When I was working in advertising I took one of my clients, a marketing manager at M&M/Mars, out to lunch.
You’d think selling chocolate would be a sweet job but there is a lot of pressure. They have to keep the favourites top of mind, battle for space on the shelves, make the finances work and then develop and launch new things to entice us to try something different.
I admired this manager because he seemed to take everything in his stride. He didn’t show the obvious stress I saw in others.
He was easy to work with and considered his answers. He made good decisions that he could explain to us. His team were helpful and they laughed a lot, making me think they enjoyed working with him.
So back to the lunch, I asked what helped keep him grounded and his answer has stuck with me. He said he was told, early in his career, that his sphere of worry shouldn’t exceed his sphere of influence. He said he used that to keep things in perspective.
What great advice
It sounds so simple. We spend a lot of time stressing about things we don’t have the power to change.
We angst about what will happen if we get a new boss, lose a key staff member or hear the company is planning something new. What does worrying about that stuff do for us?
Now this is easy advice to nod to, but much harder to put into practice.
So how do you use this?
Next time you feel that tension creeping in, your stomach getting in a knot or your shoulders sliding up to your ears as you pound away at the computer – ask yourself this question:
Can I influence this? Do I have it within my ability and authority to change this?
If the answer is yes, take 10 minutes to think through what’s making this problem so stressful and jot down a plan. Then let the other people involved know what you expect and how you want them to help you get there.
If the answer is no… If you can’t influence it, find some way to park this worry. Pop it in your calendar to review when you aren’t so busy.
Getting it out of your head helps. Write it down in a short note, then set it aside until you have the time and space to let your imagination wander.
When you’ve had time to think about it, test it again. Have you found a way to influence this thing you’re stressing about?
If not – it’s time to let it go.
Change the tape
You’ll need to be conscious about it, it you want to change the tape in your head. “I am putting this worry down because I can’t change it. I can’t influence what will happen, it has to take its course”. OR, “I can’t change this, it’s already happened and I need to move on.”
Give yourself an alternative thought to shift to. That’s the best way to change that voice inside that keeps circling back. That worry will just keep looping until you focus your attention on something else.
So shift gears and focus on a new subject. Hopefully, it’s something you can impact, something that will benefit from the time and energy you spend thinking about it.
Look at the sphere of influence you have and figure out where you can make a difference and add your value. Then consciously focus on that new subject when the old worry rears up.
It’s one step toward enjoying your job and bringing the stress down a notch
If all else fails, eat chocolate.