How can we remove stress from our life so we can enjoy it more? I’ve often pondered that question for myself and my team, but after listening to the story of Alia Crum on a recent Hidden Brain episode, I realized I’ve been asking the wrong question. I’ve been trying to play it safe and keep myself and my team in our comfort zone.
Alia’s story starts in the student computer lab in the basement of the psychology department at Yale. The lone person there, stressing over the content of an upcoming dissertation she heard footsteps and dreaded the thought of lost time over conversation with whoever was coming down the hall. It was the head of IT in the psychology department, and as soon as he opened the door, he could tell she was stressed and not up for conversation. “Just a cold, dark night on the side of Everest,” he said and then shut the door. It wasn’t until weeks later that Alia realized what those odd words meant.
Cold, dark nights on Mount Everest are just what you experience if you are climbing that mountain. It is what it is. For those wanting to climb that mountain, it is something you experience. You cannot change it. And if you’re driven to climb that mountain you adopt a mindset that helps you cope with that cold dark night.
Alia’s work has centered around stress and how we react to it. First, stress is defined as the experience or anticipation of a threat or adversity in your goal-related efforts. Two things to unpack about stress to better understand how our mindset reacts, and therefore how we react. First is that stress usually comes in anticipation of a threat or adversity. Most important to understand though is that stress is connected to our goal-related efforts. If you care about something, stress will come.
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