expectations. When you set your expectations low, the reality will continue to surprise and delight you.
Because having low expectations does not mean having goals and driving towards those goals … it just means not presupposing things will happen the way you think they should or will. Instead, be open to the possibilities of how those goals will be reached and enjoy the results when they show up.