Prioritize to Minimize Stress

I had a wonderful experience the other day that allowed me to be on the “flip side” as they say.  My cousin, who is a grad student at a very competitive program, was having a difficult time with all of the demands that she felt were being placed on her.  Between class requirements, on campus jobs, internships upcoming, genuinely having a feeling of not knowing what she was doing with her life and if she was good enough to do what she wanted.  In fact, she was so stressed, that when we asked her what she wanted to do, she couldn’t verbalize it.

I felt like I was watching myself go through one of my “stress outs” that my wife has grown to manage very well over the years and just gently tells me these days, “Chris, you’re doing it again.”

As a Business Owner, Physical Therapist, Strength Coach, Mentor, Student, Father and Husband I have had plenty of these moments and they are not fun.  You really do start to question who you are, what you are doing and if there really is any chance you are good enough to do what you thought so confidently you could do…perhaps even as short as 24 hours ago!

In the medical world we have those difficult patients that push us to our ability’s limits, look outside the box and frustrate us by not recovering as quickly as we had hoped…or even at all sometimes.  In business you have those moments when you feel as though you are drowning under the twenty different directions you are being pulled.  As a parent, sometimes you sit up at night after an exhausting battle with your children wondering how the heck you are going to raise a successful adult…did you just screw them up?

These are just a few examples that I, at least, feel on a weekly basis.  The list for me, as I am sure it is for you, is in actuality quite longer.

So how do we manage this stress? If you don’t manage it successfully, of course you will not run a successful business or be a great strength coach or therapist.  When you read books about some of the great business owners, leaders of industry and generally just amazing people you tend to see some common threads even though what they are doing is totally different.  You see that they are able to take a deep breath, step back and prioritize what is really important out of the 10 things they feel they are supposed to be doing.

They are able to identify what it is they can control and most importantly, what they are NOT able to control.  If something is out of your control, stop stressing about it…it usually takes care of itself if you focus on the things you can control.  A great example is that I can’t control if my son or daughter grow up and make poor choices as a teenager.  I can control how I parent them and what behaviors I model to them, however.  So, our solution is to do the best we can in those areas and then pray, because that’s all you can do…parents reading this can relate I am sure!

In business, you need to prioritize what your ultimate goal is and focus like hell on that goal.  Ask yourself every time you do something…is this helping me towards the goal I set?  Are you diverting resources to areas that are actually slowing you from reaching your goal?  Are you spending money in areas that have no affect on your bottom line, branding or bigger vision?  The hardest decisions I have had to make as a business owner have not been which opportunities to take.  They have been which opportunities NOT to take.

Similarly in therapy or performance coaching when you have a difficult client, you need to not only decide what areas you are going to attack to achieve the goal at hand, but more importantly which ones you will leave to later.  You need to decipher what are just symptoms and what the actual problems are.  If you can correct the fundamental problems, the symptoms usually take care of themselves.

I heard a great quote at a conference I was at recently and it went like this: “Good clinicians and coaches treat and help people while the great ones recognize who they shouldn’t be treating and refer out.”

Recognize what you can’t control and what is an opportunity that distracts you from your goals.  Focus on what you can control and drives you towards achieving your goals and own it.


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