One of the areas of study I have taken on in recent years is to learn the source of the human conversation as it relates to the difference between Intensity and Stress.  In my recent work, I have noticed that many business professionals collapse the two distinctions, which does not give them access to any power over the reality of work and the circumstance s of life.

I have observed many of my clients and discovered how easy it is to confuse the two. Most people who work in intense environments often take on the “explanation”, a temporary point of view that intensity is “highly stressful”.  This causes them to experience disempowerment at its various levels, personally and professionally.  That “explanation”, the temporary point of view, gives one an experience of life at the moment, which is not that inspiring.  This has the everyday reality arise in a particular way, mostly annoyance and irritation which have people being annoyed and irritated and makes them temporarily and mentally unavailable.

One can say that Intensity is ‘in the moment’ experience which manifests itself in the physical domain, i.e. distance, time and form – the ultimate test of reality. Stress, however, exists in the emotional, mental and intellectual domain – an interpretation – not real. I say that stress is a human invented interpretation as a survival mechanism designed to “label” the experience such that you would act (automatically) in direct correlation to that experience. This viewpoint: “It is stressful” intends to provide an explanation(s) for one’s ability or inability to powerfully deal with their circumstances.

So the question is:  How come two or more individuals who operate in the same level of intensity, in the same exact environment have different interpretations and therefore have a completely different experience and reactions to it?

Example: One of my closest friends is an F-16 pilot.  In conversations I have had with him over the years, I have learned that most pilots during operational flights are in a highly Intense environment, most people would agree. That intense environment is being manifested in various physical sensations such as heat, cold, G-force (pressure), air fluctuations etc.… Which for the common man, it looks extremely stressful and impossible to function if at all. For the trained pilot there is no experience of stress at all. For them to fly the jet is like for most of us is to make a cup of coffee or turning on the TV. How come?

My observation leads me to the conclusion that the pilot was trained to be present – right here – right now. They are (their brain) trained to suspend and/or not take the interpretation of “it is stressful”.  The pilot’s actions are appropriate and correlated to flying the Jet instead of dealing with their emotions, mental and/or intellectual conversation (an explanation of) which has nothing to do with the moment, right now, right here. An intensity which is real vs. Stress which is not real, after all, it is just an interpretation of a human invented conversation mode. As we have said many times that for humans, perception is reality (at least for most of us).

Saying it another way, F-16 pilots train their brains that stress is unreal and inappropriate, i.e. not an effective interpretation of the experience of intensity and/or operating in an intense environment.

Why is this conversation so critical to the world of management?

In my professional opinion, today’s world of most senior managers, corporate executives, and business leaders are very similar to that of the F-16 pilot seating in the cockpit. The volume, complexity, and speed of the world around them are increasing in rapid pace – i.e. highly intense. Yet, their human operating system (their brain) has not caught up fast enough and before they know it, they can find themselves in vertigo or in a G-Wash situation very quickly. In the professional environment, it means losing their job, being demoted and/or ending a career.

So what do we do with this conversation?

I have created a few power tips that will provide you with a guide to start developing prowess and best practices to overcome this paradigm.

  1. Know and train your brain that the reality and your experience of reality are two different occurrences altogether. Doing your job and your experience of doing your job, are two distinct conversations.
  2. Look at things the way they are. Do not add anything or subtract anything, exactly the way it is, and exactly the way that it is not. (The sky is blue, the grass is green and you are 6.1” high)
  3. Notice, if you get emotional (frustrations, anger, resentments, etc…) consider that at that moment, temporarily, you disconnected yourself from reality (went away); you are now in the “Stress Zone”. Get back!
  4. If the desired results and/or outcomes in any given moment are not correlated with your intentions and actions, stop! – Apply the 60-second rule, step back, and get yourself centered. Evaluate the facts and information you have and then, refocus and committedly re-engaged.
  5. Nothing is wrong! – Things are the way that they are and the way that they are not, you do not have to like it, agree with it, believe in it or stand for it. You just need to get, it is just the way that it is.
  6. You are human after all and this conversation is counterproductive to our fundamental design. It will take a lifetime of training and practice to get good at it. The moment you stop training yourself it will go away, disappear and you are back to the downward spiral very fast.

You can use these guidelines to start to develop your own toolbox of best practices that work for you. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution, we are different DNAs. What works for one does not necessarily work for another. Be creative.

So, are you stressed now or just intense?