The preeminent stress researcher, Richard Lazarus of the University of California-Berkeley, divides “stress” into two parts: a stressor and stress. He defines a stressor as any kind of demand that life imposes. It can be another task that gets added to your to-do list, or a traffic jam or a difficult boss. Stressors are relative: The same stressor that ruins my day may not bother you at all, and vice-versa.
Lazarus defines stress as the appraisal that this demand is something that must be addressed, together with the perception that the demand overwhelms your resources.
Most people relate to the term “resources” as something external. It’s things like time, money, equipment or the support of other people. Add weather, war and the economy to this list and you have the elements of what can be defined as The World. The World is everything in life you don’t completely control. Meaning there is always some problem with money, time, computers, the economy and especially people that mess with your perfect plan.
Evolution or the Universe or whatever you might call it gave you one resource over which you have absolute control in this world: your attitude. As it turns out, it was an enormous gift. The power of attitude can move the world in the direction you want to go. Attitude is everything. It is the essence of your spiritual nature and the sole means by which you control your destiny. Napolean Hill, the father of motivational psychology who mapped out the law of attraction more than 80 years ago, said if you “fail to direct your attitude you can be sure you will influence little else in this world.” The great psychiatrist Karl Menninger, who founded the Menninger Institute, said “attitude is more important than facts.” Viktor Frankl asserted that it is the only thing that could make an inner triumph of something as horrible as Auschwitz. Neuroscience now defines attitude as “neuroplastic,” which means it can rewire your brain to lead with creative intelligence instead of fight, flight or freeze.
Fundamentally, stress represents you losing touch with your greatest resource: the power of attitude. The key to success in life is building the attitude that gives you the inner resources to deal with any kind of stressor, regardless of circumstances.
Neuroscience has discovered that the most powerful attitude we can mobilize is a dynamically peaceful attitude. It’s the attitude through which we face life’s challenges without fear. Some people think peace, especially in business or politics, means losing your edge or becoming complacent. Nothing could be further from the truth. Set aside a few moments to write down in one or two words phrases your experience when you are at the top of your game. Identify your internal experience when you’re in the flow, in the zone, running on all cylinders, making things happen.
The qualities that are present in you at such times are the same qualities attributed to peace. Peak performance is a mystical experience. I challenge you to spend the entire day choosing to be at peace, regardless of circumstances. See what happens to your mind, your brain function, your level of energy, to the way you relate to others and how you feel about yourself and what you achieved at the end of the day.