The Mental Dimension of Work-Life Balance

“It is not work that kills men; it is worry. Worry is rust upon the blade.”

What comes to mind when you think of George Washington? Leader? President? Visionary? All true.

But did you ever stop to think that George Washington could have been one of the most stressed out people of all time? He lost every battle in the Revolutionary War — except two. He fought up and down Manhattan and lost. The Hessions forced him to White Plains, and he lost again. They drove him across the river to Hackensack, and again he was defeated. Then down through New Jersey, he lost battle after battle.

However, the day finally came at Yorktown when General Cornwallis said, “I salute you, Sir, as the greatest leader of men.” Obviously, Washington kept trying until he turned his stresses into victory.

You have to do the same thing. You are subjected to stress every day of your life — which is not all bad. A piece of steel without tension would be no good. A person with no tension would be ineffective.

The trouble is — many of you have too much stress and tension. Many of you are wearing out in one or more of the 8 dimensions of life. You’re struggling to maintain a healthy work-life balance. That’s why I wrote several “Tuesday Tips” on the issue in the last few weeks. And that’s why one of my most popular programs is called “Take This Job and Love It! A Program for Managing Stress, Preventing Burnout, and Balancing Life.” Indeed, you should have me talk about that at your next meeting. Just give me a call at 1-800-621-7881.

But let’s look at the fourth dimension of work-life balance today — the Mental dimension. I think it’s especially appropriate to focus on this during the holiday season. And there’s a lot you can do to keep your balance.

=> 1. Change Your Thoughts. Think Peace.

To a large extent, your level of stress is controlled by your thoughts. The more you think, “I can’t take much more of this… I’ve had it…” and, “That’s not fair,” the more stress you’ll have. You’ve got to stop thinking those thoughts.

Fortunately, nothing is easier than changing your thoughts. When you watch television, for example, you can easily shift your mental focus from a movie to the news to a commercial. In a very similar sense, your thoughts and mental focus are changeable and controllable.

If you’re feeling too much stress, sit back, close your eyes, and picture the serenity that comes after a storm. Imagine that the turmoil within you has passed. All that remains is stillness. Try this exercise whenever you feel tense, nervous, and upset. You’ll be amazed at the calmness you can create.

=> 2. Refuse To Worry.

There’s a lot of research that says worrying about something makes things worse — and may actually increase the chances that those worrisome things will happen. If you worry a lot about getting sick, you’ll probably get sick more often. If you worry about getting into a car accident, your uptightness will make you a poorer driver, and you’ll probably have more accidents.

The way you stop your worry is quite simple. You replace your worry with a powerful, counteracting, positive sentence. Your mind can’t have two thoughts at once, and positive thoughts, held long enough, always overcome negative thoughts.

John Evan Jones, a newspaperman, told a story about his experiences in London during the bombings of World War II. He had a maiden aunt who was a strong, resolute, religious woman who lived alone.

After each bombing raid, John would visit his aunt to see that she was all right. He noticed that on the wall she kept a motto which read, “Don’t worry; it may never happen.”

One night it did happen. A bomb fell close to the house knocking out every window and smashing all her fine china. Rushing to check on her, John found her calmly sweeping up. Still hung on the wall was her motto.

“What will you do with your motto now?” he asked. “Oh my,” she responded, “I forgot to turn it over.” She did, and on the reverse side it said, “We can take it.”

=> 3. Picture Success.

When you vividly picture a desired goal, you will eventually reach your goal or solve your problem. Even before that, however, your picture will give you hope and renewed energy.

This was the method used by Henry Royce, the creator of the Rolls Royce automobile. Henry dreamed of the day when people could drive a car without the constant threat of breaking down.

It was an incredible challenge for Royce, but in his mind he had the image of a completely reliable car. To that end, he manufactured a “bumping machine” that was like driving a car over railroad tracks at 60 miles per hour. Parts broke, pieces fell off, frames bent, and rear axles gave way. As each weakness was revealed, Royce used his ingenuity to make corrections.

Finally, the day came when Royce’s car could run the equivalent of 250,000 miles without the failure of a single part. Royce had achieved his goal. The image he had formed of a reliable car became a reality.

Maybe you’ve got too much stress in your life. Your organization may be going through monumental changes. There may be fewer people than there used to be, and the work load may have increased. In fact, you may be working more than ever before, and the company can’t guarantee your job security.

Remember, there are some things you can do. You can stand up to stress. You can apply the techniques I’ve talked about. They work. They really do! And if you want to get really serious about this endeavor, give me a call. I’ve got a great program to offer you: “Take This Job and Love It! A Program for Managing Stress, Preventing Burnout, and Maintaining Balance.” It will make a difference!

Action:  Don’t let yourself slip into worry. Catch yourself worrying. Be on the lookout for it.

And as soon as you catch yourself, look for a counteracting positive thought. Look for something else you can tell yourself. With a bit of practice, you’ll spend less time on useless worry and more time on constructive thought.