We need more “I want” and less “I have to”


“I still have to go shopping.” “I have to lose weight.” “I have to go to the next meeting.” “I still have to give feedback to my co-worker.” “I still have to finish the project.”

Distress must be distinguished from Eustress 

Wow! That’s a lot of “I have to…”. That’s probably how the To Do Lists in our heads sound for many of us. It can make a woman sweat and we also know the feeling of not knowing where our head is. So life can get pretty stressful. It’s quite normal that fabulousity is not always fully present. But one of my superpowers is to hold many balls in the air at the same time and to twist and turn them in such a way that it works well for me and others. So I can understand that outsiders sometimes wonder how that works and why I don’t completely explode.  I can’t say exactly why, but I thrive when I have a lot to do. It gives me a great feeling when I can use this talent a lot. So a certain amount of stress is good for me. It’s not just me. I know others who say they function best when they have stress and pressure. So that brings me to the fact that there is both good and bad stress. In technical language, good stress is called Eustress and bad stress is called Distress. Psychology also confirms the statement that one can function better under stress. But this is only true up to a certain point. Up to a certain limit, the release of a stress hormone helps us to become more efficient. If this limit is exceeded, however, the opposite can happen in the long run and the stress can harm us. This raises the question of how to distinguish between Eustress and Distress. So when is it stress that helps me to swim in my fabulousity and when is it stress that harms me and my fabulousity?

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space where we can make a conscious choice.”

Susan David, PhD in psychology from Harvard Medical School and author of the best-selling book Emotional Agility, teaches that there is a space between the stimulus that hits us and our reaction to that stimulus in which we can consciously decide how to respond to it. We can also use this knowledge when it comes to stress and how to distinguish good stress from bad stress. I can well imagine that many of you are thinking “Huh, what kind of space is this she is talking about?” Of course, it’s not a physical space, but rather a brief moment between the stimulus and the action. Most of the time we don’t realise it’s there because our reactions seem to happen right after the stimulus. Noticing the space and taking the time to be more conscious about our actions is not always easy. But it can be trained with the help of mindfulness exercises.

  • Pause

So when we notice that we are feeling stressed and don’t know how to go forward or back, or preferably before we do, stop and create the space to take a closer look at the stress. Take a look at the wording of your inner To Do List “I have to…” is often written on it. This kind of wording quickly leads to us feeling trapped and subject to a compulsion. Then we have the feeling that we are not in control of our lives. This is indeed stress and harms us rather than helps us.

  • Reword tasks

However, this feeling can be quickly dissolved by a little trick. Take your “I have to…” items from your To Do List. Look at them carefully and put “I want…” at the beginning of each sentence. This will change the feeling of no control to a feeling of deciding for yourself what to do.

  • Goal re-evaluation

Next, look at what the goals behind your “I want… “s are. Why do you want to finish the project? Maybe it’s related to a promotion or maybe it will help you pursue your passion. A look at your own values can also help here. Which of your values is addressed when you give feedback to your employee? Is it helpfulness, team spirit or even respect? Find out for yourself how the items on your To Do List interact with your goals and values. This understanding can help you to see the meaning behind a task again and relieve the stress originally associated with it. The more you practise this process, the faster you will get back to your famosity and be able to use your superpowers for your own benefit.

Of course, it can also happen that you can’t find any meaning behind a task. It neither helps you to reach a goal nor is it in harmony with your values. Well, I think that also tells us something. In my eyes, this is a clear sign to get rid of this task as soon as possible or even to change something altogether.

I am happy if you tell me about your experiences. How do you deal with stress? What helps you to get out of bad stress? Feel free to write a comment here or send me an Email. 

Yours Nathalie

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