Here is Why Stress Can (Sometimes) Be a Good Thing

Here is Why Stress Can (Sometimes) Be a Good Thing

I was raised with the mentality that “when the goin' gets tough, the tough get goin'“. My mom taught me that mentality when I was growing up. Whenever we faced a tough situation, we learned to “buckle down” and focus on what needed to be done.

In the workforce, this “tough goin'” would closely resemble stress. Examples for you may include your boss breathing down your neck, a deadline quickly approaching, doctors scheduling more exams than you can handle, or students giving you more trouble than you can manage. So I wanted to share with you why stress can be a good thing.

Why Stress Can Be a Good Thing

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici /

The idea that stress can be a good thing ties in directly with my mom saying

when the goin' gets tough, the tough get goin.

When you get stressed at work and meetings, requests and appointments are taking up your time, not only do you have to figure out what to do when you're overwhelmed at work, but you have to overcome being overwhelmed at work. As I was preparing for my day this morning, I thought to myself, “I'm ready for more responsibility.”

Taking on more responsibility would force me to step up and figure out better ways to be more organized and better ways to manage my time. I would have to develop additional ways to be more efficient and effective.

I wanted to share that idea with you, the idea that added stress could lead to added opportunity. I believe that you’re an empowered person. I believe that you’re competent and confident in what you’re doing, and I believe that if the expectations of you are raised – the expectations of your peers, your boss, and your boss’s peer – if they put more on your plate, you'd be able to step up.

I know you’re not going to fail. If you’re reading this or listening to the podcast, you’re already geared to succeed. is not for people who are going to simply settle for the status quo and be happy with things that are in decline. I don’t believe that you’re going to stay “normal”, that you're going to stay, as Jeff Olson puts it in The Slight Edge, on the “failure curve.” And I want to encourage you that stress could be a good thing. That when you are stressed, you get to see what you’re made of.

In, Flight of the Buffalo, another book you'll find on the EmpoweredU reading list, there is a chapter which talks about how anger is a great teacher and a tool for learning. The authors tell us that you’re probably angry with a person because you see in them the things that make you angry within yourself. Our anger and frustration toward another person is simply a mirror of what we’re angry and frustrated about in ourselves.

If anger, a feeling not often associated with learning and growing, can be such a great teacher, can we not similarly learn from stress? When I'm stressed, if I'll take a moment to figure out why I'm stressed, I can learn and grow. Then I can push all of the fluff aside to figure out exactly and precisely what needs to be done and focus on that to achieve my goals.

I believe that stress can definitely be a good thing, to a point. We don’t want to be completely stressed; I've had it happen to myself and I've seen it happen to my friends and colleagues. I've seen the effects on your health and attitude when you get over stressed and you don’t want that for yourself or anyone you care about. But I think a little bit of stress can cause us to step up and face the challenge and do things we didn't think were possible.

When there is no stress, and things are easily coasting along, it’s like a ship on a sea where there are no waves. Anyone could pilot a ship in those conditions. But piloting that same ship when there are waves, wind and stress, that takes special skill and talent. That’s what stress does for us. Normal work is a calm sea. Stressful work is wind and waves. Leaders can shine and emerge in times of turbulence and stress.

What do you think about stress?

Do you have enough? Too much?

Do you agree that a little bit of stress would cause you to step up to the plate and shine?

I want you to be encouraged; a lot of us are under stress right now. It’s been a tough going over the past several years, both in the economy and in the workforce. But I want you to be encouraged that I believe that you can take on and overcome the challenge.

Let me know what you think in the comments below!



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