In any situation, the right amount of stress is necessary.
Stress is needed to build muscles. Body builders start with lifting light barbells then gradually increase the weights through the process until they are able to lift a 350 pounder. A gradual increase in stress for the muscles is what builds and strengthens the muscles.
People who are way too sheltered are the ones that easily break down in the face of stress. Kids who play too much video games are the first ones to be out of breath when playing outdoor sports. Adults who were brought up in a pampered lifestyle are liable to have a nervous breakdown in instances of extreme stress. Married couples who couldn’t cope with the day-to-day stress of married life eventually separate. It’s a basic human tendency to get distressed when confronted with physical, mental, emotional, relational and financial stress.
But, we see successful entrepreneurs who manage their businesses and take care of their families like they’re just dancing through life. We marvel at the way they carry themselves in sorting out business challenges, in dealing with both peers and detractors and in keeping a healthy and loving relationship with their spouses and kids. We wonder what makes them so different that they don’t cave in despite the enormous amount of stress in their lives. The difference is that they know how to manage stress smartly and effectively.
Stress builds your character. It makes you become a better person. It sharpens you like how friction sharpens a knife. All the odds that you’ve conquered; all the rejections that you got over with; and, all the contrarians whom you’ve either won over or bowed to, have in one way or another strengthened your ability to tolerate and manage stress and pain. Every life experience has made you become more patient and resilient, more introspective and more accepting of life’s realities.
The first step to managing stress is to understand that the world is fundamentally a stressful place. Day-to-day challenges are inevitable. We either complain about it perennially or manage it and enjoy the beauty and goodness that life offers.
When we manage life’s little stresses, we prepare ourselves to conquer the bigger ones. Joining the Boston Marathon entails at least a year of intensive training. Climbing the Andes or the Himalayas requires an extensive mountaineering experience. Entrepreneurial success comes from years of hard work and headaches and the ability to not lose sight of the goal no matter what. Building an unbreakable relationship needs an enormous amount of honest conversations, compromises and making amends – these are like the strands that make up a straw rope. The more strands the rope has, the better its tensile strength.
The Samurai sword, or katana, is a Japanese weapon renowned for its sharpness and strength. The process of making it involves heating a piece of steel in a furnace, forging it, shaping the blade, treating the blade with a special clay mixture, quenching the steel, tempering and polishing the blade and securing the blade on the fabricated handle. That’s the amount of stress the piece of steel is given for it to become a formidable weapon. In life, we need the same amount of stress and the ability to deal with it in order to become strong, pliable and polished individuals.