I recently took my daughter to the local playground. It was gloriously sunny, so it was packed – and as you’d expect with lots of excited children running around, there were quite a few trips and falls.
And I started to notice something…. When a kid falls over, what do you think determines how loud, and how long it cries? and surprisingly, it's not how hard they fall....
It was the way the parents reacted. A couple of times, kids went absolutely flying, and a parent came over with a “Whoops! Up you get”. There was a brief check for damage, then the kid shrugged it off and carried on playing. And yet the kids who’d barely hit the deck, whose parents came rushing over full of concern, howled for ages….
The parents’ belief about the potential pain of the fall, shaped the way the kids reacted. And I got to wondering, do we still do that when we grow up? (OK, maybe not the howling)… As adults, are our reactions still so easily shaped by the expectations of those around us?
I think they are - I see in organisations, shaping people’s responses to stress, which very broadly fall into two categories. Firstly, there are the organisations where the stress of something going wrong is seen as a challenge to rise to. It’s an attitude which I’ve spent years instilling, within my work developing Continuous Improvement systems and cultures – and it takes some nurturing! In other organisations, the response is much more passive - that stress is seen as inevitable drain. Yet more proof that life is hard, and working life even harder.
What we look for, we see even more of, especially if those around us are looking for it too. And when you’re convinced of something, your brain and body can be very obedient in making it happen: If you were terrified of public speaking, convinced that you’ll stutter or your mind will go blank, then those things are much more likely to happen, no matter how much you tried to reassure yourself and be brave. If you’re convinced that your work stress is damaging, then your mind will search for evidence to confirm it, and the challenges will feel bigger than you can rise to.
So should we just be telling ourselves a different story? No – firstly because beliefs run deep, so trying to veneer over the top is hard work, and isn’t very effective. And secondly because the belief about stress being harmful isn’t entirely untrue.
What does help, is to recognise that not EVERY stress is harmful. Stress can be your body’s way of drawing your attention to something which is not as you’d like it, getting you to take action – triggering you to rise to the challenge, or form new collaborations to get through it more effectively. This puts you back in charge, seeing the stress as something to harness, rather than to passively endure. Even if it’s something you wouldn’t have chosen to experience.
The skills of FAST Pathways are designed to complement and add to the strategies you already have for dealing with stress. To stop the discomfort from building up to disruptive, keeping you comfortably resourceful, so that you have more choice about how best to respond. Because once you’re feeling calmer and more creative, you’re better able to act to resolve the situation (or at least to deal more smoothly with its consequences). Giving your more evolved stress responses the space to kick in, and work their magic.
To explore more of what each of the FAST Pathways modules has to offer, CLICK HERE
Thank you for reading. Share it with your network if you think they’ll like it too. For powerful skills to resolve stress (rather than managing it), contact [email protected]