1 WHITE PAPER Wake Up! The Surprising Truth about What Drives Stress and How Leaders Build Resilience By: Nick Petrie
2 Contents Overview 1 2 Stress is Everywhere 3 The Root Cause of Your Stress Rumination Nation 4 Your Wake-Up Call 7 8 The Four Steps to Building Resilience 12 Three Actions to Increase Your Resilience Concluding Thoughts—A Personal Note 16 Appendices 17 Endnotes 17 About the Author 17
3 Overview This paper is part of a new series of white papers focused on the future of leadership development. The aim is to move beyond traditional approaches and look at where the field is going. Papers in the series include: 1. Future Trends in Leadership Development. UPCOMING PAPERS: Explore four key trends that appear to be shaping 4. Vertical Leadership Development—Part II. the future of leadership development, based on depth look at the tools and steps - Take a more in research involving 30 leadership experts. needed to create leadership programs that acceler - ate vertical growth. 2. Wake Up! The Surprising Truth about What Drives Stress and How Leaders 5. Culture Change: How to Move Build Resilience. an Organization. Learn about a new, proven approach for dealing Learn how to work from both the top down and with stress in the modern workplace. the bottom up to change how your organization does business and overcome the conflict between 3. Vertical Leadership Development—Part I. culture and strategy. Determine how to take “Future Trends” and build them into a leadership program—focusing specifi- cally on “vertical development” and why it matters in a complex world. When read together, these five papers should help you think about a new approach to developing leaders and give you a set of tools that are better suited to developing the leaders of the 21st century. 1
4 Stress is Everywhere People in workplaces are experiencing high levels of stress. Workloads are increasing with no end in sight. For the past two years, I have been categoriz - ing and tallying the challenges identified by leaders who participate in the Center for Creative Leader - ® (CCL ) leadership development programs. ship Consistently, among the top two categories are issues related to stress and burnout. Leaders rarely discuss these issues at work because they can’t see any obvious solutions, so they just keep slogging on—until they don’t. There is a brand-new approach to dealing with stress and building resilience that a few wise people have known about for a long time; it’s time more people did. Here, I am going to introduce you to the research of Dr. Derek Roger, one of the world’s leading researchers on stress and resilience, and try to convince you that there is no such thing as a stressful job or a stressful boss. Instead, all stress comes down to something called rumina - 1 Then I really want to show you that the key to tion. enduring resilience is to learn to do something you probably haven’t fully done for a very long time— wake up. If you are ready for a new approach to dealing with the stress in your life, read on. ©2014 Center for Creative Leadership. All rights reserved. 2
5 The Root Cause of Your Stress When you ask most people about their stress, Rumination is the mental process of thinking they tell you about all the stressful people and over and over about something, which hap - situations in their lives. But there is a problem pened either in the past or could happen in the with this approach. When I work with groups of future, and attaching negative emotion to it. Ru- people, I always encounter at least two people minations about the future are associated with with the same boss, same job, same abilities. - “what if this happens?’”or “what if that hap The only difference is, one person is completely pens?” Ruminations about the past replay, over stressed out while the other person is not. How and over, some awful experience you had and is this possible? It’s possible because the major usually end with, “if only I had . . .” or “I should factor that determines your stress levels is not have done . . .” what exists “out there” in the environment, but As you will soon see, people who ruminate a lot what is happening “in here” in your thinking. have chronically elevated levels of the hormones Your boss is not stressful; your reaction to him/ adrenaline and cortisol, meaning they are con- her is. stantly overactivated and on edge. Nonrumina- To understand this, you first need to recognize tors may have plenty of pressure in their lives, the difference between pressure and stress. We but they aren’t stressed by it. talk about these things as if they are the same The good news is that once you understand thing, but they’re not. Pressure is the external stress is something you create, then you also - demand in the environment. Everyone has pres start to see it is not inevitable. You can learn to sure in their work and life: deadlines, projects, work in extremely high pressure situations and family demands. That is not stress. Stress is what not feel stressed. In fact, you probably can recall people do with that pressure in their minds. Dr. times in your personal or professional life when Roger’s 30 years of research pinpointed one you stayed calm and focused despite the high factor above all others as being the key driver pressure of the situation. I want to show you of a person’s stress—rumination. how to accomplish this more often. 3 ©2014 Center for Creative Leadership. All rights reserved.
6 Rumination Nation The word ruminate comes from the noun ruminant. This is the term used to describe cows who chew on their cud. First they swallow their food. Then they regurgitate it to We have become a nation of ruminators. chew over again before swallowing it anew. Six times, the Twenty-four-hour news programs constant - cycle of rumination repeats itself. Get the idea? ly regurgitate stories. We ruminate about all manner of things each day at work. What is so wrong with that? The answer is that rumination is detrimental to your health, disastrous for your productivity, and ruin- ous for your happiness. Otherwise, nothing is wrong with it. Let’s look at health first. When we anxiously ruminate about an upcoming speech, our body responds as if the event is really hap - pening and puts us into a state of fight or flight. Our hypothalamus sends the signal to pump out adrenaline, which increases our heart rate and sends blood pouring through our veins. This is a good thing if we are in genuine physical danger because it gives us the energy to fight or run away. But if you are simply sitting at your desk ruminating about an imaginary conversa- tion with your coworker, it starts to get unhealthy. To illustrate, imagine the river at right is flooded. ©2014 Center for Creative Leadership. All rights reserved. 4
7 As the water hits the riverbank, it erodes the river In addition to the negative health effects, ruminators walls. Now, substitute the word water for blood and tend to be less productive because they are not men- riverbank for arteries in your heart. When you rumi- tally present enough to actually get anything done. nate, the increased blood supply floods your arter - They spend much of their time trapped in endless ies and crashes into the arterial walls of your heart. rumination loops inside their head, and while they are Luckily the arteries can repair this damage by creating busy replaying these stories in their head, what are a layer of plaque over the damaged walls. However, they not doing? Work! if people keep ruminating and allow no chance for recovery, the plaque gets thicker and thicker until There is no benefit to rumination. All it gives you is a 2 The result eventually the artery becomes blocked. short, miserable, unproductive life. If rumination were could be a heart attack, which is clearly bad news. useful, we would run rumination courses. It doesn’t work and it doesn’t help. It’s time to let it go. The second response during rumination is that corti- sol is pumped out to restrict inflammation and release energy for physical fight or flight. The downside, however, is that in order to produce cortisol the body must put white blood cell production on hold, i.e. your immune system. The result is chronic ruminators are more likely to have suppressed immune functioning, and this makes them more likely to get sick. 5 ©2014 Center for Creative Leadership. All rights reserved.
8 At this stage people often ask two questions: 1. Is planning for the future considered rumination? Planning for the future, or reviewing the past without negative emotion, is what we call reflection. It is a positive and important thing to do. If we didn’t plan, we would not be able to function well or achieve very much. The key questions, though, are: Do you consciously plan and then come back into the present, or is your planning really a series of rumination loops, worrying about upcoming events? That is the difference between reflection and rumination. Visually you might look at your thinking like this: REFLECTION Reviewing (past) Planning (future) + Positive - Negative Regrets (past) Anxieties (future) RUMINATION To be effective you want to spend most of your time above the line, consciously doing some planning and reviewing, but then bringing your attention back to the present so you can live and work in a wakeful state. 2. Does “good” stress motivate you to perform? That is simply pressure. Some demand in your environment can help motivate you to perform. Just don’t let that demand turn into rumination. Sports psychologists know that picturing the bad outcomes you don’t want, such as striking out or missing the putt, puts you on a path to failure, not to peak performance. The same goes for leaders; be aware of the demands, but don’t ruminate on them. So, Step 1 for reducing your stress and becoming more resilient is to recognize how much time you now spend ruminating about things that produce no useful outcomes. Once you realize this, you are ready for a new way of living and working. It’s called wakefulness. ©2014 Center for Creative Leadership. All rights reserved. 6
9 Your Wake-Up Call Has this ever happened to you? You are driving In this state, waking sleep, people are neither fully along a straight road in the country. You remem- awake nor fully asleep. The person is in the room ber leaving one town, and before you know it, with you but unaware of what is going on. They you have arrived at the next town, but you can’t may be able to communicate with you, but they remember how you got from one to the other. are flashing back to their daydreams continually Where were you? Or when reading a book, you get (think of your drive in the country or the conversa - to the end of the page but then realize that you tions you zone out of). Dr. Roger estimates that can’t remember anything you’ve read in the last people spend as much as 70% of their daytime two pages? Once again, where were you? hours in this state. Why does this matter? Because this is the state in which all of your rumination, The simple answer is that you were daydreaming. and therefore all of your stress, is generated. If You were off in your head thinking about some all rumination and stress is created in the state of event in the past or future. We are all familiar with waking sleep, the first step in getting out of it is experiences like this because they happen to us simple—wake up! every day. What we are less aware of is just how much of our day, or dare I say our lives, is spent in this semiconscious state. The truth is, you weren’t just daydreaming; you were in a state of “sleep.” And it’s not just that moment in the car when you were asleep; it is most of your life. 7 ©2014 Center for Creative Leadership. All rights reserved.
10 The Four Steps to Building Resilience There are only four steps required to become less stressed and more resilient: 1. Wake up (and stay awake) 2. Control your attention 3. Detach 4. Let go The four steps are simple to understand but take work to enact. They take practice but soon start to pay off in unexpected ways. The steps have been tested in workplaces using controlled trials and shown to decrease stress and increase resilience. For many people, myself included, the steps start off as a way to decrease stress but lead to a better, more mindful way to live. What - ever it is for you, I hope these words spark some sense of recognition within you to wake up. The key to making wakeful attention your way of being is realizing that the four steps are a skill. Repetition is key. As you repeat these steps over and over, your brain creates a new neural pathway—a 3 Soon you don’t have to con- new habit. sciously do this. It starts to become your way of being. ©2014 Center for Creative Leadership. All rights reserved. 8
11 1. Wake up (and stay awake) The first step is very simple—wake up. Be present. Be Your ability to be present also matters greatly to aware of where you are and what you are doing right your performance. Athletes, surgeons, or artists all now. Stop dreaming so much about the past and the talk about a state of mind they enter when they are future. Wake up to the only moment you have ever at their best. They talk about how time slows down; been in—now. To do this, you simply need to come to they are completely present to the task and their your senses. Begin by giving yourself permission to - mind stops wandering. Everything just seems to hap slow down for 30 seconds (and perhaps notice your pen naturally and many report that they are simply thinking mind’s resistance to this idea). watching themselves do the task. Psychologists call it 4 These high perform- “the zone” or a “state of flow.” ers find it hard to explain, but they know exactly how Listen to the sounds that are in your environment it feels. If you have experienced it, then you also right now. Hear the sounds that are close to you and know how it feels. It feels like being wide awake. the quieter ones in the background. Next, pay atten- tion to the sensations under the soles of your feet. Feel the temperature on your face. Finally, see the shapes and colors of the objects in front of you: the The only moment you have ever been - screen, the keyboard, the paper. As you do this, no in is the present moment. You have tice that you can only connect to your senses when never been in the past moment, and you are in the present. When you do this with 100% you will never be in the future mo - attention, you are wide awake. ment; you have only ever been in the present. Twenty years ago you were in the present, and in 15 years’ time you will be in the present. You cannot get out of the present moment even if you try. You can think about the future, but that’s all you can do. Consider for a moment if you have ever been out - side of the present moment. “I was already on pole, [ . . . ] and I just kept going. Suddenly I was nearly two seconds faster than anybody else, including my teammate with the same car. And suddenly I realized that I was no longer driving the car consciously. I was driving it by a kind of instinct, only I was in a different dimension. It was like I was in a tunnel.” 5 —Formula One driver, Ayrton Senna 9 ©2014 Center for Creative Leadership. All rights reserved.
12 2. Control your attention Wide Awake—Attention As little control as we have over our level of wakefulness, most of us have even less control over our attention. Picture you are having a conversation with someone who mentions an upcoming medical exam. “Exam,” you think. “Gee, I really hope I don’t fail my math exam next week . . . Man, this exam is going to be a disaster because . . . ” In order to build resilience you need to wake up and take back control of your attention. Charismatic leaders under - stand the power of attention. Bill Clinton is famous for his ability to deeply connect with people within seconds due to his determination to give them his full, undivided at - tention. He is said to have the ability to make each person 6 feel like he/she is the only person in the room. The key to controlling your attention is to practice con- Waking Sleep sciously putting your attention where you want it to be and holding it there. Once you notice that ruminating thoughts are snatching it away, simply acknowledge that your mind has wandered, e.g. thinking about tomorrow’s meeting. Then bring your mind back to the present mo - ment. Practice this again and again. Don’t get discouraged or frustrated with yourself. Training your mind takes time. First, practice on simple tasks like preparing your break - fast or cleaning your car. Then practice in higher-pressure situations, such as giving a speech or having a tense con - versation with your boss or a colleague. Keep your attention directed in the present on what your senses can see, hear, or feel. Later, compare how much that experience differs from what you get with your wak - ing sleep state of mind. ©2014 Center for Creative Leadership. All rights reserved. 10
13 3. Detach Detachment is the ability to get appropriate Secondly, they only focus on what they can con- distance from the situations you are facing. In my trol. Ruminators spend much of their time focus - experience, people who score highest on detach- ing on things over which they have no control. ment do two things extremely well. First, they Detached people seem universally to focus their maintain perspective. They don’t turn molehills time on issues they can actually influence. When into mountains, meaning they don’t let situa- I ask them about this, they almost all say, “Why tions overwhelm them. An outstanding leader worry about things that I can’t control?” (Like we for whom I once worked, responded to a lost sale all say, but they actually live it!) Resilient people by saying, “Oh well, we did our best.” I’ll never are very clear about the difference between care forget this because he was the owner of the and worry. They see caring as essential to high company! performance and worry as a waste of time. Can you see the difference? 4. Let go build a small cage and put some peanuts in the At the core of why we continue to ruminate middle of it. Then you create a hole that is big about things long after they have happened is enough for a monkey to put its hand through that we refuse to let go. The leaders who are but small enough that once it takes a peanut and best at letting go are those who ask themselves makes a fist, it cannot pull its hand out. As the a simple question: Will continuing to focus on monkey struggles with the peanut, you run up this help me, my people, or my organization? If and capture it. Had the monkey looked around, the answer is no, they let it go. A classic example it would have seen the forest is full of food. Yet it of letting go is Nelson Mandela, who when asked gave up its whole life for a peanut. why he was not angrier about spending half his - life in jail replied, “If I thought it would be use 7 Most of the stuff we spend our lives ruminating ful, I would be.” about is just peanuts. It’s almost never about Too often we become fixated on things that life and death issues. Don’t give up your life for don’t really help us. Consider the metaphor of peanuts. Decide to let it go. how to catch a monkey in the forest. First, you 11 ©2014 Center for Creative Leadership. All rights reserved.
14 Three Actions to Increase Your Resilience Next, I want to offer actions you can take to start building this approach into a new mental habit. Each action is short, practical, and builds on the others. Experiment with all three and identify the actions that you find most helpful. 1. Look from the Loft This action will help you pull all of the ideas from this paper together under one roof. The house below offers a visual metaphor for how to bring all four resilience 8 steps together in one place: Wake Up, Control your Attention, Detach, and Let Go. Imagine that the house is your mind and the flood water outside is all the pressures, thoughts, and emotions you face each day. ©2014 Center for Creative Leadership. All rights reserved. 12
15 You have three options for how to respond. Denial: Try to hold the front door shut and pretend none of those thoughts or feelings exists. Eventually the door will blow open and you will be swept away. Rumination: Open the door, jump into the water, and start swimming in the thoughts and feelings. This will leave you frantic, exhausted, and overwhelmed. Letting Go: Notice that as well as a front door, there is also a back door and a loft. Open the front and back doors so thoughts and stories can flow through; then go up to the loft. From there, you stay detached and observe the thoughts and feel- ings as they pass through. Don’t get down and get tangled up with them, and don’t try to hold them out. Simply let them come and let them go. When you take this approach, you are applying all four steps at once. When you practice this, you may start to notice that you feel more grounded and present. You might still face the same challenges as before, but you start to look at them in a new, more detached way. Furthermore, you may discover that some of what you saw as your biggest problems aren’t really problems at all. They are, in the end, just your thoughts. 13 ©2014 Center for Creative Leadership. All rights reserved.
16 2. Find Your Flow Activity - time in this state, it becomes easier for you trans A powerful way to become more wakeful and fer it to other activities or other areas of your life. present is to identify and engage in activities that Because people’s personalities and dispositions bring you into a state of flow. Flow activities help are so different, it is important to find activities you become very focused on the present moment, that are uniquely absorbing for you. I have asked absorb yourself in the task, and lose track of time. leadership training participants over several years Choosing activities that bring you into this state about activities that get them into this state. Here - is a powerful way to deepen and broaden your at are some of the more common ones: tention in the present. As you experience more PLAYING A MUSICAL INSTRUMENT Cooking Writing PAINTING Gardening DOWNHILL MOTORCYCLING SPORTS MOUNTAIN Building BIKING (anything) Long-distance Running To identify your own flow activities, look back at times when you have been at your most absorbed or most attentive. What activities most quickly got you into that state? Start to plan your week in a way that you can engage in that activity more frequently and deeply. The more you give yourself the chance to get into a state of flow, the more you will find that state carries over into different parts of your life. ©2014 Center for Creative Leadership. All rights reserved. 14
17 3. Meditation Of all the activities that you can try to increase your level of resilience, meditation is perhaps the most powerful. This is because it is a focused practice of the four steps. There are two main types of meditation that are particularly impactful when it comes to resilience and staying present: Single-pointed: This type of meditation involves focusing the mind on a single word, phrase, or the breath. This is very powerful for improving control of your attention (Step 2) and letting go (Step 4). Mindfulness Meditation: In this form, you simply close your eyes and ob - serve whatever thoughts, feelings, or sensations come into your awareness. Regardless of what enters your mind, you simply stay present, stay detached, and let it go. You will notice that your thoughts are very enticing, and you will want to start engaging with them and following the sto - ries that enter your mind. But by coming back to the present and controlling your attention, you will build the mental muscles to stay strong and resilient in more and more situations. 15 ©2014 Center for Creative Leadership. All rights reserved.
18 Concluding Thoughts—A Personal Note One question that always comes up when teaching It was about this time that I met Derek Roger. I people about rumination is—“Well, what if you get learned about rumination, waking sleep, the four cancer? How can you not ruminate about dying!” steps, and started practicing them. I couldn’t say the rumination stopped, but I was able to calm Dr. Roger’s perspective is pretty clear on this—the down a little and gained more perspective and four steps are designed to deal with everyday distance from the thoughts in my head. It wasn’t ordinary stress. They are not the solution to a cure, but it certainly helped. Over the next few traumas. For traumatic experiences like the death years the tumors came and went at different of someone close to you, or a serious accident, intervals, and I continued to practice the four steps counseling and other methods may be needed. in all areas of my life. I would, however, like to add a personal note since Then one day I realized that I had spent the full a CCL colleague recently asked me the “what if you previous day without thinking about cancer get cancer?” question. I personally have had plenty once. After having it dominate my thoughts and of chance to think about this, so I will share with existence for so long, it felt like a miracle. How you what I shared with him. could I be facing my own death, yet not even think about it? I did get cancer. In my 20s, doctors found that I had cancer all through my abdomen. I had surgery As time progressed it became less and less an to remove it and within months I physically issue to the present point, where it is something I recovered. Mentally and emotionally, however, my am fully aware of in my body, but not something response was complete denial. I shut the door of I ever ruminate about. When I do ruminate, it is the house on any thoughts or feelings about my about far more minuscule things that I’ve blown situation and tried to resume life as normal. One out of proportion. year later, the tumors came back, this time in my liver. The situation was overwhelming. The door to Whether you choose to apply this method as a way my house blew open and I was swept away. Every to reduce your stress at work or as a lens to apply day I ruminated about what I was facing and what to your whole life is up to you. I chose the latter. was going to happen to me. And for me, that choice made all the difference. ©2014 Center for Creative Leadership. All rights reserved. 16
19 Appendices For organizations interested in helping groups of people increase their resilience, CCL has workshops and keynote speeches that show people how to apply the four steps in both work and life. As part of the process, participants receive their resilience psychometric profile, which shows them how resilient they currently are and where they could focus to improve. The profile is based on Dr. Roger’s research over the past 30 years. Eight scales determine your resilience, with each scale taking between six and seven years to develop. Some 12,000 people were used for validation and the results have been published in 120 papers. To learn more about the assessment and for further resources on resilience, go online to www.nicholaspetrie.com and http://www.ccl.org/leadership/community/speakers/stress.aspx Endnotes 1 . Maidenhead: Chartered Institute of Marketing. Managing stress: The challenge of change Roger, D. (1997). 2 Thomsen, D. K., Mehlsen, M. Y., Hokland, M., Viidik, A., Olesen, F., Avlund, K., Zachariae, R. (2004). “Negative thoughts and Psychosomatic health: Associations among rumination, immunity, and health care utilization in a young and elderly sample.” , Vol. 66: 363-371. Medicine 3 . New York: Random House, 2012. The power of habit: Why we do what we do in life and business Duhigg, C. 4 . New York: Harper & Row, 1990. Flow: The psychology of optimal experience Csikszentmihalyi, M. 5 Gorman, J. ( June 11, 2013). “Why was LeBron James so good last night?” Rant Sports, Web. 6 Cabane, O. F. (2012). The charisma myth: How anyone can master the art and science of personal magnetism . New York: Portfolio/ Penguin. 7 Dowd, M. ( June 1, 2013). “She’s getting her boots dirty.” New York Times . Web. 8 Managing stress: The challenge of change . Maidenhead: Chartered Institute of Marketing. Roger, D. (1997). About the Author is a senior faculty member at Nick Petrie tional experience, Nick has worked and lived the Center for Creative Leadership’s Colo - in Asia, Europe, Britain, Scandinavia, and rado Springs, CO campus, where he facili- the Middle East. Industries in which he has tates customized programs for senior-level - worked include government, law, account executives and writes extensively about ing, engineering, construction, and telecom- future trends in leadership development. His munications. He holds a master’s degree current focus is working with CEOs and their from Harvard University in learning and teams to transform organizational cultures. - teaching. He also holds undergraduate de A New Zealander with significant interna- grees from New Zealand’s Otago University. 17 ©2014 Center for Creative Leadership. All rights reserved.
20 ® The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL ) is a top-ranked, global provider of leadership development. By leveraging the power of leadership to drive results that matter most to clients, CCL transforms individual leaders, teams, organizations and society. Our array of cutting-edge solutions is steeped in extensive research and experience gained from working with hundreds of thousands of leaders at all levels. Ranked among the world’s Top 5 providers of executive education by the Financial Times Bloomberg BusinessWeek and in the Top 10 by , CCL has offices in Greensboro, NC; Colorado Springs, CO; San Diego, CA; Brussels, Belgium; Moscow, Russia; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Johannesburg, South Africa; Singapore; Gurgaon, India; and Shanghai, China. CCL - Asia Pacific CCL - Europe, Middle East, Africa CCL - Americas www.ccl.org/apac www.ccl.org/emea www.ccl.org +1 800 780 1031 (U.S. or Canada) +1 336 545 2810 (Worldwide) Brussels, Belgium Singapore +65 6854 6000 +32 (0) 2 679 09 10 [email protected] [email protected] [email protected] Greensboro, North Carolina +1 336 545 2810 Gurgaon, India Addis Ababa, Ethiopia +251 118 957086 +91 124 676 9200 [email protected] [email protected] Colorado Springs, Colorado +1 719 633 3891 Johannesburg, South Africa Shanghai, China +86 182 0199 8600 +27 (11) 783 4963 San Diego, California [email protected] [email protected] +1 858 638 8000 Moscow, Russia +7 495 662 31 39 [email protected] Seattle, Washington • Seoul, Korea • College Park, Maryland • Ottawa, Ontario, Canada Affiliate Locations: Ft. Belvoir, Virginia • Kettering, Ohio • Huntsville, Alabama • San Diego, California • St. Petersburg, Florida Peoria, Illinois • Omaha, Nebraska • Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan • Mt. Eliza, Victoria, Australia ® ® are registered trademarks owned by the Center for Creative Leadership. Center for Creative Leadership and CCL ©2014 Center for Creative Leadership. All rights reserved. 9.13/3.14
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