On July 18, 2014, I had a revelation 33 years in the making. While developing a more holistic view of stress and health to help my health-conscious farm customers, I suddenly saw the answer to a question I'd been asking since I was 11: What made horse trainer Nuno Oliveira so beautiful in his work?
I knew his success was directly related to this beauty.
I had to answer that question because, throughout my whole life, every great teacher or leader I found had something about them that was exactly like Nuno. What they were doing was more fundamental than any particular knowledge or technique. It was something about the essence of their being. After 33 years, I realized the beauty was related to stress.
It would take me another 8 months to figure out how to put this into words. This 4-part series is from the first talk that I gave to friends and customers on April 29, 2015.
What is stress?
When you’re being chased by a lion, you get an adrenaline rush. We don’t call this "stress" because the adrenaline gets resolved. It gets used up. You don’t continue to carry it with you.
But when you have a big presentation to give, now that’s stress. But it’s still adrenaline.
So what is stress?
Think about some of the things that stress you out. What are you really feeling right now?
Stress is the accumulation of energy from a past time when the adrenaline did not flow out in use. It’s the memory of unresolved energy.
Stress shows up as anxiety, nervousness, fear, and overwhelm when you project that past inability to resolve energy onto the future. But stress itself is neutral. It’s only the meaning we attach to it that makes it “good” or “bad”.
We have attached a bad meaning to this stress by giving it a story that goes something like this:
In our past, we needed adrenaline spikes to help us get away from the lion. But since there aren’t lions in our midst any more, the adrenaline just accumulates and causes chronic stress. Short of lifting a car off someone that just got run over, it doesn’t serve much purpose any more. Feeling adrenaline from issues that are psychological instead of physical is just a leftover from our past and actually causes harm to us now.
This is a story of helplessness. But nature, God, the universe or whatever else you choose to call it doesn’t work that way. Living things are endowed with power – the power they need to live a full and vibrant life. Endowing them with helplessness defeats the purpose of life.
So if stress is not a mistake, but purposeful, what purpose does it serve?
The purpose is something every truly masterful teacher, every great performer, and every highly developed person understands innately, at least with regard to their work.
Adrenaline is energy to do work. Stress is the build up of energy to do bigger work.
But when you give stress a story of helplessness, the bigger work never happens.
Chronic stress is adrenaline energy that never resolves. It just accumulates and causes dis-ease. Living beings are designed to flow energy, not to hold it.
Stress is power if you take away the story.
The purpose of stress is to enable growth.