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The Success Paradox

There is a pervasive belief in business that success and stress go hand in hand; that stress is just part of the game of business when you are playing to win.  The bad news is that stress has an extremely detrimental effect on performance.

The fact is people perform at their best when they are in a relaxed state of mind. Great performers will tell you this. “The Zone” is a well-known phenomenon in the world of sports. It’s an experience of being in “flow” where you are so present life occurs differently. There is no feeling of pressure or stress in this state.

New thoughts and ideas come to mind in a relaxed state of mind.  Many people talk about being in the shower or going for a walk or on vacation and having a “eureka” moment where a new solution or idea came to mind, seemingly out of nowhere.

People are better able to listen and communicate when they are in a relaxed state of mind.  I am sure you have had the experience of attempting to speak with someone who is stressed and feeling like they are not listening at all.

You may be thinking, how can I have a relaxed state of mind with so much going on?  An innocent misunderstanding lies at the heart of this pervasive belief that stress and success are linked. The misunderstanding is that outside events or circumstances cause our stress or other experiences (sadness, anger, happiness, etc.).

In truth, at any moment we are only able to experience our thinking. In other words we feel our thinking we are not feeling what’s happening (events and circumstances).

Don’t take my word for it. Think about the last time you were in a relaxed state of mind. How did the world seem to you?  In a relaxed state of mind, life looks like it’s filled with opportunities. Conversely, when you are in a stressed state of mind, life looks like one problem after another.

If you are wondering how to achieve a relaxed state of mind I’ve got great news for you. A relaxed state of mind is our natural state. What creates stress, worry, etc. is thought. But this isn’t about learning to think something different, i.e. positive thinking. Not at all.  That will only make matters worse.

Thought in and of itself is not the problem. The problem is that we mistake thought for reality. We get caught up in the thoughts and don’t realize that they become the lens that we view life through. Thoughts are transient energy that will change from moment to moment if we don’t engage with them. In other words, if we don’t give them any weight or significance they disappear.

In the current paradigm, the best we can hope for is to learn ways to cope with or manage stress. What if instead, stress was completely optional? When you truly understand how the mind works and the nature of human being you are able to navigate through any circumstance with ease, without stress or any other negative emotion holding you back.

Stress or a worried state of mind comes from believing your thoughts and misattributing the cause of your feelings to outside circumstances. When you have no distinction between thoughts and reality it leads to confusion that you then experience as stress, anger, worry, etc. When you don’t see your relationship to your thoughts as the source of your upset it looks like the outside world is causing your feelings.

Once you see thought for what it is, transient energy passing through your brain and understand that nothing outside of you can make you feel anything, it returns you to your natural state of peace and ease. You don’t have to worry about how you are feeling or what you are thinking because you know it will pass.

It’s like clouds in the sky. When clouds cover the sun you don’t panic because you know the clouds will pass and you will see the sun again. You know the sun never left. It was always there. That’s how your natural state is. It is always peaceful and at ease. When we believe a thought and confuse it with reality our natural state gets covered for a time. Don’t worry… it will pass.

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