“You will never be the person you can be if pressure, tension and discipline are taken out of your life” (James G Bilkey)

A fitness experiment was conducted at Tufts University, Boston, involving senior citizens between the ages of eighty-seven and ninety-six years old. This group were not particularly strong (in fact, unenthusiastic and under-exercised) and needed help to perform even the simplest of tasks, including getting in and out of bed. Their attitude was one of dependency – not a group that would make one think of fitness potential. According to the study, within eight weeks of the training routine, “wasted muscles had come back by 300%, coordination and balance improved and an overall sense of active life returned”. Doctors agree that to begin exercising at that age, you must believe that it will do your body good, you set aside all fears and concerns and you must have faith in yourself. In other words, a healthy attitude is what gets you exercising and the rest is just a matter of time and discipline. These older people had greater potential than they realised in growing the quality of their lives.

Attitudes towards the rigours and pressures of life seem to be all important. Be it as a result of business demands or family stresses, the way we approach them calibrates our minds and our beliefs about ourselves and our abilities and subsequently become enablers or disempowering factors. There seems to be a significant connection between the wellness of the mind and the body. Dr Herbert Benson, Harvard M.D., discussed this concept in great detail in his book “Timeless Healing, The Power and Biology of Belief”. He makes crucial points that the body does “overhear” the mind and it responds accordingly. It hears your self-talk, criticisms about yourself and life in general. As such, you need to control and be choosy about the thoughts and attitudes you allow to occupy your mind. A positive attitude can be a “medicine” for healing and overall health.

Applying the right attitude towards pressure and tension enables you to exercise energy and creativity where it is going to have the most impact. Small doses of pressure are stimuli that assist in making attitude and subsequent action decisions – a guitar or violin string that is too loose makes no sound, too taught and it may snap. Given the right tension, however, beautiful sounds emanate from the musical instrument. Likewise, business demands or relational pressure can be used as opportunities for improvement, bringing out the very best in you.

In pressure situations, therefore, the following thought process could be instituted:

  • Coming to an accurate definition of the prevailing pressure – what is really happening here? Is the problem as bad as it seemed initially? Are you overstating the issues? Reflecting with your boss or others on the pressure may, with greater understanding, alleviate some of the pressure. Conversations such as these also give you the scope or the outcome expectations of what is required.
  • Brainstorming possible options and opportunities – others have faced similar issues before, so find out how they approached solving them. There are simply libraries of information on most issues, so learn from others’ experiences.
  • Checking your attitude – is there any negative self-talk that is present? If so, address it and recalibrate your thinking to “the steps necessary to achieve the best result on this issue” mind-set.
  • Checking your progress – how are you doing? Are there any additional resources that you may need? Do you need the assistance of others? Are you on track for realising a successful outcome?
  • Applying focused energy to achievement – where your focus lies, that’s where your energy will go. Focusing on any inadequacy you may have will slow you down – rather pull gifted people in those areas of your weakness alongside you and solicit their help.

Pressure, tension and discipline, in reasonable doses, are essential ingredients in the process of developing yourself to become your very best. Your attitude counts for everything here – ownership, optimism and tenacity need to be developed.

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