Stress Is My Motivation


stress (Photo credit: bottled_void)

The to-do list has grown long and my patience has grown short. Funny how those two things have such an intensely inverse relationship. STRESS. It comes with any pursuit that requires a modicum of prolonged effort. It’s a part of achievement. It’s a part of fulfillment. It’s a part of enjoyment. And yet stress is one of the most hated creatures in our lives. Stress causes increased production of cortisol, which is unhealthy. Stress makes us snap at our friends and partners. But stress makes us perform under pressure, stress means something important is happening in our lives.

Stress is like having an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other. One is cheering you on, the other is weighing you down. I was ill at the end of last week which, of course, means I’m completely caught up on my Downton Abbey. And it also means I’m behind on certain projects at work. Downton Abbey is a blessing of a show and I am so grateful that I was able to take the time to recover. But then you have to return to the real world and the list of to-dos is ever longer and it is so disheartening and sometimes you feel like you want to stay underneath your comforter for two months straight and hope no one notices. Exhale.

Sometimes, there is so much good coming your way, there isn’t enough time to handle it all. Sometimes there is so much bad coming your way, you don’t want to handle it all. But either way, the stress we feel, and the related pressure we put on ourselves, pushes us to achieve, move beyond obstacles, rise above challenges. Stress, as it turns out, is a wonderful motivator.

I see this in so many different contexts in my life, and in the lives of my friends. What really motivates us?  Is it the joy and pride in achievement? Or, rather, is it the fear of failure? Is it both? And which of these two options creates stress?  Certainly, the thought of joyful achievement doesn’t create stress…right? But it does. Along the road to achievement, there are many milestones. Anything worth achieving takes hard work, which will eventually give you that glorious feeling of accomplishment. Each of these milestones creates stress in my life. This is what achievement is about. Conquering something, managing something, figuring something out.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said “life is a journey, not a destination.” And our companion on the journey is our stress. It accompanies all meaningful pursuits so we must make friends. Keep our enemies closer, right?? So I’m trying, in fits and starts, to harness my stress, and use it as fuel for my engine. It’s all part of the lovely ride, it will push me through my to-do lists, it will push me over finish lines, but it won’t push me over the edge.

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