Distress kills. Eustress empowers. Harness the positive aspect of stress to fuel your journey to excellence.
What is eustress? Tim Ferriss really popularized the phrase in his New York Times Bestseller “The 4 Hour Work Week” as a descriptor for the positive aspects of stress that energize and invigorate, that get your competitive juices flowing. Yet it was originally published in Nature way back in 1936 by the Canadian biochemist Hans Selye and has for eighty years been overshadowed by the negative aspect of Stress. Anyone that has been an athlete, or performed music or theatre knows the feeling of rising to the challenge of a rival, giving your all and feeling awesome about the process of becoming great regardless of the final outcome. Those who embrace eustress become champions eventually because they fall in love with the work of becoming great as opposed to the accolades, as Arnold Schwarzenegger proclaims.
Find what is not work but fun in its purest form, that makes you want to develop mastery and work so hard that you forget to eat and have to tear yourself away to force yourself to sleep. Watch a 12 year-old playing Fortnight, and care that deeply about your work. Have an outlet to positively channel your fight or flight in alignment with your goals, and work becomes as play.
You can call it Flow as Csikszentmihalyi does in his book, but eustress really leads to Flow in that it builds the fundamental strengths needed to create that innate desire to rise up, to become great, to achieve mastery over an area or subject be it skateboarding or martial arts or building an Introduction Based Business. Eustress raises your energy levels (as opposed to distress that lowers them) and in the end lets you say “I’m tired, but it’s a good sort of tired!”
Contrast this with the effects of distress producing cortisol in the body, leading to inflammation and damage. This also decreases testosterone levels, thus reducing your peak energy levels and stamina. Negative stress literally does weaken the body, and over time can lead to breakdowns from the cellular level to the muscular and even mental. Injecting eustress into normally distressful situations will lead to better management of time, workflow, and emotions as well as shorter recovery times between major endeavors.
One way to flip stress to eustress is the concept of gamification. In this you are literally making a game out of something serious, and the results can be fairly spectacular if done correctly. Several of the biggest insurance companies use little ribbons to denote production levels at their meetings, and the amount of additional effort a big producer will exert to get a little scrap of cloth is a wonder of performance psychology. The educational world realized a while ago that children learn through play and there are literally thousands of programs for learning games in a classroom setting. Essentially every library has a summer reading contest with prizes to harness this concept and convert it into a desire to read and learn, something corporate America has been too slow in adopting.
Make a game out of getting introductions. Set a daily goal that will translate (based on your sales ratios) to hitting your monthly production goals. Now round it up to the next whole number, and that is your Daily Intro Goal (DIG). Now create a game that works for you to achieve your DIG consistently. Examples we have used in the past include:
- Every day you hit your DIG, put a penny in a small stack by your phone. When you get five pennies you get to do something small like buy a nice bottle of wine, six pack of good beer, or go to the movies. These are appropriate little rewards for hitting your goal every day for a week.
- Thermometer: every day you hit your DIG you fill in a little of a thermometer, and when you hit a certain temperature (say 32 degrees for 32 days), you get a good reward like new shoes or a tie.
- Marble jar: a marble per day of hitting your DIG. When the jar is full you get to do something like a night out, or take the kids to the amusement park. You can get a bigger jar over time to push yourself towards even bigger goals with larger rewards like a weekend away with your sweetie or leasing a better vehicle.
- Chose a buddy. Any day you DON’T hit your DIG, give them $5.
- Streak. Keep a record of how many days in a row you can achieve your DIG. Set benchmarks (10, 20, 40, etc) with increasing large rewards. Throw yourself a party when you reach 100!
If you are like many professionals, just reading the ideas for DIG games got you a bit amped up. Imagine that feeling 10x, every day. Are your juices flowing? Are you excited by the challenge, excited by the opportunity? Ready to rise up and compete with yourself for greatness?
Welcome to eustress. Enjoy the struggle!