The mess of stress and how to put it in its place

This is supposed to be the most joyful time of the year, but for many people this has become the most stressful time of the year. What a shame!

And there are other people who are stressed out … all day … every day … all year long. What a tragedy!

It doesn’t have to be that way.

The holidays are supposed to be all about good news. And one piece of good news is you don’t have to have a stress-FULL life. You can have a more joy-FULL life and career if you use any one these stress-busting strategies.

► 1. Remind yourself “You’ll never get it all done and that’s okay.”

I was raised in a family where my parents said, “First comes work; then comes play. When you get all your work done, then you can play.” Perhaps you were raised the same way.

The trouble is, if you take that advice literally, that you must get all your work done before you play, you would never play.

You need to remember no matter how hard you work or how fast you work, on the day you die there’ll still be a few things left in your in-box.

The same goes for the holidays. You’ll never get all your holiday chores done. There’s always more you could do to create that picture-perfect holiday. Let it go. Remind yourself “you’ll never get it all done and that’s okay.”

As the founder of Christmas said, “I come to give you peace.”

► 2. Cut back on the less important people and things in your life.

I know this may seem harsh, but all the people in your personal and professional lives are not equally important. For your own sanity, especially during the holiday season, focus on the folks who mean the most to you and get to the others later.

Likewise, all the activities on your holiday schedule are not equally important. Cut out two or three activities that have become more burdensome than meaningful … whether that be Christmas baking, Christmas cards, attending a Christmas party with people you don’t like, or buying a gift for everyone, including people you don’t even know.

Of course there’s no right or wrong answer to this question on what to cut out. The only thing you need to do is not waste your time on the trivial activities so you have more time for the ones that really do matter.

► 3. Let go of your perfectionism.

Very few of us ever had or will ever have a picture-perfect Hallmark Christmas. That’s fantasy land, not reality, and the more you try to make it come true, the more disappointment you might experience.

That doesn’t mean you can’t have a wonderful holiday season, especially so when you let go of your perfectionism. And that may be difficult for some of you.

When I was speaking at Purina Nestle, Jeff Roark told me he was raised by a father who always said, “Anything worth doing is worth doing right!” He was taught to be a perfectionist by a perfectionist father.

Years later, Jeff heard Marion Wade, the founder of Service Master say, “Anything worth doing is worth doing half right.” In effect, Wade was saying if you wait until conditions are perfect before you act, you may never start and you will almost always lose out on something good.

Later, as a graduate of my Champion Edge Master Class, Jeff told me, “As a recovering perfectionist, I now ask myself: ‘Is this new idea or approach good enough to start getting some benefit out of it?’ If it is, I go ahead and do it, figuring ‘I can always make it better in version 2.0.'”

That’s smart. There are so many good and important things you can do that will bring good and important results, even though they might not be perfect results. Go for it. There’s a big healthy difference between pursuing excellence and being a perfectionist.

So let me ask you, what’s on your list of good and important things you want to pursue in 2021?

May I suggest that one of the best things you can do to get 2021 off to a powerful, positive, roaring start is to join my next Champion Edge Master Class? And those who register in December save $100 on the tuition.

I think the American actress and author Marilu Henner gets it exactly right when she says, “Being in control of your life and having realistic expectations about your day-to-day challenges are the keys to stress management, which is, perhaps, the most important ingredient to living a happy, healthy, and rewarding life.”

► 4. Re-engineer repetitive irritations.

You probably have some things in your life and your work that continue to bug you on a fairly regular basis. Then it’s time to figure out some other way to handle this irritation.

For me, one major irritation used to be waiting at the airport (back in the good old days when so many of us were flying from one business meeting to another). I hated “wasting” any time whatsoever, so I would leave my office at the latest possible moment, rushing to the airport, hoping I wouldn’t be stuck in traffic and miss my flight. It was crazy behavior that stressed me out big time and yet I allowed it to happen hundreds of times in the early years of my career … until I re-engineered that part of my life.

I learned to leave my office at least three hours before my flight so I don’t have to worry about traffic, the car breaking down, or a road being closed. I’ve always got enough time to use Plan B or C if something should go wrong. And instead of being frustrated at the airport while having to wait at the gate for the plane to take off, I relish that time as a time to catch up on my e-mails or write another chapter in my upcoming book. It was a simple solution to a repetitive irritation that has paid off a thousand times.

My wife used to shop for groceries around 5:00 p.m. on a weeknight and would come home and talk about the long check-out lines, the cranky clerks coming to the end of their shifts, or the food items she wanted that were all sold out. It was a major stressor that happened at least once a week until she re-engineered that part of her life. After a two-minute chat with the customer service department at the grocery store, asking them about their quietest times, and after ten minutes of reflection on her own schedule, she found the perfect time to shop. It cut her time and stress in half.

What kinds of things are going on in your life or your work on a regular basis that stress you out? Think about how you can re-engineer that task.

Final Thought: To all of you, I wish a very Merry Christmas. And I thank you for the joy you’ve brought into my life as my followers, readers, students, clients, and customers.