Forget About Managing Stress – Try Being Resilient

Another thing to know about the resilience versus the management model as I said is about how you anticipate and prepare for stressful events even this issue of navigation where you find yourself in the heat of a battle. I want to talk about these three mechanisms a little bit more in preparation, hardiness, navigation, and this recovery and bounce back. So these are the three mechanisms and these three mechanisms are really important.

The first story I want to share with you is an example of this. So I am going to tell you a little story about Arthur Ashe. Arthur Ashe was the first African-American tennis player to win single tournaments at Wimbelton, the US Open, and the Australian Open. And you may be familiar with the name Arthur Ashe if you are not a tennis fan because the US Open is held every year at the Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing Meadows, NY. So Arthur Ashe is considered really one of the all-time greats in tennis but Ashe was not a particularly overpowering tennis player the way today’s tennis players are. Ashe was more subtle. Ashe was fluid. Ashe was understanding of his opponents and understood the game. He was an artist of the game more than he was a warrior of the game. He was always seen as a smart player. That was considered one of his greatest assets and when he was talked to about this quality he said that the important key to his victory was self-confidence and that the most important ingredient that he used for self-confidence was preparation. Ashe would study his opponents. He would be familiar with the surface that he was playing on. He was aware of the weather and the conditions that he was going to be playing on. He used all of those factors not to mention his own talent and the understanding of his own strengths and what he did well to prepare and be ready ahead of time and even to build hardiness as we like to say in the face of the game that he was anticipating. If he was going to be playing against a hard server he might stand back a little bit from the base line. If he was playing with somebody who had really good ground strokes he would be ready for attacking the net. Ashe understood the game and understood how to prepare for it properly so that when he went into a match when he went into a tournament with somebody he knew exactly what his plan was and how he would play that out. And that ability to prepare really set Arthur Ashe apart from other tennis players of his era.

While being prepared is important where the rubber really meets the road is in what I call navigation. So let’s stick with our sports analogy for a bit. Most of us who enjoy sports of one kind or another are inevitably going to be spending some Sunday afternoons watching our favorite professional football team whether it is the Pittsburgh Steelers here in Pittsburgh or the Cleveland Browns or the Baltimore Ravens or the Dallas Cowboys whoever your favorite team is and you know that as that game goes on for the first quarter, the second quarter, third quarter, fourth quarter you get more involved. You get more psyched. You get more excited. You know and think about what happens as you get more nervous as the game comes down to that last two minutes, those final two minutes and its looking like and you are hoping that your team may be in a position to score the winning touchdown. Well, think about how anxious and excited you get you know you are jumping up and down and your heart is racing, you are throwing your hands up, and you go “Oh my God no! No! Oh yes! Yes! Go team!” and you have got all of this excitement about what is happening in the game. Well if you are that excited I want you to stop for a moment and think what it must be like for the quarterback, the field goal kicker or the leading pass receiver? How do they deal with that enormous stress that is occurring during the game? Is it experience? Are their nerves hardwired to be just as calm as they can be? Or are they just freaking out as much as you are and they just don’t show it the way you do? As we get into the skills of navigation we talk about the resilience qualities and tips we are going to be focusing on this idea of navigation and how you deal with the stress in the moment. How you deal with it when it is actually occurring. Again, in the stress management model it is that idea of hold on for dear life. In the resilience model it is about breathing, moving forward, and throwing that winning touchdown and that is what we are going to be talking about as we talk about navigation and focusing on navigation.

Well, you know the third area we want to talk about is about recovery and bounce back. That is the third key mechanism for resilience. I want to tell you about Jim Loehr who is a sports psychologist, we are going to stick with our sports analogy here the whole way through, and writer. Loehr coined the term corporate athletes several years ago to depict the kinds of physically and mentally demanding challenges that face people every day in the workplace. You know, we were talking about football a minute ago and Loehr noted that in many ways the workplace was a much more stressful environment than the ball field because of one very big reason. After a big game the athletes could forget about that game. They took some time off, they rested, the game was over, there was nothing they could do about it and then start preparing actually for the new game. They have built in recovery times for between games for rest, study, and recuperation in ways that regular working stiffs like us don’t have. We may get the weekend off but for most of us we are checking email or we are working on a project or we are submitting a proposal. When we get back to work on Monday it is those same projects that continue and many times in the workplace we never really get a chance to finish up a project or complete something, it maybe incomplete but before we finish that one we are on to another one and there is no real break time. As a result, while athletes do not always perform perfectly, they usually have the feeling that they are starting fresh before each game a feeling that is mostly unfamiliar to most folks in the workplace. So for us we want to focus on this recovery and bounce back time. We want to make sure we have that built into our workplace and into our home life so that we can refresh and think about how we want approach new problems in a new way.

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