When it comes to maximizing human performance there are many factors and variables to consider, but one especially important relationship is the impact human control has on stress, and how this correlation impacts one’s likelihood for success. In other words, the success we experience in life often has to do with the amount of stress we experience, and most stress can be mitigated by exercising control over the situations we face in life. By taking control of our lives, we not only experience less stress, but also greater confidence, better focus, and stronger resiliency — all factors closely linked to peak human performance.
While most of us use the term “stress” quite regularly, few of us stop to think about what exactly stress is, as well as the real relationship it has on our lives. Since we cannot put stress on a table and look at it, we can only experience stress in the abstract, and as the old saying goes “one man’s garbage truly is another man’s treasure” (the implication is that our own unique human perception is what ultimately determines the degree in which we experience stress). Stress, therefore, is very unique to each of us, and ultimately has a lot to do with the quality of our lives and level of productivity in our work.
Another interesting note about stress is that we experience both good (eustress) and bad (distress) stress on a daily basis. While it is true that bad stress (distress) often grabs the headlines when our lives are in a rut, good stress (eustress), like living up to a job promotion and all the related responsibilities, can result in many of the same personal challenges and issues. To the extent you experience good or bad stress is impossible to say, but what we do know with a high degree if confidence is that you do experience stress on a daily basis, and the question is not if you will deal with stress today, but instead how effectively you handle the stress you experience?. Herein is where the power of control plays a major factor in stress coping, and ultimately human performance.
The variable of control can be most easily understood in two inter-related ways. The first is the actual control you have on situations – like your ability to fix a flat tire (assuming you have a spare and know how to change a tire). In this example, your stress is almost immediately mitigated as you have both the knowledge and resources to solve the problem. Parlaying this idea to the larger life picture, it becomes easy to see that when we have control over situations, we ultimately play our best as a result.
The second part about how control impacts performance is more discrete and less understood. Specifically, when we perceive to have control over situations, but really don’t, we still end up performing quite well. For example, in sports rarely do athletes have complete control over a coach’s decisions, but for athletes who perceive that they do have control the result is almost always greater focus, motivation, and resiliency (compared to other athletes who think their efforts don’t really matter and what is going to happen will happen). So yes, even the perception of control (when not truly present) also has a positive impact on stress coping, and ultimately human performance.
Want to reach your full human potential? One of the best ways to begin self-improvement is to examine the stress in your life, and begin to take note of the things you have in your control that can lead to positive future change. Remember, living a stress-free life is impossible, so the better way to go is to anticipate daily challenges, prepare for them, and develop healthy and effective means for coping. The good news is that this strategy is not unique to any one person, but has value to any person invested in bettering themselves for tomorrow.