Not so long ago, the term “stress” was not part of our everyday language. Sure, we all had problems and challenges, but the prevailing wisdom and expectation of the day was to cowboy up and deal with it. Anything less was considered weak and whiney.
I am not sure why, but somewhere back in the 80’s we changed and bought into the philosophy that everybody gets to do everything. Suddenly football practice was accompanied by piano lessons, running for school president, church choir, horseback riding club and more. This do-more-all-the-time attitude soon spilled over into the business world and consequently we now find ourselves in multi-task overload with our lives and our brains overflowing with too much garbage. So, having now adopted an over-stuffed lifestyle that creates buckets of stress, we’ve got to cowboy up and deal with it.
What is Stress?
To remove stress from our lives, we must first fully understand what it actually is. Stress is not its own entity — it has no physical properties or form. It’s simply a reaction we feel when we perceive ourselves to be losing control of a given situation. Don’t give it any more power than that– and note that word, perceive. It’s very important. It is often not reality that causes our stress but rather our perception of the world around us. A different point of view may be all that’s needed to eliminate our anxiety.
Consider the frustrated recruiter who has spent the day making unsuccessful cold calls (and we’ve all been there). Exasperated, at the end of the day he allows desperation and disappointment to take hold as he tells himself that the market has tanked and he’ll soon be broke. These irrational thoughts create a big heap of stress which in turn has the potential to ruin the rest of his week or month.
When stress takes over, our best course of action is to simplify our lives, and take back some control. Differentiate between the things you have power over and those you don’t. List the things you are stressed about and let go of the things you can’t control. Shift your focus to reducing your to-do list to the very basics. You are called to keep yourself healthy, to eat and sleep well, to contribute to society and to earn a living. That leaves a lot of room for other garbage — the stuff others pile on us and expect us to live up to.
Obsessive and Addictive
As recruiters, everybody wants a piece of us. We are in a high net worth sales position and, because we enjoy walking on the edge and taking risks, we are prone to extremes. We push the envelope and are typically obsessive, with addictive personalities. It’s what makes us great and makes us do everything to the 110th degree. However, if we choose to feed or sedate our frustrations, our stress can lead to unhealthy habits; our lives become out of balance. We only fail when we succumb to these unhealthy obsessions, which come in many forms: drugs, sex, alcohol, exercise, religion, even work.
My obsession was my job. I confess to being a workaholic until about age 40 when I hit a wall and realized that if I didn’t make some major changes I was going to lose the things that were most important to me — my family, my health and my life. So I forced myself to go two days a week with no emails, phone calls, meetings, and no discussions about work. As my professional and personal life became more balanced, ironically, I found working less and playing more not only made me a more pleasant person to be around, it also made me much better at my job. I suddenly became surprisingly more creative and productive when I did work. I now enjoy several vacation days each year while still billing over $1 million in annual sales. You can achieve high levels of success while still maintaining a healthy work/life balance and being a happy person.
Say No Sometimes
Recruiters, when feeling stressed and overwhelmed, chill out, take a powder and simplify. Survey your desk and assess your current situation. Accept your limitations and let the things you can’t control go. Learn to say no. Acknowledge truth and be boldly honest with yourself about what you need to do. Nobody else will. Stop finding distractions like paperwork and other pointless chores and focus on the things you can do something about — the activities and behaviors that you can do right now that will make you more money.
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You Can Control You
I’ve found there are very few problems in our profession that can’t be quickly resolved by making a few good sales. Identify a new top candidate you can market to your client companies. Can’t find one? Then pick up the phone and do some good old-fashioned cold calling. Don’t worry about the outcome. You can’t control what others will do or how they will react. Control your own behavior and make the calls. The process alone will make you feel better and reduce stress levels. You’ll even surprise yourself at how creative you become once on the phone. Perhaps one of the greatest things about our business is we can control our outcomes by choosing the correct activities and behaviors.
Ultimately, you will decide if you are going to let stress consume your life.
Simplify everything. Set an achievable goal and go for it! If you must obsess, at least find an obsession that’s healthier like working out. I’d much rather be a gym rat than a bar rat. Insist on maintaining a healthy balance between work and play, understanding that working hard for five solid days, achieving goals and being productive will relieve stress. Play just as hard on your days off. Remember, when playing and relaxing, your subconscious is still working on your problems and finding more creative solutions.
Achieving balance is an incredible stress reducer. It means you are in the driver’s seat and taking control of your life. More importantly, it means you have achieved real and lasting success.