How do you think about stress?

Kelly McGonigal shows us that what we think about stress influences our health more than how much stress we really experience. “How you think about stress matters.” The physical responses that your body experiences when facing stressful situations are confirmations that you have to give extra energy and attention to the situation – that’s it. Then, your mind is taking over. Your mind is deciding how threatening or how challenging the situation really is.

STOP.

This is where and when your mind makes the difference between health and sickness.

REWIND.

Your body already told you that the situation was exceptional: no value (good or bad) associated to it – just exceptional. If your mind really has a choice between threat and challenge, and that perceiving it as challenge gives you the best resilience, is it still a choice?

TRAIN your mind.

Train it to think systematically of stressors as challenges and not as threats. Stress is your friend – not your enemy. Stress prepares you. Stress does not limit you. Embrace it and strive.

TELL your friends how you feel.

Tell them your situation: they do not read your mind. Tell them about your feelings: everyone responds differently to situations. Tell them what you need: everyone has different existing resources. Tell them what they can do for you and accept their limitations as well.

REACH OUT to your friends.

Use the same questions to help your friends: what is your situation? How do you feel about it? What do you need? What can I do to help?

Everyone faces stress and challenges. You do not have to face them alone and you do not want anyone around you to face them alone. What a fantastic lesson learned from stress!

Christine Leclerc-Sherling

Psychology and Public Speaking Instructor

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What is your story?

Around puberty, we realize that we are the hero in our own story. It feels like we are living in a movie that has our name on it; better yet: we are the main actor and the story teller. We may not create all the scenes of the movie, but we are the main actor in each one! We may not always act perfectly in each scene, but we get to tell the story the way want it to be told.

This phase of personal fable and imaginary audience is rather centered on the self, but soon, most adolescents realize that they cannot tell their stories without supporting roles and without their stories being corroborated by others as well! So they start negotiating, contributing, collaborating and finding alliances. Some of those are that handful of selected few who become intimate friends in young adulthood, the ones that we choose beyond proximity or convenience: the true friends. They know our story and respect it; we know their stories and we want to contribute and be part of each one of them.

Here is the powerful twist. If we all go through those stages, if we all deal with the existential questions of finding a story worth telling, a path worth taking, and people in which it is worth investing, we are not all realizing the bottom line. People remember you for the supporting role you play in their lives and not for the story you are telling.

Think about it. What do you remember about others? The role they have in your life; how they contribute to your objectives; and how they can inspire you. Do you remember them for their stories? Rarely.

Know your story. Know where you want to go and go there. Know what you want to tell and learn how to tell it well. Do not let anyone or anything control your story. Then, leave it in the background. Trust your life for taking you there. Spend time being the best supporting actor you can be in the lives of those few people that make your life meaningful. Become the best supporting actor in the lives of those with whom you work – you spend so much time with them. Become the best supporting actor in the lives of those for whom you work: they will come back to you and in return help you be the hero you want to be in your own story.

The most disarming and the most powerful questions are: What is your story? How can I help you live it and tell it?

Try. It is addictive.

Christine Leclerc-Sherling

Psychology and Public Speaking Instructor

What is power if you don’t belong?

We have always been interdependent and interconnected. Teachers have always been interdependent with their students; the salespeople with their clients; the parents with their children, etc. The paradigm shift comes from the spread of world traveling and the democratization of information technology. We are now globally interdependent. An outbreak of any disease anywhere in the world is threatening any airport in the world in less than 12 hours. A business decision made in one nation has simultaneous financial, political, organizational, and socio-cultural impacts in other countries.

The terrifying consequence for you and me is that the definition of personhood in which we love to believe, the one that makes us individually feel independent, self-made, strong, and above the mass, is no longer a viable belief. As long as I need others to lose so that I can win, I am constantly using my resources to defend who I want to be and to dominate anyone by whom I feel threatened. This is a position of “hard power.” In contrast, when I am using persuasion and communication to interact with the opposition, negotiate common objectives, make alliances, I am using “soft power.” I try to reach a win-win situation, because eventually, your win, in this globally interdependent world, becomes my win. “Smart power” is the mastery of both types of power, soft and hard, including the skill to critically decide when it is appropriate to use one or the other type of power.

Power is a tool, not an end. Whether you use hard, soft, or smart power, what matters is why you are using it, who will benefit from it, and if it is the alternative that involves and profits most parties. I love this quote from Ralph W. Sockman: “The test of courage comes when we are in the minority. The test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority.” Trying to maintain a status of power is often wasting valuable resources that could benefit more parties if they were combined. I love saying: “I am an immigrant and I am American;” “I am a woman and I am a scholar;” “I am a mother and I am a leader;”etc. I can affirm my membership to minority and to majority groups without losing my identity. Quite the contrary, I am increasing the number of networks to which I belong, increasing thus the variety of resources to which I have access. Finally, I am increasing my interrelationship power in a globally interconnected world. What it means, is that I am now sharing a collective destiny – I fit in anywhere. How cool is that?

To learn more about the different types of power:

Christine Leclerc-Sherling

Psychology and Public Speaking Instructor

“Grow your own food like you’d print your own money!”

This TED talk from Ron Finley is the power of public speaking illustrated at its best: indigenous initiative, carried by a local spokesperson, with a simple and forceful message. The intelligence of the message is the candid analysis of a neighborhood, a constructive and innovative intervention, and a fantastic twist in social perceptions. The inventive action (planting free food) becomes an act of rebellion (in a land that belongs to the city) in an area where illegal activities are expected to be related to drugs and violent crimes. The credibility of the speaker comes from the genuine delivery – no compromise on the language, no compromise on the appearance, and no compromise on the message: assertive delivery with a provocative message – and it works. Why will you connect? Because Finley’s message is sustainable: “if kids grow kale, they eat kale.” They are off the street, they are invested in their communities, they take pride in the food they grow, they enjoy the quality of the food they eat, and they benefit directly from the physical, social, and economic advantages. Sometimes, the simplest ideas are the smartest; the genuine spokesperson is the most powerful; and an intervention without complex theories, but based on undertaking one simple action accessible to all is the easiest to spread: “if you ain’t a gardener, you ain’t a gangster.”

WARNING: The link below contains language that some may find offensive.

Christine Leclerc-Sherling

Psychology and Public Speaking Instructor