Are You Stressing Your People Out? Change Your Thinking

If you are wondering how to decrease stress--for you and everyone in your circle of influence--the answer lies in a simple shift of perception. Become aware of how you're impacting others, correct your shortfalls, and you'll inspire people to be innovative and productive. Your business and families can then thrive.

The first step is being aware that you're causing stress--and stopping the offending behavior. Are you, for instance, imposing oppressive time lines and workloads on your staff? Or missing deadlines for your team or family, or simply not delivering? Stop those behaviors and you can mitigate the stress you're causing. If enough people become aware they, too, are stressing people out and bring this understanding to everyday life and work, stress around the globe could actually decrease. Which could produce a better world. Small step; big effect.

Underlying so much stress is the idea of time: Is your product late to market? Does your investor want a report early? The man-made concept of time may be what's tripping us up.

Time is fluid on the world stage, with different people and countries living life at different paces. In Japan, for example, it's considered rude to be less than 10 minutes early to a meeting. The Hopi Indians' closest sense of time comes down to two words: one for "sooner," another for "later." In Mediterranean or Arab countries, not being on time or taking time to get down to business is the norm. The Amazonian hunter-gatherers of Piraha have no concept of time beyond the present and no word for "future." For them, life is in the present and the future does not exist. In advanced cultures, aware people struggle to remain in the present. They call it mindfulness, partly because it takes thought and intention to extricate themselves from the past-future construct of time that has governed their lives.

There are, of course, adjuncts to the usual concept of time, such as healing time, growing time or, in my case, horse time.

In this country, time seems to have become one of our most precious commodities, its scarcity forcing us to weigh how we spend it and search for ways to find more of it. "Time is money," Benjamin Franklin said, and now so do most businesspeople. The problem is, these days, there seems to be less and less time; as a result, there is a kind of panic about how this affects money. And stress rises.

Here's how we stop causing stress for ourselves and others: Let's think about "energy" in lieu of "time." How can we use our energy and have more impact? Energy knows no bounds. With energy, we can weigh opportunities and the gain of each. Rather than focusing on the "time is money" precept, focus on the efficient use of energy, including our own. Inventions with great impact using small amounts of energy are prized. Consider how the computer, which embodies these energy principles, came into the world with fanfare and stayed to reshape civilization.

Shifting our awareness from time to energy can help us understand why we have so much stress. If we do not feel in control, our stress rises. But how do you control time when everyone's understanding of time varies? Do I assume everyone operates at the same speed I do? Am I aware that my tardiness may have caused stress?

Promptness as an expression of energy is so simple and so absolutely true that you have to wonder why someone hasn't campaigned for it wholeheartedly in this century. At its most basic, promptness is an act of mindfulness. It shows we understand our impact on other people and that we're giving them what they need.

When I started studying horses, great horse experts taught me that it takes two days in the equine world for something to happen and that I should allow for that. At first I thought they were joking. They were not. Now, whatever I do with a horse, I allow two days for it. So how does that align with developing and running a business and being present for my family?

By allowing for those two days, my energy is altered. It's not hurried or hassled. It's patient. I check my intentions, foreseeing that everything will happen harmoniously. I check my assumptions related to that. I use less energy overall, which leaves more time to devote to my family and my business. Let me repeat that: By moving "awareness" from a construct of time to a focus on energy, I end up with more time on my hands. If time is a valued commodity, then energy must be even more so, and the precept "time is money" would be more accurately expressed as "energy is money."

What if we applied this concept to our lives or our businesses?

Here are four simple steps to add to your very next interaction. Notice whether they have an immediate impact on your stress levels and that of the person you are interacting with. Be genuine.
1. When you start any interaction, set this intention: that whatever you are working on will resolve easily. Make sure you are 100% clear about your intention.
2. Include "horse time." In other words, allow space for the other person to show up as who they are.
3. Do not be surprised if you feel internal resistance. You are challenging a status quo in your own thinking. Refocus on your intention, and notice if whatever you are working on resolves easily in less time. Intend it.
4. Notice if your stress level decreased. Notice if the other person seems less stressed. Practice this everywhere and pass it on.

Lisa Arie is the cofounder of Vista Caballo, an advanced learning center for a new breed of leaders. For more on Lisa Arie, click here.
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