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I had a revelation the other day.  Ok, maybe it was the Nyquil/Flu derived drible in the middle of the night.

The root of so much of our stress lies in our attempt to have CONTROL over the uncontrollable!

It started with a simple question posed by my 4 year old daughter:  “Why can’t I have this TV show right now?”, she asked pleading with me to magically make her favorite episode of her favorite TV show appear instantly.  It’s not that I couldn’t do it.  I mean I could if I navigated the menu items on the OnDemand function of my cable provider.  It’s just that I didn’t want to do it.  She had watched enough TV that day and that was that.

But it was her insistence on the mere fact that she could get whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted INSTANTLY in the comfort of her own living room that created some angst in my mind.  It was this notion of INSTANTLY, that got me thinking.  Not only do our kids have access to the latest and greatest ‘things’ instantly but so do we adults.  And what got me even more uncomfortable with all of the speed and complexity of technology today is that throughout this chaos we live in, we are creating so many filters in our lives to tailor our world around us.

Technology is enabling us to have things our way

Guilty as charged!  As I look at my own life in a world of dealing with uncertainty and chaos, I realize that what I’ve done is that I’ve somehow unknowingly created an artificial environment around myself with all these filters.  From being selective to the friends I hang out with to the parking spot where I like to park to the place I buy my morning coffee to the path I take to work.  It all seems as though I have been training myself to get into a comfortable groove of familiarity with…a predictable, orderly state of affairs that has become my own little universe cut off from the chaos of reality outside the bubble.  I don’t want hassles in life…so I avoid them!

And technology makes it so easy for us!  You press a button and pop – instantly you get what you want!  We decide which seat we sit on when flying on a plane.  We select the the ring tone, the music that comes on when someone calls. We select the time, place and device to suit our TV viewing experience. We select the restaurant based on our strict preference and criteria and reviews online.

“Have it your way” (remember the Burger King slogan?) has become our rallying cry and we have won.

Now what?

Real life happens.  Something you never expected, happens in your life.  Chaos at work.  Complexity of managing a career.  Uncertainty in a relationship.

No app on your IPhone for handling life that you cannot control.  So you freeze.  You get stuck.  Frozen by the over thinking.  Overwhelmed by the chaos.  WE GET UPSET.  FRUSTRATED.  STRESSED.

How to deal with stress?

As I learn to deal with uncertainty in life and chaos at work, I feel as though that striking the root of stress – this concept of CONTROL – is the place where I need to focus.  Because for me, trying to navigate this chaos – dealing with uncertainty, dealing with chaos at work, trying to control the unpredictability of life…that’s where my stress comes from:  my feeble attempt to think that just because technology has allowed me the ability to have some comfort controls in life, doesn’t mean that I can control the uncontrollable, which is real and unpredictable.  

I can’t control the way my kids will horse around when they’re supposed to be in bed.  I can’t control the way my boss will perceive my performance at work.  I cannot control the way my customers will make decisions.  So I have to learn to stop trying so hard to control the uncontrollable.  Instead, start focusing on the one thing that can be controlled:  Me.

I control my actions. I control my thoughts.  These are things I ought to be worried about – not trying to control the way life will revolve around me.

I believe that in order to reduce the stress and anxiety that comes with my attempt to deal with uncertainty in life and the complex and unpredicatable nature of work, I need to give up the desire to control the chaos.  Because chaos will not bow down to me. 

Doing Ju-Jitsu to the stress

I can only embrace the chaos and deal with stress by redirecting that desire of control and order…onto myself, my work and my purpose.  Channeling that effort towards my goal in life or the task I’m working is doing ju-jitsu to stress.  By working deep, hard and dedicating myself to whatever I want to achieve, I can begin to deal with stress and feel like I actually have control of my own life.

Controlling the way I look at the world and the pro-active actions I take to strive towards my purpose, I can deal with stress to become a little less anxious, a little more relaxed.   And instead of fighting with my daughter about the TV show, I am slowly learning to go with the flow…and jump on the sofa and watch with her.

How to deal with stress |  Embrace the Chaos   |   Bob Miglani


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By Bob Miglani

Bob Miglani is the Author of the Washington Post Bestseller, Embrace the Chaos, which is about learning to move forward in times of change, uncertainty and disruption. He grew up running his family's Dairy Queen store, the subject of his first book, Treat Your Customers. He worked in corporate America for 23 years. Left to pursue a life of passion working in a startup, writing, motivational speaking and learning how to live a life of contribution.

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