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Stress and Goal-centered Life

Should we renounce our goals and desires in order to become stress-free? The short answer to this question is no.

Some people think that stress is caused by our constant efforts to reach our goals. So, the only solution they propose is to “let it go”. They encourage people do not strive for anything beyond their basic needs, be as relaxed as possible, and make no plans for the future. They call it “the simple lifestyle”. But to me, it looks like encouraging people to become mindless and lazy.

Desires, when they are rightly applied, develop our mind by stimulating our creativity. When we want something, we find new ways of doing things. We search for solutions and plan well ahead.

Desires, when they are rightly applied, increase our productivity. We create and deliver more value – and we receive the adequate reward. We become willing to pay the full price in order to get what we want, because we know that we can’t have it for free.

It is childish and simplistic to assume that lack of desires and lack of work would make us stress-free.

Do you know any lazy people? I do. According to my observation, they are far from being stress-free and happy. They complain most of the time. Their life is stressful, too – in their own way.

The fact that we should work is not our problem. It is in the nature of life for us to express ourselves through organized activity, that is, through work. But sometimes, we act as poor organizers. We don’t know where to stop and how to balance work and recreation – perhaps, because we don’t love ourselves enough.

Desires and goals provide the structure for decision-making. The state of mental confusion and indecision is more stressful than we realize. But if you are clear about your wants and life purposes, you can make your choices quickly and easily.

Do you experience stress because some of your desires haven’t been fulfilled? Even if it is the case, don’t let them go. Replace them with better desires, the ones that are more realistic and attainable. Turn them to plans and goals, and move on.

© 2011 by Andrei Yashurin

Stress and the Art of Saying No

We will significantly reduce our level of stress if we will learn to say “no” more often. As one man from the XIX century have said, ability to say “no” is more useful than knowledge of Greek and Latin.

We are often burdened and pressured because we accept too much. People are coming to us and asking to do this and that, and we find ourselves unable to resist. We commit to give our time and efforts to various projects. We stay with others, listening to them as long as they want. We help others every time we’re called upon. There is no wonder that sooner or later we become drained, exhausted, and even depressed.

With all of your good intentions, don’t forget to take care of yourself. As we’ve mentioned, YOU are your greatest asset. In fact, let self-care be your primary focus. Self-negligence is equal to self-destruction. If you really love your life, never let it happen.

Learn to say “no” to the people you don’t really like. Be polite, but firm and resolved. Don’t communicate too much with individuals who waste your time and drag you down, both mentally and emotionally. You are not obliged to listen to complainers, faultfinders, and gossipers.

If it is difficult for you to say “no”, start by not saying “yes” right away. Give yourself enough time to think and to evaluate every request or proposal. You also need to realize that as you become more and more successful, people around you will become more and more demanding. They will claim your time, your attention, and your resources. It is better to figure out how you’ll deal with them in advance.

Learn to say “no” to useless activities. Stop doing the things that give you neither satisfaction nor profit. Live consciously. Estimate how much time do you spend on this and that. Ask yourself: What will happen if I will quit doing it? Would it help me to become happier and more relaxed? Would it help me to avoid stress? If your answer is positive, go ahead and quit.

© 2011 by Andrei Yashurin

Stress and Preparation

One of the greatest secrets of dealing with stress is preparation. We need to get ready in advance to meet the upcoming challenges of life. We’ve got to invest our time and efforts in making a safety net and building defense barriers.

Someone might say: “But the stuff you are talking about is the negative thinking! Shouldn’t we be more optimistic about our future?” But nobody should deny the realities of life in order to be positive and optimistic. Optimism is not about being gullible or ignorant.

There is a difference between worrying about our future and thinking about our future. It is possible for us to think and plan ahead without being anxious or overly concerned. The key recipe is to write down your plans on paper, and to make those plans executable on a day-to-day basis.

Certainly, you cannot plan everything in advance, but any plan is better than having no plans at all.

A realistic plan suggests that you are not waiting for some miracle to transform your life. You rely on your own efforts – on those things that could be done by you.

The best coping strategy for dealing with stress is self-development. Your only security is in moving upward and forward. Don’t wait until some situation would become too uncomfortable. Get ready in advance for all the things that might happen.

Ask yourself: What can I do to become better in my business and my profession? How can I improve my performance in order to create and deliver more value? By doing so, you will maximize your chances to succeed, even in difficult times. Those goals could be easily achieved by anyone.

Ask yourself: What can I do to take a better care of my physical, emotional, and mental health? Realize that YOU are your own greatest asset. Don’t ever allow it to be devalued.

Take care of your body by adjusting eating and drinking habits. Have enough sleep and rest. Have enough physical activity as well. Take care of your emotions by letting go unpleasant activities and dysfunctional relationships. Take care of your mind by learning to think rationally and exercising critical judgment.

But don’t ever try to produce large-scale changes all at once. Move on slowly. After the end of each day, say to yourself: “Today, I’ve made a step towards creating a safer and happier future. Tomorrow, I will make one more step. That’s all I can do, and that’s all I care about. I don’t have to figure out the whole process”.

(to be continued)

© 2011 by Andrei Yashurin

Stress and the Art of Concentration

If someone tells you that you should not think of certain things, be sure that this person is doesn’t deserve your attention. He has no idea of how human mind works. Our mind never obeys direct commands.

The only way we can deal with negative thoughts is to deliberately concentrate on thoughts of a different character. Focus on thoughts of strength, confidence, ability, and success. By doing so, you will overcome stress-producing mental patterns of weakness, dependence, and failure.

If you are worried about financial problems, health issues, and relationship difficulties, you’ll have to make practical steps to tackle those things. We will discuss it later. But at the same time, you need to give yourself a healthy dose of positive thinking. If you won’t do it, outward changes are not going to last. Sooner or later, you will resort to your old way of life.

While thinking about your challenges, enlarge your vision. Your situation seems to be unique for you – but it is highly possible that millions of people successfully dealt with similar situations before. What was their experience? Learn from it.

Take time to get alone and think of your strengths – both in your character and in your professional life. Write them down on paper. Almost every person, including you, is good at something. Focus your attention on this fact. For strength to be valid you don’t have to be exceptional at something – it is enough to be good.

Do you feel that your “good” is not good enough? Make a concrete plan to develop your strengths. Write it down on paper. This plan doesn’t have to be overly complex and stressful. Just plan to do one or two simple things every day in order to become better.

Take time to think of your successes and victories in the past. (I am not talking about “counting your blessings”; it is a different thing.) Remember the times when you went through a stressful and challenging situation, and became a winner. Remember the way you felt. Remember the excitement of victory. Remember the joy of self-transcendence.

These feelings are not accidental. They should become a part of your day-to-day life. But first, you need to focus on your previous victories. Make them fully alive in your mind, and let them affect the way you deal with your current challenges.

(to be continued)

© 2011 by Andrei Yashurin

Stress and Thinking

“You are today where your thoughts have brought you, you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you”, said James Allen. If you don’t exactly like your current condition, be aware that your thoughts created it. If you will begin to think differently, you will create a different kind of condition. To become a true master of your life, you’ve got to become a master of your mind.

We often become stressed because we allow negative thoughts and mental pictures to occupy our minds, up to the point where we see nothing good about our life. When something bad happens, it might cause us to narrow down our vision to that thing alone. We might exaggerate our problems. Our imagination, in turn, makes our burden heavier by painting morbid pictures of even greater upcoming disasters.

But the fact is, every situation we face is complex and multi-faceted.

There are both good sides and bad sides to it;
There are challenges and opportunities;
There are tests and rewards.

It is true that we should deal with the negative stuff. However, we won’t succeed in resolving those issues if we lack a balanced vision of what is really going on. What we need to do is to deliberately focus our consciousness on the bright side of things. Rewards and opportunities aren’t always evident. We should search for them.

Even if it seems that you can’t find anything positive in a failure or a painful loss, you can still treat it as a learning experience. Ask yourself:

What have I learned?
How can apply this new knowledge in order to make my life better?
What concrete plans can I make, based on this knowledge?

Write down your insights on paper. If you will try to remember them, they will easily slip away from your mind. Don’t let it happen.

Approach all the situations with confidence that the things could be changed to the better. Become solution-oriented. Positive changes never happen by themselves. You’ve got to make them happen.

Even if you take baby steps in the right direction, you have something to be proud about. You have a reason to hope rather than to fear. Even a small track record of success can make a huge difference in a way you perceive your life. Let it become a foundation of your further achievements.

(to be continued)

© 2011 by Andrei Yashurin

The Cause and the Cure of Stress

When we are overly stressed, we tend to focus on our environment – and to blame it. We rant about “the difficult times” we live in. We complain about our sorrows and misfortunes. It seems a logical thing to do. However, in most situations we deal with, stress is caused by inner, not by outer factors.

Our lives are mainly determined not by what happens to us, but by our reactions to what happens to us. We fail to understand this principle only because our reactions have become a matter of habit. We react too quickly. We come to think that our fixed patterns are the only possible way to react. But when we begin to understand that it is not true, we discover our freedom to enjoy a better life.

“Quality of life depends on what happens in the space between stimulus and response”, said Stephen Covey. There is always a time between action and reaction. Knowing this, we may choose the best possible reactions.

Stress is rooted in some of our habits, including:

- inability to think positively, to focus on the bright side of things;
- inability to say “no” to people and things that demand our attention;
- inability to properly organize our life;
- inability to take care of ourselves.

To reduce your level of stress, the first thing you need to do is to take the full responsibility for your thoughts, attitudes, and choices. Don’t blame others for your stress, even if you sincerely believe that they deserve blame. Too often, blame is a trick of evasion. Begin by thinking that you can always improve yourself.

Even if at this point it looks like you cannot change a certain mental habit, don’t give up. Perhaps, you simply need to learn something you don’t know yet. Or, perhaps, you need to be more focused and consistent in practicing that which you already know.

Responsibility is the master key. There is no way for an irresponsible human being to escape stress. Even if he will be placed into a stress-free environment, a nasty little bug in his mind will always find a reason to be upset about, or to worry about.

Outward changes, as necessary as they might be, won’t be sufficient for reducing your level of stress. The work should begin in your mind.

(to be continued)

© 2011 by Andrei Yashurin

How to Deal With Stress

If we wish to find a method that will make us completely free from stress, our expectations are unrealistic. Stress is a natural part of the world where our survival is not guaranteed, but depends on exercising of all our faculties. The nature of life itself urges us to think and to act, to find solutions for our problems, to overcome obstacles and challenges. That is not always easy. To some extent, our life will always be stressful.

People who choose to be moochers rather than self-relying creators, those who hope that others will carry their burdens, usually find out that their lives still aren’t free from stress.

A moderate amount of stress is good for us, because it contributes to our development. When we have to lift heavy objects and walk long distances as a part of our daily routine, we become stronger. When we have to solve difficult problems, we become smarter. So, we don’t have to treat stress as our enemy. If we treat it rightly, it can make us a better person.

On the other hand, a total absence of stress (if that would ever be possible) would make one a weakling, a person who is unable to achieve any significant results in this world.

It is true, however, that many people suffer from excessive stress. Their stress doesn’t make them any stronger or better. Stress they experience negatively affects their physical, emotional, and mental health. It drains their energy and leaves them empty.

Some people, in their attempts to deal with excessive stress, resort to addictions and irrational behavior. But their relief is only temporary. The real problem never goes away, only becomes worse.

We all can deal with stress and to reduce its level by living consciously and rationally. First of all, we need to be truthful. We need to honestly admit that we are too stressed, and then make the necessary steps to change the situation. We need to take the complete responsibility for our life and to take care of ourselves. Nobody would ever do it for us.

(to be continued)

© 2011 by Andrei Yashurin

Happiness and Personal Development

Is it possible to become happy and to stay the same? Could we be happy without changes? I don’t know. I haven’t even tried. I find it in my own experience that to live means to change, and avoiding changes is equal to avoiding life itself.

Even though some people are afraid of uncertainty, lack of changes brings boredom, mental slumber, and slow decline. On the other hand, chances spur us to higher mental and physical activity. When the things around us move rapidly, we have to take an initiative, to be creative, to be our best. This makes our lives exciting.

It is not wise to wait until changes will be forced upon us by the circumstances. We can initiate changes by making a conscious commitment to personal development. Self-knowledge and self-expression will then become the greatest contributing factors to our happiness.

Personal development allows us to feel joy and excitement of victory. If you are not a top athlete, or a famous rock star, or a bestselling author, you can still enjoy large and small victories in the process of reaching for your goals.

Are you haunted by unpleasant memories? Do you have too many regrets about the things you’ve done in the past? Change your perspective. Rejoice in the fact that now you have a greater awareness. Use this awareness as a starting point of moving upward and forward.

Do the things that are right, and see them as investments into your future. Increase your value and your efficiency. Become a creative thinker and a true master in your own field. Live with integrity. Build relationships of mutual respect and trust.  Stay upbeat and optimistic. You don’t have to wait for immediate positive results of your actions. The principle of delayed gratification holds true: if we are willing to wait, we will get more later.

Contrary to what some people think, happiness is never achieved by a single act, or even by doing just one thing. Happiness is a compound effect of doing the right things over the course of your life.

The road to happiness is open before each one of us. Let us move on!

© 2011 by Andrei Yashurin

Your Own Definition of Happiness

Some people seem to discourage the pursuit of happiness. Should we give any attention to them? I don’t think so.

Not so long ago I listened to an audio program, where two British philosophers discussed a recent book of happiness. Among the other things, they were saying that our generation is “obsessed” with the search for happiness, and that people of the past were happier compared to us. All I could say to that was, “Oh, really?”

It is sad to hear how respected people with academic credentials present outworn clichés as actual facts.

To begin with, it cannot be proven that people in the past were happier. What will suit for the evidence? Hundreds years ago, people lived in more violent and cruel society. The concept of human rights as we know it was non-existent. Tortures and public executions were common. The majority of people barely survived. They worked harder, and their lives were shorter. What can possibly make someone think that they were happier? It is true that among their miseries, people of the past got their consolation in religion. But I would argue that consolation is not the same as happiness.

It is true that prosperous and peaceful life doesn’t guarantee happiness. But there are no doubts that stress and poverty increase unhappiness.

Perhaps, some people get discouraged in their search for happiness, because their definition of happiness is too narrow, or because they unthinkingly subscribe to someone else’s ideals of happiness. Instead of listening to others, they should listen to their heart.

For some people, the greatest happiness is to live a quiet and simple life.
For other people, happiness implies risk, adventure, and self-transcendence.
For other people, happiness is about deeper awareness and intellectual pursuits.

Define your own happiness, and go for it. If at some point you will realize that happiness should involve something else, go for it. But don’t be ashamed of your pursuit of happiness. It is a noble and a worthwhile endeavor. If you don’t harm and don’t deceive anyone in the process, you can build your happiness in your own way. Use all the materials that are available to you.

© 2011 by Andrei Yashurin

Pursuit of Happiness

One of the greatest realizations is the one that we are fully responsible for the level of our happiness. Happiness won’t come automatically, without our conscious and consistent efforts. If we hope that it will, we are going to be disappointed. On the other hand, we have no right to demand others to make us happy, to fulfill our desires and whims.

We are not entitled to have the things we haven’t earned. At the same time, we have the right to use and enjoy the things we’ve earned the way we want. This principle is applied to all people, at all times. There are no exceptions.

There are some people who like to impose guilt on others in other to manipulate them. If you’ve achieved some noticeable results, they might come to tell you that your success somehow is wrong, or that you are wrong to take credit for it, or that you should give away all that you’ve earned. Let me warn you: if you will allow this kind of guilt into your consciousness, your happiness will be lost.

Don’t ever be ashamed of anything you’ve achieved by honest means. People aren’t equal in terms of their talents and achievements, and they aren’t meant to be.

To be ashamed of your success is to cut roots of your success.
To be ashamed of your prosperity is to cut roots of your prosperity.
To be ashamed of your chances and opportunities is to waste them.
Why should you do all that?
Why should you deliberately harm yourself?

Help others less fortunate if you want, but do that because you are generous, not because you think that they are entitled to have what you’ve earned. Helping others is an act of free will, not a moral duty. And it is OK not to help people who are not willing to help themselves in any significant way.

Don’t impose guilt on others. Recognize their right to live and to pursue happiness in their own way, even if you think that it might cause a disaster for them. You are not their master, and it is not for you to decide.

© 2011 by Andrei Yashurin