I’ve recently had workers in my apartment carrying out a long overdue refurb caused by construction overhead.

There was dust, paint, plaster and more dust everywhere; in the food cabinets, underwear drawer and between my teeth.

The deal was 2 weeks and they would be out … After 2 weeks they had barely finished 2 rooms; 20% in 100% of the time allocated to the full project.

This caused quite some frustration and inconvenience, including loss of sleep at times, leaving me quite exhausted by the end of the day.

Why lose sleep you may ask, well it’s because I care.

After all, it’s my property, my home. But is it sensible? Why should I feel exhausted and frustrated over something that I cannot change … especially during my sleep?!

What followed was a lot of reflection on the way we react to ‘the s%*t life throws at us’ – and as individuals in roles of responsibility, leadership – we tend to get a lot thrown at us. 

And this is part of that reflection …

We typically tend to label all this, and the frustrations, as stress.

Levelling UP from Stress to a Growth Mindset

Stress is one of the leading contributors to depression, so if unchecked it can have devastating effects on our lives not only at work. It therefore becomes all the more important to undergo a thought process that enables us to weigh the effort we put into ‘dealing with stressful situations’ in relation to the results we can actually achieve and control.

Stress is triggered by our expectations (or inhibitions) to manage situations. Typically triggered by the amount of control we have over our emotions, feelings, actions in a particular situation. What then becomes labelled as ‘stress management’ is really mastering our expectations of what we can control, what we can influence, and understanding what we need to accept (or how to adapt).

However, stress can, weirdly enough, also be a good thing. Either by reframing a perceived problem into a challenge or opportunity to grow and learn from, or simply as a component to get more flow. What makes the difference is our mindset. A person with – what we call – a “growth mindset”, is usually less stressed in ‘problematic’ situations, seeks the opportunity to turn it into a powerful learning experience; someone with a fixed mindset is demotivated by the problem, sees it as a brick wall, cannot see the learning opportunity to change and avoid the effort.

A growth mindset is many things, one part of it is the capacity to seek opportunity in situations that would normally leave us ‘powerless’; rather than fall into frustration and demotivation, (i.e., stress), move towards a state of mind where there is no longer a problem (no stress), and a feeling of confidence.

The Seven Level of Leadership

The Seven Levels of Leadership is one tool to help helps process information we receive – whether conversational or situational – in a manner that brings new (positive) perspective to a seemingly problematic scenario.

The Seven Levels take us from a situation where the focus is the problem and a feeling of powerlessness (Level 1), to one where there is no problem and you build confidence in your new found position (Level 7).

This obviously has a big impact on our productivity and the results we achieve. To move along the scale from zero results to maximum results we need to reframe the way we look at the situation we are in. Focusing on the problem will get you nowhere. Focus on the solution or the purpose and you can go far.

As a result, your conversations will change accordingly; from a more confrontational to a more inclusive discourse that revolves around ‘what is the common purpose/good’, rather than one of blame and anger.

This happens gradually, but a small change today can leave a big impact tomorrow.

We can take control of many aspects that we associate to be stressful or frustrating. Challenging ourselves to exit our comfort zone … little by little is one way to do so. It helps build our resilience and our ability to go that bit further next time round. 

By enlarging our comfort zone we are consciously widening our repertoire of things we are good at, that make us feel good, that release Dopamine – the feel good chemical – in our brain. This helps counter the negativity that is created through the release of Cortisol when we are downtrodden due to stress. This hijacks our ability to engage in fruitful conversations and resolve our issues. 

We therefore need to continuously enlarge our ‘feel good zone’ regularly to regularly top-up our ‘feel good’ leader-board.

How does it work in practice?

To go back to my ‘paint job’ situation, I am typically not the ‘confrontational’ type, which means that when situations go south, they either go really south or the rubber band snaps and I go off on an unpleasant tangent. So when this ’new’ situation evolved and I started to feel hopeless, taking control of my frustrations became an enabling factor.

Conversations become focused on co-creating a solution and not blame-throwing; Works sped up. I slept better. I felt better.

As a result, my contractor received more ‘enabling factors’ to do better work at a better pace, rather than ‘I think that job was s*!t’ which was also demotivating and frustrating for them. I instantly got more buy-in and understanding. This means that we focused on the end result rather than on the immediate impasse. 

And all this because I grew my area of control and influence … just by being aware of them and challenging myself to change the way I thought about them.

I now do this on a regular basis. 

It has reduced the amount and level of situations that would previously cause me significant stress.

I am not stress free, I admit! Traffic kills me, yet it has given me time to explore podcasts for example, enhancing my learning instead of raising the temperature inside my car. I also have access to our Head Coach, Desiree Perez, who, has years of experience is coaching highly successful individuals achieve new levels of leadership through the introduction of the concept.

What stresses YOU out? 

I would like to hear how you manage your frustrations, and if you find yourself spiralling in a myriad of stressful situations, leaving you feel powerless to extract yourself from this cycle, get in touch.

At UP, we can help you work on the areas that are causing concern and build your resilience to deal with ‘what life throws at you’. Get in touch with me or Desiree so that you too can continue to perform at your ultimate levels.