It was 2:00 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon and I was finalizing a massive PowerPoint presentation into which I’d poured a ton of creative thought and an entire weekend.
I was really happy with the results—which was good because I was teetering on top of a too-tight deadline.
Then just as I was about to click the final Save button, a message popped up on the screen: This PowerPoint is corrupted.
Right before my eyes, my carefully crafted slides became a mish-mash of Etch-A-Sketch lines. My entire workshop presentation was incinerated.
I had to start all over again. And the stress-bomb that hit me was intense sending a payload of cortisol rocketing through my body, and wreaking havoc in its wake.
It reminded me of a question I’d asked a mentor in the early days of my career: What do I need to know to be successful? She answered
You won’t know what you don’t know until you don’t know it.
Here’s what I didn’t know: I had to save my work to the cloud. Repeatedly. The silver lining to this incident is that when stress happens (and that’s the polite way of saying it), it signals we’re growing.
Stress bombs offer us uncomfortable growth opportunity because they leave us feeling out of control, grappling to find what’s familiar again.
Maybe you’re experiencing this kind of growth, too. Your organization, team or work load has grown so quickly that you are just barely juggling it all successfully. What served you well then may now be an impediment to your growth.
For one client, this time of year requires managing high-task and high-client demands. It’s the final sprint at the end of a marathon and they are bone tired.
So what do we do when the stress piles high? Tap into our stress tolerance…
The goal is to manage your emotions so that they don’t hijack the situation (or you) even as the pressure continues to mount. Easier said than done, of course, because under intense stress our weaker areas of development will usually become really apparent. (Oh joy. More growth opportunities.)
The EQ-i 2.0 emotional intelligence model correlates stress tolerance with the following skills: problem solving, flexibility and interpersonal relationships. All three are essential and interdependent for success.
- Problem solving is your ability and tendency to both solve problems that involve emotions and use emotions as an effective problem solving tool.
- Flexibility is your ability and tendency to adjust emotions, thoughts and behaviors to changing situations and conditions, adapting new data to include an expanded mindset or approach.
- Interpersonal relationships is your ability and tendency to give and receive trust and compassion, and to establish and maintain mutually satisfying personal connections.
*Definition Source: Adapted from OKA, EQ Workbook
For me, a strong interpersonal relationship was key to dealing with my PowerPoint explosion. My computer guy explained (very kindly) what I should have done and known.
He was unable to retrieve my PowerPoint, but he got me to laugh. And as a result, I gained a reset for flexibility and problem solving.
Or do you find yourself digging in rigidly under stress? What’s needed here is flexibility and often ideas from others to stay open to new and novel problem-solving solutions.
So when you’re really stressed, which of the three skills do you use first? Just like a well-developed muscle, it’s probably the one you use most comfortably and frequently.
Which skill is your least developed? How can you use it more to better serve your stress tolerance?
This system provides a powerful road map for stress reset and recovery.
And now I’m back to that PowerPoint after engaging my flexibility, because I needed to rearrange my entire life to complete it.