No, stress is *not* caused by your job or your spouse or the economy or the lack of world peace.
George exemplifies the executives I deal with daily. Here is his account of a recent day:
I knew it was going to be a bad day when my boss called me into his office. The bank still has loads of junk loans and has not yet marked them down. A major customer just sued claiming that securities he bought were mis-represented. My boss got to business right away and told me that there had to be massive “cost cutting”. I would have to let two of my senior executives go including Jennifer. And, even though it was profitable, my entire division could be shut down. It was not considered to be a “core” operation.
Jennifer was one of my best hires and a real find. She was an Ivy League graduate and also had an MBA from a top school. She had recently delivered her first child – a boy – and was back at work in ten days. I even had to call her at the hospital because a crisis erupted and, the day after delivery, she spent hours on the phone sorting it out. Her husband was a patent attorney and was laid off two months ago.Distaste for what I had to do and for the company rose like bile. I would have loved to tell my boss to “shove it” but I needed the job. Especially right now when my third child just started at Harvard and the sale of my second home in Florida fell through yet again.
The phone rang. It was Jane, my wife, asking acerbically if I was going to be “late again”. Of late we don’t talk any more. She simply lectures me on how I don’t do “my share” of house work and how I embarrassed her by falling asleep at her stupid book club meeting and why can’t I learn to fix the faucet so she didn’t have to call the plumber who charges as much as a surgeon used to when we started dating. There is some truth to her ranting and I take it as much as I can but, especially of late, have been blowing up too often. That tells on my health and my doctor just doubled my dosage of hypertension pills. And added a cholesterol reducing drug.
She is also mad at me because Dave, our second son and not the one starting at Harvard, was swept up in a police sting operation and had stuff in his pocket he should not have had and, worse, tried to sell it to an undercover officer. She thinks it’s my fault because if I had spent more time with him he would not have gone off the tracks.
The phone rang again. It was my mother. Could I take her to her appointment with the oncologist? She still had six visits left on her chemotherapy regimen and didn’t like using the car service I had arranged. Since I never spent time with her any more perhaps I could drive her and we could “talk” on the way.
I hooked the wastepaper basket with my foot, pulled it over and threw up. A gob of vomit spattered on the outside and trickled on to the carpet.
What went through your mind as you read George’s tale?
His is an extreme case but the chances are good that you can relate to one or more aspects of his story. Individuals register in my open programs because they feel under stress. Companies ask me to help their executives cope with stress. There are “experts” who specialize in work-related stress, marital stress, family stress. and even – I came across this recently and chuckled – email stress.
Stress is the demon in our society, stalking the cities and the countryside, striking down young and old and growing in strength daily.
Why is there stress in your life?
I get many answers when I pose this question to groups as I do all the time. There is stress because of unsatisfactory job conditions; fear of losing the unsatisfactory job; insecurity because of the difficulty of finding another unsatisfactory job after losing the first one; marital discord; troubled relations with children, siblings or parents; addictions of various kinds; financial problems; medical problems including those affecting loved ones; discord in the world at large ranging from economic crisis to political strife and violence; the list is endless.
WRONG. None of these factors cause the stress you experience though you think they do.
There is one reason, and one reason only, that you experience stress in your life. And, the good news is that there is a proven solution to deal with this reason. It comes from ancient wisdom, has been tested over millennia and it absolutely works.
It is simple. It is not easy, but you can learn it. When you succeed in mastering it, it will completely banish stress from your life. Even if you don’t master it but make a sincere attempt, stress will greatly diminish in your life. I know this is true because I hear it at first hand all the time and every day.
And what is this one reason you feel stress and how do you deal with it?
I will reveal this in subsequent columns.
P.S: I am raising my arms up to ward off the tomatoes and rotten eggs you are ready to throw at me. I am not trying to be coy. I am trying to get you to think about what I have said and try to arrive at the answer yourself. I am trying to set you into ferment over the challenge I have tossed out. Because here is another truth: It is only when you are passionately involved, when you feel that you MUST know the answer, when waiting becomes unbearable, that the answer I will give you will have the most impact on your life.
Please do comment if what I have said touches a chord in you.