This is relevant to skiing, but to be clearer, I thought I’d use the example of workplace stress as it apparently costs the UK economy around £100Bn a year

There’s a little known story about the word Stress from the Hungarian Hans Selye, the guy who came up with the original concept.  The word Stress seems to have been coined as a result of mis-translating Selye’s work in to other languages; the word ‘stress’ was used to translate Selye’s original phrase “alarm reaction”.

Selye said that had his knowledge of English been more precise, he would have gone down in history as the father of the “strain” concept.

And a whole new industry and hypothesis on the causes of stress have followed, but all these fail the ultimate test: Causality.

If we take something like “workplace stress”, then the causality test would be that everyone would have to react to the same workplace, or the same workload, or the same deadline.  And when you left the workplace, then the workplace stress feeling would go away.  After all, you were no longer at the workplace, the source of workplace stress.

In psychology, if you were still experiencing feelings of “workplace stress” and no longer at work you would now have a phobia, much like a Spider Phobia (you experience the same symptoms without the stimulus being present).   So, clearly, there’s a common mis-understanding going on and the following diagram explains what are commonly considered the main sources of stress and how the have a hold on us:

So what is really going on? A clue can be found in as Selye put it: “Stress, in addition to being itself, was also the cause of itself, and the result of itself.”

We have a helping hand from the quantum physicist David Bohm who proposed Thought as a System to explain all human reactions, as well help from Evolutionary Biology and Neuroscience.

When you look at human behaviour through a systems approach it becomes clear it’s an inside job. That the power of thought (not the content nor context) determines how someone sees something, not what they see determining how they feel.  The following diagram explains this, and passes the ultimate test: Causality.

To test this out, I surveyed 60 people using a standard stress test to measure stress levels, with the additional question of the level to where they thought this came from; background, circumstance and other people.  The results are remarkable.  And to be clear, the feelings are real – that’s how we recognise our thinking.

As a consequence of people realising that their thinking and feeling is independent of circumstance, background and other people their stress levels continually dropped.  The difference from one end of the spectrum to the other is 27%.  They just feel better and are better able to deal with life and the workplace, as they know it’s not life nor the workplace creating their feelings.  These people are often labelled ‘resilient’ as if they have some magic power or skill.

I’ve also conducted similar research in to well-being, resilience and managing life and the same results consistently show up: improvements occur the more people understand that their feelings are independent of background, circumstance and how other people treat them.  In the case of well-being, a 45% increase.

Understanding thought as a system gives hope in ‘dealing’ with stress – which isn’t something to manage – that only puts fuel on the fire – but to understand the true cause.

And if you want to test this out in skiing, when you imagine your forthcoming ski holiday how do you feel?  Exactly! And you’re not even on skis!

Your comments, thoughts, and questions are always welcome.

Bon Ski!


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