I flew to Minneapolis today. Those familiar with my blog will be amused to know that I spilled a cup of ice on myself during the flight. Once again, not my smoothest moment.
Two things happened that reminded me of the everyday stress test we all face in life. In this test, something doesn’t go your way and you have to choose your response. Will you accept stress? Will you remain calm?
The first incident occurred in my hotel when I walked into the elevator lobby. A hotel employee was waiting for the elevator to arrive and we exchanged hellos. Then she said, “Can you believe it’s only Monday?” I was surprised by this, mostly because of her position. As an employee in a service business, I expected her to at least pretend to be positive, calm, happy, basically stress-free.
Earlier in my life I would have nodded or given her a polite laugh. In fact, several years ago I would have been the one making the comment. Back then, I failed to realize how my misery and the stress I exuded effected the people around me. This kind of comment may seem innocuous, but how many times have you heard a comment like this and been dragged into a moaning, complaining conversation. These discussions never leave you feeling calm, upbeat, or optimistic. I wanted something better from my day.
My response to her was, “Actually, it’s been a pretty good day.” Then I got in my elevator and reminded myself that it had in fact been a good day. The reality is that the stress test can take you in either direction. It was my choice. I could focus on having had to get up at 5:30 to make my flight, being away from my wife and kids, or having a lot of work to do. On the other hand, I could focus on having traveled safely, being at work with clients I like, or hearing from my wife that she and my daughters had a good day. My stress level was my choice.
The second incident was reported to me by one of my clients. He arrived at the hotel and was told by the person at the front desk that his reservation had been canceled. He immediately began to feel frustrated and angry and stressed himself out. This didn’t happen because of the situation, it happened because of his choice. The situation was merely that a reservation had been lost. It only took a few minutes before he was able to get a room and without much difficulty.
When asked, he described similar situations he had experienced before, almost all of which ended with him getting a room in the hotel. Once or twice he had to take a room at a separate hotel. Never had he gone without a room for the night. Yet, he chose not to remember any of these past experiences. He chose to imagine the worst possible outcomes and create the most stressful response possible. Even when he retold the story to me and his colleagues, I could see his stress-level rising.
We all face different stress tests every day. When you confront yours, it is up to you to choose. Will you focus on the bad, the risk, the fears? Or will you see the good, the possible, the opportunity? Remember, the choice is yours.