By Betsy Westhafer

Relieving Stress the Koala Bear WayWhen it comes to being productive, oftentimes we let the stress of things that fall outside of our control derail us, which of course, produces additional stress. If not managed properly, this can turn into a downward spiral that can be difficult to reverse.

As an Extreme Focus™ Certified Mental Performance Coach, my job is to help people manage this kind of stress so that ultimate performance is achieved. Mental performance is a critical part of any executive training program and employee training.

In our methodology of coaching, we use animal instincts to trigger right behavior for maximum performance. One such animal is the koala bear which represents maintaining composure and control, a key component to effectively managing stressful situations. Koala bears never get flustered. They take things one step at a time. Maintaining composure is an important characteristic of a great leader. These skills can be learned in executive training program.

Please allow me to introduce you to our koala bear, who goes by the name of OHWEL™.  This reminds us that in times of challenge, particularly where things appear to be outside our control, we can look at the situation and say “Oh well” or we can throw ourselves into a negative headspace and say “Oh hell.” It’s important to remember that it’s not the things that happen to us that define us, but rather how we handle them. In a leadership role, you are being watched and modeled by those around you. If you say “Oh well,” it may not solve the problem right away, but it does put you into the position to solve the problem.  On the flip side, if you say “Oh hell,” things tend to continue going south, and the negative energy you put to it will definitely not keep you moving forward. This choice of words is a part of energy management.

It’s important to remember that whatever stressful situations arise for you, it is an opportunity for learning and growth. With a proper mindset, you can get into the practice of enjoying the battle of your day-to-day experiences. Your perspective, in large part, determines your success, and you can shift your attitude to see the positive that can come from any situation or circumstance. Even though on the journey toward success we undoubtedly come upon detours that we need to navigate through, you can learn to maneuver around these obstacles to get you back on the main pathway to success.

Glenn Llopis, contributing writer for Forbes shares the following as it relates to leadership and maintaining composure when under pressure:

“The 21st century leader sees adversity through the lens of opportunity.  Rather than panic, a leader with composure takes a step back and begins to connect the dots of opportunity within adverse circumstances.   These types of leaders quickly detect the causes of adversity and solve for them immediately.  They then enable the opportunities previously unseen that could have avoided the adversity to begin with.  Many times crisis results when composure is missing.”

Again, it’s the lens through which you view your circumstances that determines your success.

Llopis also shared seven tips for maintaining control and composure during pressure-packed moments:

  1. Don’t allow your emotions to get in the way.
  2. Don’t take things personally.
  3. Keep a positive mental attitude.
  4. Remain fearless.
  5. Respond decisively.
  6. Take accountability.
  7. Act like you’ve been there before.

Relieving Stress and Marcus Aurelius(For more on these tips, go to http://www.forbes.com/sites/glennllopis/2014/01/20/7-ways-leaders-maintain-their-composure-in-difficult-times/#55d2abd9708d)

What we are talking about here is not new thinking. It actually dates back to the Roman Empire:

“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” — Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor from 161-180

Putting this into practice

Think of a time when you lost your composure in a pressure situation, and then answer the following:

  1. Describe the situation in detail. Determine which parts of the situation were within your control and which were not.
  2. Of the circumstances that were not within your control, how did you respond?
  3. What could you have done differently to impact the outcome of the challenge?
  4. What did you learn from this experience?

Now, think about a situation that you are facing in the near future.

  1. What is your plan for effectively managing this challenge?
  2. What three intentions do you have for the outcome?
  3. What can you do to prepare yourself personally for these circumstances?

We can’t always change our conditions, but we can certainly change our attitude about our conditions. When you have this mindset and practice it every chance you get, you can then find the blessings within all challenges you face. This will help reduce your stress level when you find yourself in a pressure situation and will allow you to better manage it.

Enjoy the journey. Enjoy the battle.

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Betsy Westhafer is the founder of ActionMasters Network. She is an Extreme Focus Certified Mental Performance Coach and serves as the Editor-in-Chief of Extreme Focus Magazine. To connect with Betsy, contact her at betsy@actionmastersnetwork

Keywords: Performance, leadership, pressure, composure, stress