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Your greatest weapon against stress

“The greatest weapon against stress is our

ability to choose one thought over another.”

― William James

I had so many conversations with leaders going through turmoil last week but two stick out.

They were with 2 leaders in reasonably similar situations. Yet one of them had gone into total doomsday mode and as a result ‘paralysis by analysis’. The other was experiencing some stress but was focused on getting to the reality of the situation and then adapting quickly to the new reality.

If I shared the above quote with the first person when we spoke they probably would have thrown me off a bridge – because when you’re stressed out of your mind, you believe what you’re thinking – it’s your reality, and anyone who suggests something different is crazy.

Their thoughts were something like this: “My business will have to close/I’m screwed/The bank won’t help/I don’t know what to do.”

The second leader had similar thoughts to be fair initially, but then they ‘chose’ to change their thinking.

They chose something like ‘This is painful but I can handle it. I will make changes now. I/We will prevail. I can handle this.’

Pretty much the exact same situation but how they react will have a huge bearing on the eventual outcome.

Last week I wrote about Admiral James Stockdale who was one of the most decorated officers in the US military – primarily recognised for his resilience and creativity under the most challenging circumstances as a prisoner during the Vietnam War.

Another renowned prisoner of war was the psychologist, Viktor E. Frankl. He wrote and shared many insights about the human condition and resilience. But one that comes to mind now is this one:

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

And that is the challenge we have been given now.

We need to deal with reality as Stockdale advised – the brutal truth. (And here many still are in denial).

But then we need to change ourselves. And central to that is to realise that we have unconscious mental habits – about how we deal with various situations. And they are being tested now.

But our greatest power is to choose different thoughts. Better ones.

It doesn’t mean those thoughts are true either though. But they do affect your nervous system, mood and outlook hugely. Which gives you the best fighting chance to adapt daily and see the actions to take.

And right now that’s what’s needed most.

Where can you apply that this week?



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