Sunday, July 21, 2013

3 steps to make your fight-or-flight reflex work for you, not against you

Here's another great insight I took away from James Altucher's book, "Choose Yourself"
http://amzn.to/1b59su7

James points out that humans evolved the fight-or-flight reflex for a reason.  Stress helped our ancestors survive.  When stress hit, cortisol surges through our systems, increasing heart rate and blood pressure, making us ready to either strike out or run away.

When we faced sabre-toothed tigers on a regular basis, this reflex made a ton of sense.  The people whose stress response was non-existent ended up getting eaten.

But in today's world, there are seldom immediate actions one can take.  If your boss criticizes you, striking him or her is unlikely to be a useful action.  Nor can you simply run away and leave the office.  Instead, you end up sitting at your desk, stewing in stress hormones, developing heart disease.

Even I, who can recall describing myself in a junior high writing class as "Calm Chris," have the fight-or-flight response.  But, I have learned how to harness it.

When a threat arises, I feel my heart pounding just like anyone else.  But I have a simple three step process that lets me deal with the stress:

1) Identify a plan of action.There is always something you can do...and if not, at least you can plan to hit the gym to work off the stress.

2) Write down all the steps in your plan.Just having a plan isn't enough; writing it down in detail lets you get it out of your head (where it would end up swirling around and around until it exhausted you) and onto paper/screen.

3) Execute the first step in your plan.It doesn't matter how small that step is; taking action lets you fulfill the requirements of the fight-or-flight reflex in a productive way.  Once this happens, your body calms down because it feels like its need for face-smashing and sprinting has been met.

When you're a startup entrepreneur, you face these kinds of "threats" every day.  Learn to follow the three steps, or your stress will consume you.

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