Finding your challenge sweet spot

Chasing meaning is better for your health than trying to avoid discomfort…. Go after what it is that creates meaning in your life, and then trust yourself to be able to handle the stress.
— Kelly Mcgonigal

This quote from Kelly Mcgonigal, health psychologist at Stanford University, gets to the heart of why stress (in appropriate amounts) can play a positive role in our lives. Stress can inspire us to take action steps and prepare for the outcomes we want in life. Stress can even assist us in finding a deeper level of focus and attention in our work.

Excessive amounts of stress or fear however, and our amygdala takes over, shutting down the regions of our brain we use for problem solving and rational thinking. The result? We lose the capability to find flow in our work, we are less resilient, and we even become more vulnerable to errors in judgement.

The Yerkes-Dodson law, showing the relationship between stress and performance

The Yerkes-Dodson law, showing the relationship between stress and performance

As stress levels rise from a resting state, our energy, focus, and attention increase, but there is a point of diminishing returns where stress then impair our ability to operate at our best physically and emotionally.

When up against things we fear, such as failure, our brain’s natural response is avoidance. But avoidance means we let the fear take hold of us. Instead, dive in and allow yourself to better understand the fear. Take one step back and see it through an observer’s lens. What it is that’s driving that fear? What would it take to move beyond that state of avoidance? How would it feel—and how would it change your life—if you were able to manage that fear?

Part B: exploring ways to take control of fear and stress so we can experience the good things that await on the other side.