At work, we often face stressful situations, dreaded projects, irritating co-workers, frustrating bosses, an overwhelming number of tasks and messages, boring work we don’t enjoy.
These problems have one simple cause: we’re holding on.
The work itself isn’t stressful — it’s just action that’s taken or that needs to be taken. It’s our reaction to the work that causes the stress: our holding on to a wish that things were different.
It’s not the constant stream of interruptions that is frustrating — they are just events that happen around us, like a leaf falling or a bird flying by. It’s our holding on, in our minds, to the task we were doing before we were interrupted that causes the frustration. We wish we weren’t interrupted from the task, and we resent anything that interrupts us, and our minds are still half on the previous task.
Our co-workers and boss aren’t the problem either: they’re just other human beings trying to do the best they can in this world. It’s our holding on to the idea that they should somehow behave a certain way, that they should do their best to make us happy, that causes us anger and irritation.
It’s not that we have an overwhelming number of tasks and messages that causes us to be stressed out — it’s our reaction to that number. It’s just a list of things, or a phone ringing, or an inbox with a list of messages. Those things are harmless. But when we hold on to the idea that we can do everything, and that we have to deal with all this at once, we become stressed, because obviously we can’t. We can only do one thing, though our minds are on all of them.