If you’re going through hell, keep going.
I just could not miss a picture of this great man to begin with. Winston Churchill had the most stressful job in the world, leading a war, whichever quote you find about him, basically states fortitude and attitude. Stress as strenght is about this, is not about bearing the cross painfully and suffering, but rather joyful and willing. This is what stoicism is all about.
A friend once told me that we are always going to fall into the same mistakes over and over again until we learn from them. Your stress, is your strength, it is just disguised as malady , but it really is a valuable lesson and if used correctly fuel for action.
Treat him as a teacher, use it for you instead of against you.
Sometimes life is hard.
Business stagnates, bills sum up, dreams can be seen as unreachable or our relationships aren’t as pretty as we expected them to be. Quit expecting.
There is a choice, the choice is the power of perception and of action. First you disarm stress, you take its power, this is done by correcting our perception about our problems, our brains are designed to solve problems, that is its main function, but you cannot solve the problem if you believe its unsolvable,. How you think about problems greatly determines their magnitude. There has to be first a change in our perception first and then we have to punch back, we have to solve problems (stress) and give rise to new and better problems. Stress is a constant, and that is a good thing.
There is great power hidden in this idea. To begin with I want to share with you the power of controlling our emotions, choosing to see reason in every situation, to steady our nerves, to ignore the petty limitations of others, placing things in perspective and choosing the power of the present moment. The power to be the creator of experience.
Choose attitude, choose altitude and choose perspective.
“Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.”
Ralph Waldo Emmerson
I want to you to get to know Victor. Victor was a jew during the holocaust and he endured the most horrible and excruciating pain you could never imagine. He was physically tortured, most of his family was killed by the nazis and every single day of his life during his imprisonment , he had to endure the intolerable humiliations from the guards and life was just miserable in every possible way.
The interesting part in this story is that he was a psychiatrist. His name was Victor Frankl and he wrote a magnificent book narrating his experience called Man’s search for meaning. During his terrible experience he came to a realization. He discovered the last and most meaningful of human liberties, the liberty within himself, he realized that nobody could take how he responded to what happened to him, that power was his and only his, he took everything that happened to him with character, he had the lost choice and no one could take that away from him. He chose attitude. Just pure badassery.
This is the power of perception.
As Ryan Holiday says in his book, the obstacle is the way, our perceptions can be a source of great strength or of great weakness. Think for a moment in your head of the biggest and scariest problem in your life right now. Many times we see this problems as scary things we’d rather avoid, but what if it was the opposite, what if you were the kind of person that craves those types of problems, that enjoys them. Simply because it gives you the opportunity to prove yourself worthy, it gives you the opportunity to have some fun in your life. Fear and excitement, are experimented, physiologically, equally in our bodies. It’s perception that makes them different, and attitude is within our power. Fear, in this scenario can be seen as a life enhancer feeling, not as a prohibiting one, and this is why I believe that stress can be converted into strength.
Emotion control, self ruling.
I like to think of emotion as court advisers, they are good advisers, however the ultimate choice is of and should be, of the king. Only he has the ultimate power to rule.
When we control our emotions we remain as the spirit of the samurai warrior, calmed and imperturbable.
What we want to achieve here is objectivity, we cannot act correctly if we inflate everything that happens.
This is why when you are in control of your emotions, you can see the truth, and truth is very valuable as it is the nearest thing we have of reality, we need to operate always on reality, not on imagined fairy lands we create for oursleves.
The next time you are feeling stressed and under pressure, practice first breathing 5 times, this reconnects you to your body and the present situation.
Then, understand that you are a human and that your emotions are just natural, and you are not so special, there probably is a lot of people going through it right now, it is normal. However, you are different in that you choose to rule over yourself, like a king you do not react but consciouly asses your choices and feelings and then act accoringly.
Take a moment to close your eyes and think about the person that you admire the most, it can be fictional, now, think, how would he act in this situation?
Finally access your intellect and ask yourself what is the best way to respond to this situation, more so focus on the things that you can influence, don’t worry about what you can’t, and with this you’ll have achieved the right perception. What your best attitude is.
Don’t let the force of an impression when it first hit you knock you off your feet; just say to it: Hold on a moment; let me see who you are and what you represent. Let me put you to the test. — EPICTETUS
We have to realize something, life, is really subjective, it is extremely hard to see objectivity we paint all situations with our imagination, when we see a tree we remember images in our head of what a tree should be like, when we see a face we see what we want to see. We are always painting life as artists as to accomodate our past experiences, this however, becomes a profoundly subjective experience that can separate us from raw reality.
What does “objectivity” means? To better understand this just think of it like this. When you say “this is the most terrible thing that could’ve happened” , you can just say “something happened”, but to put adjectives before what is, is up to you.
What we want to do with our most annoying stresses is strip them off of opinions and prejudices. We want to see things for what they really are. Then, separate them into pieces and crush them.
There are two ways of doing things in life, one is the descriptive one and the other is the actionable one. One has the “I” in mind, the other is the no mind, just doing. Taking action. The samurai fought and operated in this way, the fastes way possible, because when you are in the killing business, you have no time to think, just act.
Think about it, we have all been in situations in which we have to do something, say play football, delivering a speech to coworkers or anything and we are thinking in everything but the task. You can, however, access directly the task at hand, and thus making it as good as it can possibly be made. Have you ever experienced this? This is doing things with quality and style, don’t rush, focus on what’s being made, focus on making it beautiful. Solve you problems (stresses) with style.
Style is putting attention and concentrating on what you are doing.
The next time you are, writing something, dancing or talking to your coworker, focus on just doing what you are doing as best as you can, be it what it be, this is a meditative practice, if your are cleaning the dishes, focus on leaving them as shiny as you can, if you are talking to someone, listen, if you are seeing a movie, really dig into it, do not worry about how things should be, take the “I” off of the equation and just focus on what is and what is needed.
Focus on utility, ask yourself, what is it that you are trying to achieve and based on that do what is needed.
Think about it, this is the marvelous gift, of not caring what the others think of you, you want to do stuff, not appear doing stuff. Be the man, do not appear to being one.
Don’t lose your cool, never.
What such a man needs is not courage but nerve control, cool headedness. This he can get only by practice. — THEODORE ROOSEVELT
If there was a word we were to tattoo ourselves in our heads, it is this one.
Sangfroid:the composure or coolness, sometimes excessive, as shown in danger or under trying circumstances.
Every single ability you can think of is attainable by everyone, sangfroid is one of them.
All this is possible because of the ability of our brain to transform itself all the time. This ability is called neuroplasticity, and your brain is doing it constantly. You are what you do repeatedly, you are, therefore, your habits. Your brain is made of millions of highways of information, your habits are the freeways of your minds, your emotions, the way you eat, the way you respond to situations, they all are super highways you’ve developed through the years.
Never losing your cool is practice, all the time, for the rest of your life.
Neuroplaticity, is a great blessing, and a great curse, when we are being petty, we are getting better at it, when we are being courageous we are also getting good at it, sangfroid is an obtainable ability.
Keeping our cool when we face our problems. Keeping our head while all others lose theirs, this is how you turn you stress in your strength, with perception (attitude) and then practice. You can always choose to get into a cool head and then act with resilience, adaptability, calmness and brilliance. Choose the school of adversity and stress, that is the best school to go through life. As John D. Rockefeller did.
The story of John D. Rockefeller is an interesting one, he was a massive predator in the business world, so much that in the beginning of his career he went into debt many times, he was not afraid of it, or he was, but his ambition was much more important to him than his fear, he said himself that he was instructed in the “school of adversity and stress” and he became the only entrepreneur in the world that made a monopoly in his lifetime. A monopoly so strong and unshakable that the government had to intervene to take him down. This man certainly knew how to use stress to his favor, everything in life is a lesson, and stress is the greatest teacher. Use it at your favor. Use it as a chance to learn.
I want you to think now again about the greatest stressor in your life. Write it down, and then write down the lesson that you are gaining from it, remember, everything in life is a lesson, and I really mean, everything.
Now, we don’t want to get good at receiving punches, you can and must become great at giving punches back. Every bump in the road is a lesson, but the lesson is not to learn to take bumps, is more than that, you have to get the punches and learn to attack back.
You want to be attacking, always.
- Write your bigger stressor or problem.
- Write the lesson you think you have to learn.
- Write the the best possible scenario given the problem is solved.
- Ask yourself, what can you do right that moment that starts going to your best possible scenario.
- Do that, get up and physically do what you know will get you going.
Be stoic, be great.