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Hard-driving leaders experience tremendous levels of stress that can often lead to serious health problems, such as heart attacks. Sure, you’d like to get some relief. Nobody really wants hypertension and cardiovascular disease. But who has time to figure it all out?
Well, my next guest, Prof. Peter Alexander did. He’s a recovering hard-driving leader himself who has some quick and easy stress relief tips for you.
What You’ll Discover About Stress Relief for Hard-Driving Leaders (highlights & transcript):
* The 7-step Lighten Model for stress relief [6:00]
* The Hawaiian stress technique to use when going into difficult situations [10:33]
* How entrepreneurs can reduce stress to achieve their business dreams [14:17]
* The all purpose stress reliever for hard-driving leaders [18:38]
* The key take-away from Lighten Your Day [22:32]
* And much MORE.
Hanna Hasl-Kelchner: [00:00:00] Hard driving leaders experience tremendous levels of stress that can often lead to serious health problems such as heart attacks. Sure, you’d like to get some relief. Nobody really wants hypertension or cardiovascular disease. But who’s got time to figure it all out? Well, my next guest did. He’s a recovering, hard driving leader himself who has some quick and easy stress relief tips for you.
Announcer: [00:00:26] This is Business Confidential Now with Hanna Hasl-Kelchner helping you see business issues hiding in plain view that matter to your bottom line.
Hanna: [00:00:38] Welcome to Business Confidential Now, I’m your host, Hanna Hasl-Kelchner, and today’s guest is Professor Peter Alexander. During his career, he’s had the privilege to work in a variety of positions, including sales, marketing, college professor and small business owner. Each role had one thing in common, he says. High stress.
Hanna: [00:00:59] It got so bad Pete was diagnosed with stress related diabetes and also ended up in the hospital with a severe case of diabetic ketoacidosis. Being only a few hours away from being comatose was a huge reality check. He knew it was time to walk away, even though he had a great job, a secure income and good benefits. He has since poured his energies into helping other hard driving leaders avoid his mistakes and dedicated his professional career to helping others benefit from the stress management tools and techniques he learned and experienced firsthand hand.
Hanna: [00:01:37] He’s even put his findings between two covers in a book called Lighten Your Day. So let’s have him join us now. Welcome to Business Confidential Now Pete.
Prof. Peter Alexander: [00:01:46] Thank you so much for having me on the show.
Hanna: [00:01:49] It’s good to have you, because stress is something that everyone can relate to in one way, shape or form. And I would imagine that landing in the hospital and then making that life changing decision to put your health ahead of your career is huge. It’s something people talk about. But not everybody is willing to do that, especially if they have a high-income job and a lot of people depending on them. So what did your family and the people you work with say when you told them?
DECIDING TO LEAVE A SUCCESSFUL CAREER
Pete: [00:02:16] Well, it’s a good question that, you know, at first it was like, are you kidding me? And it really, the crazy part was I had to convince myself firs. That was the hardest one, because I’m a type A personality, like a lot of entrepreneurs are. And, you know, you just drive, drive, drive. And you’re used to putting your business and other responsibilities ahead of yourself. And even to the point where I was in in the ICU after my emergency room stay, I got transferred there with the diabetic ketoacidosis. And it’s crazy.
Pete: [00:02:55] But what was happening, I was working for a medical device company at the time and my boss knew I was in the hospital and texted me on my second day in ICU and said around 6:00 a.m. and said, you have a webinar, you need to run at 8:00. What are you going to do about it? And instead of me thinking, OK, I’m in this hospital bed and wow, what a surprise. I don’t have my work laptop. My type A personality went right into fix it mode. And I was sitting there with my phone doing everything I could to try and reschedule that webinar.
Pete: [00:03:39] And it took a nurse who was working with me at that point. She came over to me. She checked my blood as they were doing every half an hour, and she saw that my blood sugars immediately spiked again and they were going into unhealthy levels. So my body was responding to the stress. And she just matter of fact says, “you realize that’s what put you in this hospital bed in the first place.” And that was my epiphany moment.
Pete: [00:04:15] It was like, what the heck am I doing? I’m trading my health for my career. And that is a really bad trade because I can always get another job. But if I lose my health, I’m not going to be any good to my work. I’m not going to be any good to my family, my friends, etc.. So the reality was I had to convince myself first, and then when I got out of the hospital, you know, I did a lot of soul searching while still in the hospital after that.
Pete: [00:04:50] And I realized, you know what, I started calculating, do I have the money to go ahead and leave this job and do something else? And yes, I did.
Pete: [00:05:03] What was interesting is that my family, while they were surprised that I decided to walk away from a very well-paying career, they knew that that wouldn’t do me any good if I ended up dead. So I actually had a lot of support. And in fact, when I started working on myself and applying a whole bunch of different stress relief tools and techniques, my former coworkers were reaching out to me and saying, you know, you could write a book about this.
Pete: [00:05:38] They were also very jealous and envious of me that I was applying this stuff and trying to help myself because each of them were telling me, I wish I could do it myself. I wish I could do it myself. I just can’t find the time or I can’t devote enough time to myself. And to me, that was an opportunity to try and make a difference here in the world.
A 7-STEP STRESS RELIEF MODEL FOR HARD DRIVING LEADERS
Hanna: [00:06:00] Well, I’m glad that you were able to take that leap and write your book, because that’s the perfect segue into my next question, because I saw the book Lighten Your Day, and you talk about the Lighten model. What is it? How does it work?
Pete: [00:06:17] So the Lighten Model is an acronym for the seven areas of our lives where we manifest our stress from. So during my research, I found that these seven areas have the most effect on whether or not we can manage our stress effectively. The first one is, stands for L as LIVLIHOOD, which is your career, or however you make your money. And when you think about those are our career, our livelihood, our work, we are likely to spend more time at work than doing just about anything else. And many of us with workaholic tendencies like myself, we’re working more hours than we sleep. So, you know, having some sort of stress relief tools, or even one or two simple ones, helps us get more balance if we utilize them. So livelihood’s is the L.
Pete: [00:07:14] I stands for imagination or your conscious mind. Your conscious mind is only five percent of your brain. But it’s also where your inner critic is. It’s where your control freak is, but it’s also where your creativity is. And it’s absolutely critical to let your imagination play a bit, to figure out some creative ways to overcome your stress.
Pete: [00:07:43] The G stands for genius, your unconscious mind, which is the other ninety five percent of your brain. That’s the part that runs your body 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s where your memories are stored. It’s where your habits are formed. It’s where your perception of the world lies. And its where real change happens because often our conscious mind says, “I want to go left,” but if your unconscious is not in agreement, you’re not going to go left. So it’s important to be able to get new habits. And those new habits are formed in your unconscious.
Pete: [00:08:21] The H stands for health, and that’s the inspiration for what I do today, as we were talking about earlier with the stress induced diabetes and the diabetic ketoacidosis in the hospital stay.
Pete: [00:08:32] T is for time and time is obviously important. We all always say we don’t have enough time. And the critical thing about time that we often forget is that once it’s gone, we can’t get it back. And that means it’s absolutely critical to take action today, not tomorrow, not next week, next month, today. So even if it’s like one technique that takes one minute a day, if you continuously use that technique on a daily basis, over time, the health benefits will be enormous for you. But you have to start today.
Pete: [00:09:13] The E stands for environment and that’s, you know, whether you’re at work, whether you’re at school, whether you’re at home, you name it, it needs to be supportive of your stress relief effort. So if you think about like if you’re working on a project, chances are you’re going to need some silence, a comfortable place to sit, no interruptions and understanding from those around you. So that’s a critical component.
Pete: [00:09:39] And the last one, N is our network of relationships. And what I like to remind people about or my clients, etc., is that the people in your life matter and when you are stressed, you are less patient, you’re more irritable, you’re less able to listen or show interest in empathy. So you don’t want to take your relationships for granted. You want to make sure that they’re in alignment with the other aspects of the Lighten model to keep better balance.
Hanna: [00:10:13] Well, that certainly covers the broad spectrum there. So thank you for sharing what each of those letters stands for. And it’s kind of ironic because I wanted to ask you more about networking, which happened to be your last point. You talk about stress relief techniques and, you know, quick and easy sounds too good to be true.
THE HAWAIIAN STRESS TECHNIQUE FOR DIFFICULT SITUATIONS
Hanna: [00:10:33] I know that one area of stress for entrepreneurs, especially folks that are in the startup, small business phase, is networking and making new connections to improve their livelihood, to help build their business, because going to feel awkward, but it’s necessary for business growth. Let’s talk about something quick and easy solutions and your techniques, even if you said like one. But the consistently applied over time can yield some big dividends here. Give us one.
Pete: [00:11:06] Sure. So a good one, let’s think about with networking in mind, and I can appreciate this because I you know, I’m not somebody who. . . . I’ve seen people who can truly work a room and just go around and spend a couple of minutes with each person and boom, boom, boom, boom.
Pete: [00:11:24] I tend to take the other tack and try and make a connection with a few people, a good, solid connection with them. But it can be anxiety raising when you’re walking into a networking situation. And what I like to recommend is any time you feel like you’re getting a little bit anxious right before an event you can use a light meditation technique. It’s called Ho Oponopono and it comes from the Hawaiian culture. And what you do is you, whether you’re sitting or you’re standing, you find a stationary spot on the wall.
Pete: [00:12:10] And what you do is you start staring at that spot and preferably that spot is above eye level, it doesn’t have to be, but it’s preferable. And as you stare at that spot, you let your mind go loose and you focus all of your attention on that spot. Within a matter of moments, your vision is going to start to spread out and you’ll see more in the peripheral than you do in the central part of your vision. So if you started paying attention to the peripheral. Instead of the central part of your vision. You’ll be seeing that you’re taking in all of your surroundings. You stay in the state for as long as you feel comfortable. It could be a few seconds, maybe a minute.
Pete: [00:13:12] And once you’re done, you open and close your eyes one more time. And you come back into the space that you’re at and you’ll notice that you’re more calm or more grounded and you are ready to take on an anxious event such as networking.
Hanna: [00:13:37] OK. And this applied on a daily basis? Weekly?
Pete: [00:13:43] This one would be one that would be applied right before you’re going into that perceived stressful event. So if you’re worried about networking or let’s say you have to give a presentation and you’re nervous about that, or maybe you have to have a difficult conversation with someone, block out two minutes before you have to do that and this will ground you.
Hanna: [00:14:08] Ok, so it’s situational. Let’s talk about something that’s more continuous, like livelihood and building or growing your business. . .
Pete: [00:14:17] Yeah, sure.
BIGGEST STRESS RELIEF TIPS FOR ENTREPRENEURS CHASING THEIR DREAM
Hanna: [00:14:17] . . . which is a perpetual challenge, you know, because an entrepreneur wears multiple hats, there’s never enough time to get things done. What quick and easy stress relief tips do you have for them?
Pete: [00:14:31] Sure, so one of the ones that I like to think about when there’s . . . entrepreneurs know about, you know, they have this dream. They want to, whatever that dream is, they want to achieve that dream.
Pete: [00:14:48] The problem is that our brains are not wired to chase a dream. However, our brains are wired to chase a goal. And if you think about it, a dream is basically . . . if you turn a dream into a goal, a goal has a deadline. Typically, it has specifics on there. And if you put a deadline on your dream, you start putting a little structure around it. You can actually wire your brain to treat a dream just like a goal.
Pete: [00:15:27] So what I’ve always recommended to entrepreneurs is whatever it is that your vision for the business is, what is it from a milestone standpoint? What is it that you want to do in one year, five years, 10 years? And you utilize smart goals for that.
Pete: [00:15:49] But you look at it from a dream and you take that dream and you say, OK, you want to be able to reach that, that whatever that goal is your dream in a certain amount of time. And then what I do when I work with clients on this, what I do is I have them figure out whatever that last thing is that they have that has to happen before they get the dream. So maybe it’s 10 million dollars in revenue or maybe it’s, you know, having X number of employees or a facility, a physical facility, whatever, whenever that happens to be. So what I do is I help them figure out what is the very last thing that has to happen before they know that they have to get it.
Pete: [00:16:48] And then what I do is I have to close their eyes. Take four deep breaths. And I have them float out in their minds into the future when that last thing is supposed to happen. And as they imagine dropping that last thing that has to happen in their timeline, then I have them imagine turning around in their timeline and looking at everything else that has to happen in order for that last thing to happen. And I wrap up the everything they can see, they can hear, they can feel, can smell it. It’s like, let’s say a restaurant, whatever it is. And you make it real in your mind. And it is amazing how when you connect your senses with a specific dream that basically has a deadline on it, it is amazing how much easier it is to achieve that objective. It’s just it’s wonderful.
Hanna: [00:18:07] That’s very interesting. So take your dream, reverse engineer it and then project manage it.
Pete: [00:18:14] Yeah, you could say that, so basically and in simple terms, that’s take your dream, put a deadline on it, and then imagine all of your senses what is it going to feel like when you hit your dream. And just wrap that up in your mind as much as possible.
Hanna: [00:18:34] Well, that’s one way to get a handle on the stress.
Pete: [00:18:37] Yeah, it is.
THE ALL PURPOSE STRESS RELIEVER FOR HARD DRIVING LEADERS
Hanna: [00:18:38] I’m curious, the seven areas that you incorporate in the Lighten model here, the livelihood, imagination, genius, health, time, environment and network, is there a common theme as far as a technique that could be applied to all of those areas that you could share?
Pete: [00:18:59] Sure, it’s my favorite one, it’s called gratitude. And the thing about gratitude is, if you’re grateful for everything that comes into your life and I mean, I’m not talking about every single thing, laundry list. But, you know, instead of just being grateful when, let’s say you end up selling to or gaining a brand-new big customer or something like that, but the little stuff that we tend to forget: like the fact that we woke up in the morning, that you had an opportunity maybe to take a quick walk outside at lunchtime, or maybe it was the fact that you got something really good to eat for lunch or for dinner, those minor things.
Pete: [00:19:52] I don’t like to use the phrase that’s been used so often, “the attitude of gratitude.” But really, it’s when you are grateful and you show gratitude for everything that comes to your mind, what that does is that sends our positive energy to others around you. And what it does is it also generates positive energy back to you from your environment. And you end up having your overall mentality is way more positive.
Pete: [00:20:30] As an entrepreneur myself, I can tell you that there are days where it is very trying and exhausting. And if you start getting negative and you start spiraling, that can really affect a lot of different things in your life. But if you just teach yourself to get into the habit of having gratitude, even if it’s a gratitude exercise at the end of the day or the first time when you wake up.
Pete: [00:21:03] My wife and I, for example, at the end of the day before we go to bed, I ask her what you’re grateful for and she asks me, what am I grateful for. I usually start with I’m grateful for my health. And that’s, you know, as we talked about at the beginning of the show, when you don’t have your health, nothing else matters. But then I recap by thinking about what was it during the day that really stood out to me. And it is amazing how it really caps the day off by thinking about what really went right, what minor things for the most part. And I sleep really, really well when I do that.
Hanna: [00:21:50] I can imagine because you’re off on a good note.
Pete: [00:21:53] Exactly.
Pete: [00:21:54] And the gratitude, it works for all aspects. It really does. Any of the Lighten model components or anything in our lives, any area of our lives, if we have gratitude for it, it is going to be a positive.
Hanna: [00:22:13] And we can all use more positive, if nothing else, to offset the negative and neutralize it, but hopefully come out, net-net ahead, which is wonderful.
KEY TAKE-AWAY FROM LIGHTEN YOUR DAY
Hanna: [00:22:23] Now, your book Lighten Your Day, what is the most important thing you’d want readers to take away from that?
Pete: [00:22:32] I would say do not trade your health, mental, physical, whatever. Do not trade your health for your career or other responsibilities. It is a really bad trade because when you think about it, think about a time when maybe you were really sick, flu or something like that, did you feel like you want to do anything other than lying in bed?
Hanna: [00:23:03] No, of course not. And what can you do? Kudos to you for trying to reschedule that webinar while you’re on your back in the hospital bed, because I have some words for that, boss. Let me tell you. I mean, for them to even think of doing that to you is just outrageous. No, you’re right. When you’re feeling awful, you don’t care about anything except feeling better. And sometimes you don’t even want to eat.
Pete: [00:23:31] That’s correct, and so when you don’t feel good, you’re no good to your career, your work, your company, your spouse, your kids, your friends, you name it, don’t take your health for granted. If readers can take just that one message away, that’s the most important thing.
Hanna: [00:23:56] Well, that is certainly a very important message. I think we at times tend to take our health for granted when things are going well and keep trying to pile more and more on our plates to the breaking point. There’s also, I think, this myth of workaholism as a badge of honor and “oh, my God, look how wonderful they are, what they’ve achieved.”
Hanna: [00:24:21] In reality, their health is circling the drain. And that’s not an achievement at all. So we need balance in our life. And I’m delighted that you’ve been able to offer some tips and that you’ve put this book together Lighten Your Day. Thank you so much for joining us today.
Pete: [00:24:41] Well, Hanna, thank you so much for having me on the show. I really am grateful for the audience, listeners, their time as well. And hopefully they got some benefit from it.
Hanna: [00:24:51] Absolutely. Thank you.
CALL TO ACTION
Hanna: [00:24:53] That’s our show for today. But don’t go anywhere. I have a really easy ask for you. Would you please open your podcast app and give us a five-star review and leave a comment about what you love most about the show? I do read them all and it’ll take you less than a minute.
Hanna: [00:25:08] And while you’re at it, share this episode, tell someone about it, because the best way to grow our audience is by word of mouth. And if you want the detailed show notes, links to connect with my guest or stuff that we talked about, even if you want to ask a question, have a show idea. Come on over to BusinessConfidentialRadio.com.
Hanna: [00:25:25] I’ll catch you on the next episode. And in the meantime, have a great day and even better tomorrow.
Guest: Prof. Peter Alexander
During his career Peter Alexander has had the privilege to work in a variety of positions including Sales, Marketing, College Professor and Small Business Owner. Each role had one thing in common he says – high stress. It got so bad, Pete was diagnosed with stress-related diabetes and also ended up in the hospital with a severe case of diabetic ketoacidosis, and only a few hours away from being comatose.
It was a huge reality check. He knew it was time to walk away even though I had a great job, secure income and good benefits.
He’s since poured his energies into helping other hard-driving leaders avoid his mistakes and dedicated his professional career to helping others benefit from the stress management tools and techniques he learned and experienced first-hand. He’s even put his findings between two covers in a book called Lighten Your Day.
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