Know what? I really don’t like stress. It makes me sick. Literally. So, I am doing my best to eliminate every ounce of stress from my life.
A great definition of stress is feeling like you lack the tools required to do that which is asked of you. Think about that. I lack the tool of time, so I’m stressed on the commute to work. I lack the tool of money, so I’m stressed about sending my kid to college. I lack the tool of expert knowledge on a specific subject, so I’m stressed about being seen as a dope.
So, if it’s stressful for me to think that I lack the right tools, then the opposite, unstressful thought is: I have everything, or can get anything, I need to get this job done. I am always doing my best.
Yes, I am freakin’ MacGyver.
MacGyver was the resourceful secret agent on the 80s TV show of the same name who could solve any problem with spit, a toilet paper roll, three paper clips and a shoelace. Great stuff. And he never lost his cool. Maybe he knew he could always pull out some kind of solution and foil the bad guys. Loved that.
Over time, I’ve realized that, like MacGyver, I always have some kind of tool I can use in some way in any given situation. Even if that tool is simply asking a question, like, “Can you help?” Yeah, I can do that.
After years of self-flagellation where I told myself how often I fell short, I’ve changed. Now I know that I am always doing my best with the tools I’ve got on hand, even if the outcome is less than, or different from, what I anticipated at the outset.
Mindbender, huh? Contrary to everything you’ve learned, right? How often have you heard (or said), “You could have done better.” Just writing that sentence makes me feel like someone is staring at me, hard, over a pair of intimidating spectacles. “You could have done better.” Sure reinforces the idea that I’m a loser.
Yet, I might have had zero support — no extra hands — to do what needed doing. We can dwell on what the outcome could have been if I’d had some help… but when I acknowledge that what happened was due to the resources at hand, I can see that I did my absolute best with what I was given. And if this points out that I need to learn to ask for help, I can focus there — and get the tool I need for the future.
I might not have enough money to execute in the “proper” way — today, many of us are having to adjust to tight budgets and limited funds — but when I carp and complain about what might have been if I’d had enough money, I neglect what’s really real. And what’s real is what I’ve been able to actually accomplish with the money that’s available.
And, when I’m honest, sometimes the tool I lack is the physical oomph to get done what needs doing. I could say to myself, “Well, if only I’d gotten a better night’s sleep,” or “if only I didn’t have cancer,” or “if only I lost 20 pounds,” I visualize a different outcome that the one that really happened. That’s when I step into fantasy land.
Because it’s an unreal, possibly impossible outcome I’d be imagining. The outcome that happened is what happened. Dwelling on anything else is dwelling in fantasy. And inviting stress to come along for the ride.
When I know that am always doing my best, I can accept that some days I produce more, differently or better than other days. That’s just the way it is. But every outcome is always the best possible outcome given the tools I have at hand.
When I know I am always doing my best, I can also figure you are likewise doing your best. And that gives me the freedom to not be stressed about it — my job just may be helping you find the tools you need to do it differently.
Shift your thinking on this one, dear readers, and not only will your stress level plummet, but you’ll find that what you do becomes better and easier. Why? Because you already know it’s going to be your best. And like MacGyver, you’ll be amazed at what can be accomplished with just the tools you have at hand.