The benefits of stress don’t receive much attention. Maybe it’s our desire to move away from pain and towards pleasure.
Stressful situations will build your stress tolerance. In, Antifragile,* Nassim Nicholas Taleb says the opposite of fragile, is antifragile. This means that as a system goes through stress, it will actually get stronger and become more resilient. Your body, for example, when going through a workout; the economy and the periods of recession or a business that goes through hard times and still manages to survive and become stronger.
When you go to the gym, you put strain on your muscles, you break them down, and they ache. This process causes them to harden and strengthen. If you want to keep getting stronger, you have to consistently put them under stress and lift heavier.
Taleb says tranquil environments create fragile systems. In a relationship, when you avoid disagreements and anything that causes a challenge, you may think you’re maintaining the harmony. But the moments of tension and challenges lead to growth and create shared experiences that can strengthen your relationship. What we do by trying to keep the peace, is create an emotional flatline which ends up creating a boring relationship.
Challenges and difficulties are a natural part of growth. Any time you choose to move forward there’ll be challenges. If you see these challenges as problems that can’t be overcome and panic, you won’t be able to enjoy the benefits. By going through the difficulty, we develop the antifragility that creates progress.
We have to embrace volatility instead of trying to reduce it. In The four-hour work week, Tim Ferriss says, “A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.” *
Putting yourself in uncomfortable situations creates stress, but it makes your comfort zone expand. Doing that will allow you to develop courage and the ability to take on bigger challenges.
While stress can have negative effects on your health, what determines the effect it has on your life, is your attitude.
Kelly McGonigal, author of The upside of stress,* studies stress and helps to bring awareness of the negative effects it has on our health. She did this until coming across a study of how stress could actually be beneficial to our lives. McGonigal investigated further and began to change the way she viewed stress.
These are some of her findings:
- Your stress mindset is what determines whether stress will be helpful or harmful for you. What do you think of stress and how does it affect you, your relationships, and your health?
- You have to understand the downside of stress, but if you focus on the upside, then you will gain more benefits.
- A meaningful life is a stressful life. Often our level of stress is an indicator of how involved we are with everything in our lives.
- Happy lives are not stress free and stress free people do not necessarily live happy lives.
What you believe about stress determines the results it will have on your life. If you see stress as:
- Able to strengthen your willpower
- Challenge you and help you push past your own limits
- Part of the process of learning and growing
- THEN, you’ll be able to benefit from it.
Stress can lead to worry and worry can lead to stress. What we worry about, often doesn’t occur.
Warren Buffett likes to ask, “Is it knowable and important?” *
- If it’s not important and not knowable—> Don’t worry about it.
- If it’s not important, but knowable —> It’s not important, so don’t worry about it.
- If it’s important, but not knowable —> Don’t worry.
- If it’s important and it’s knowable —> Prepare for it beforehand.
- What are the areas that provide the most meaning\ value in your life? How much stress do they contribute?
- Is the safety and desire to mitigate risk making this system more fragile or antifragile?
- Are you building fragility or antifragility in your life?
- What is causing you the most stress and why? Can it make you more antifragile?
- Are you adding or reducing volatility in your life? What are the consequences or side effects?