My company works with some of the largest Fortune 500 companies in America. As I travel the country working with their sales and management teams, there's one common characteristic that stands out at every company regardless of the industry: stress and worry.
Everyone is stressed. The sales people are worried about hitting their numbers for the month. The managers are constantly worried if their teams are performing well enough to hit their quotas. Even senior level management is stressed out about their jobs. What if the teams they manage don't perform? What if the company is acquired by another company? What if they lose their job?
Even outside corporate America, I coach some of the most successful entrepreneurs and athletes. Even here, everyone is worried. What if I'm not good enough? What if my business fails? What if this and what if that?
There's no doubt about it: life is stressful. There are certainly many great ways to relieve stress. Some people like to do deep breathing exercises. Others like to exercise. Some people just like to veg out on the couch. Whatever works for you, by all means, keep doing it.
After more than 30 years in psychological performance and mental toughness training, one of the best ways I've found to relieve stress and reduce worry is to think about your own mortality. Now I know what you're thinking: that's so depressing. That's pretty scary. That kind of seems to have the opposite effect and stresses me out.
Whether you like it or not, you're going to die. That's objective reality at its finest. There are times life seems so slow, but the reality is one day you're 15, the next you're 50. We each only have so much time left in the hourglass. So instead of trying to ignore the fact, or stress out about it, why not control the one thing you can as it relates to death? That's how you live your life.
According to data compiled by the Social Security Administration:
• A man reaching age 65 today can expect to live, on average, until age 84.3.
• A woman turning age 65 today can expect to live, on average, until age 86.6.
Maybe you'll live to 100, or maybe you'll live to 55. Nobody knows. The one thing you can control is your attitude and the way you live life.
So how can thinking about your own mortality reduce stress and worry?
1. Start by making the decision that today is all you have. Ask yourself this critical thinking question: are the things that stress me out or keep me up late at night worrying, really worth it? Are these insignificant events really going to matter 100 years from now?
2. Stop playing it safe: The goal for most people is to arrive at death safely. Ironically enough, most people on their death bed will tell you they wish they had taken more risks during their life. Stop playing not to win and start swinging for the fences.
3. Stop worrying about what other people think. We call this approval addiction, and it's conformity at all costs because people who suffer with it are living their life for someone else. Again, think of the end in mind. One day, you're going to be dead. Does it really matter what someone else thinks? Stop the worry and live life on your terms. Dress how you want to dress. Wear your hair how you want to wear your hair. Speak up at the board meeting if you disagree. Just stop living your life in second gear.
4. Become a failure. That's right, stop trying to be so successful and start failing miserably. So many people are afraid to fail. But the truth is, the more you fail, the more successful you become. Some of the greatest successes stories come from those who struck out over and over again. When your life is over, you'll wish you had taken more chances.
5. Focus on your legacy. In other words, how do you want people to remember you? When you're six feet under, there's no going back. How do you want to be remembered? You get one shot at this life, so make it count.
6. Laugh more. We all know the saying, "Laughter is the best medicine." It's true. Stop taking everything so seriously, especially yourself. Having a sense of humor and laughing is a natural stress reliever.
7. Use objective reality. In other words, see things for what they really are, now how you'd like them to be. Sometimes this can be a bitter pill to swallow, but the more honest you are about life, yourself and the things in front of you, the better you'll feel. You know that awful feeling when you try to hide a lie? Living a life of delusion is no different.
As Tecumseh, a Native American leader of the Shawnee said, "When your time comes to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home."