Well, maybe you can – at least in theory. I have been doing some research on the topic of how highly successful people handle stress during this past year and have made some amazing discoveries. I would like to share those with you here.
Are you ready? Let’s jump right in!
1. They don’t “awefulize”
Awfulizing is a 25-cent term from the world of cognitive behavioral therapy. To awefulize is to immediately jump to the worst possible conclusion about a given situation. Successful people do not engage in this kind of thinking. Instead, they logically examine the situation they are in and explore possibilities. They consciously decide how they will respond and weigh options. “What if I responded this way” is a key question these individuals reflect upon.
What if you started to change how you thought about a problem and focused on all possible options and not just the worst one?
2. They take deep breaths
Highly successful people have learned that one of the most effective ways to remain calm occurs through active breathing. This means they are aware of the physical process of inhaling and exhaling and do so with intent. Successful people know breathing deeply helps to regulate the flight or fight response and offers physiological and psychological benefits.
What would it be like the next time you are working through intense stress to stop a moment and take 10 deep breaths, focusing on each inhale and exhale? What if you visualized stress leaving your body as you breathed out?
3. They engage in mindfulness
People who are highly successful live in the here and now. They do not dwell on mistakes made in the past. They also don’t worry about the future. Instead, they mindfully remain present in the moment and strategize about making dreams come true for tomorrow. Mindfulness allows successful people to not hold on to past hurts or worrisome thoughts about what might come. Finally under this point, they have learned that laughter is important and that living in the moment often contains many elements of humor.
What if you tried living in the here and now and created realistic strategies for reaching your life goals? What if you found something humorous – just one thing – that happened during your day?
4. They focus on what’s going right
Remaining calm during periods of stress is no easy task. One way highly successful people are able to do this is by focusing on real positives. This means not making self-defeating statements like, “Nothing is going right” or “I’m screwed!” Instead, successful people have found that it helps to focus on what’s going right. An example might be a person who makes a mistake and is able to say, “I got this part of the problem wrong but I got this aspect right!”
What if the next time you encountered a difficult challenge you identified what was going right? What if you used strength based approach create positive change?
5. They set boundaries
One of the most difficult things most all of us face is setting healthy boundaries around work and other responsibility areas. Making matters worse is the reality of our 24/7, non-stop electronic world. Successful people have learned that in order for them to handle high periods of stress, they need to limit exposure to low levels of stress. This means they have set boundaries around how available they will be to others. They have discovered that by blocking off periods of time to disconnect, they are better able to regulate their mood and respond calmly should the need arise.
What would it be like if you set boundaries around how much time you made yourself available to others? What if you made the conscious choice to turn off that smart-phone or power down that tablet during certain times of your day?
6. They are mindful about diet
This one is absolutely easier said than done however, you do not have to engage in all or nothing thinking to be mindful about diet. Successful people have learned that by making small adjustments to their eating, focusing on high protein foods, they are able to remain calm for longer periods of time. This also means they are aware of how much sugar they take in and how much caffeine they ingest. Engaging in regular physical activity is combined with diet mindfulness for maximum results.
What would it be like if you were to create small changes around your diet each day, replacing high fat foods with low carb, high protein meals? What if you replaced just 1 cup of coffee a day with a glass of water?
7. They make sleep a priority
Scientists have long known about the direct relationship sleep has on working through stress. For folks who are highly successful, there exists a strong recognition that meaningful and restorative sleep is an essential element to wellness. In short, they have learned that in order to not remain in a place of suspended anxiety, regular sleep needs to be part of their reality. These folks have come to know their circadian rhythm and pay attention when their bodies tell them to rest.
What would it be like to be more mindful of your circadian rhythm? What if you decided not to watch just “one more show” tonight and instead, opt for shut-eye?
8. They engage in gratitude
People who are deemed highly successful are able to focus on what they have as opposed to what they do not. They recognize that focusing on the positive helps to minimize the negative and empowers calmness. Gratitude also allows these individuals to appreciate the good times better when facing adversity.
What would it be like if you identified one or two things to be grateful for each day? What if you wrote a few of these down and then added to that list during the week?
9. The do not partake in learned helplessness
This is a term that is bandied about often – but what does it really mean? Learned helplessness basically means that you believe you cannot change your situation because it is totally beyond your power. People who are highly successful find this kind of thinking anathemas to their very being. The words, “I can’t” just aren’t part of their vernacular.
What if you made a choice right now that you can create change in your situation and believe (meaning truly believe) that you have the power to live the life that you want? What if you listed out 3-5 steps right now to get the ball rolling?
10. They lean into their circle of support
Folks who have reached a place of success in life recognize their status was not achieved through singular acts. In other words, these individuals have learned that a rising tide lifts all boats and that part of moving upward means experiencing stress. Highly successful people lean into their circle of support when the going gets tough and they have made themselves available to others for the same purpose. Finally, they recognize that having a silent witness along the away allows them to be vulnerable, which connects them to their greater humanity.
What would it be like to not feel like you have to carry all of that stress on your own? What if you leaned into your circle of support and shared some of what you are feeling? How might making yourself available to others help you better manage stress?
Summing Things Up
Highly successful really don’t have a “chip”. Instead, they have learned to better manage their approach to different problems and place a premium on self-care.
I am including a book below for more tips on reducing stress in your life entitled: Thinking for a Change: 11 Ways Highly Successful People Approach Life and Work by John Maxwell. Inside you will find page after page of helpful information and tips on how to better approach various areas of stress and create positive change.
Bradberry, B. (2014, February 6). How Successful People Stay Calm.
Chan, W., & Gmelch, W. (1994). Thriving on stress for success. Principals taking action series. 152.
Southwick, S., Vythilingam, M., & Charney, D. (n.d.). The Psychobiology Of Depression And Resilience To Stress: Implications For Prevention And Treatment*. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 255-291.
Photo Credit: Alex Grey