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Stressed? Mind the Gap

August 22, 2012

Stress is a constant friction that either hones our effectiveness or grinds us down.

We work hard to deliver on ever-rising expectations in an ever-changing world. It’s not just work pressures – our own expectations keep rising.  The more we achieve, the more we and others often expect.

So we have our conscious and unconscious expectations – and then what actually happens. As Peter Bregman pointed out, the gap between what you expect and what actually happens is the underlying cause of stress.

To use stress well, it’s critical to “mind the gap.”

800px-Mind_the_gap_2On the London Underground, this means being mindful of how you step forward  from your subway car onto the platform of your destination.

In life, this means being mindful of how you step forward from an unfulfilled expectation into what actually happened.

You have two fundamental choices:  update your expectations or try to change what’s happening.  Trying to change the situation often creates more stress – and you have more control over yourself than others – so it’s productive to start with updating your expectations.

Remember that other’s behaviors and the changing landscape may have little to do with you.  How you choose to respond to them has everything to do with you.

So travel well during your stressful days.

Ask yourself

  • “What am I assuming will happen today?”
  • and, “How well have I communicated this?”

When you’re feeling stressed, ask

  • “What was it that I expected that didn’t pan out?”
  • and, “How important is this?”
  • and, “Where’s the best opportunity now – in updating what I know and expect or in changing the situation?”

Then take a deep breath – and maybe another – and step confidently forward into what actually happens next.

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