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Good stress, bad stress

The best job, Time magazine reports (7/6/15), is an audiologist.

That’s largely based on stress—or lack of. Audiologists get a stress score of 6.3; firefighters, by contrast, 71.6.

Note the assumptions:

1) Stress is bad, so a low score is better.

2) Stress is external. All audiologists, apparently, have the exact same stress.

3) You and I actually know what an audiologist is.

Let’s take a closer look:

1) Is stress bad?

Think of stress as energy and excitement.

Speakers who “embrace their anxiety,” and tell themselves, “I am excited,” out-perform others who try to stay calm, according to research by Harvard Business School professor, Alison Wood Brooks (WSJ, “Stressed Out?” 5/16/15).

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Of course, there are limits. If I were a firefighter, for example, I’m not sure I’d be saying, “This fire is extremely EXCITING!”

Whether stress is good or bad depends on its intensity and duration, plus whether you’re the one choosing it.

But I don’t aspire to zero stress, and you probably don’t either. Zero stress sounds very anxiety-provoking.

2) Is stress external?

Time magazine (same issue, different article) profiled the Dalai Lama. He models serenity, but if you measure his job against the 11 stress factors Time used to compare occupations (see careercast.com), the Dalai Lama should be extremely EXCITED.

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Travel is a stress factor; the Dalai Lama travels three months/year.

Meeting the public is another. 15,000 people attended his recent birthday celebration.

Then there are physical demands. He’s up at 3 a.m. every day. I don’t think the Dalai Lama ever sleeps late, even on weekends.

Does the Dalai Lama ever second-guess his career choice? It’s hard to imagine him thinking, “Sure, being the spiritual leader of Tibet is good. But I would have been a lot more carefree as an audiologist.”

3) What do audiologists do—and what’s that got to do with you?

Audiologists are medical specialists who focus on hearing.

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Let’s use hearing, and sound, to our advantage. Although some stress is good, too much isn’t. And although some stress is external, there are numerous ways, internally, to de-stress.

Here’s one: take short, meditative breaks throughout the day. 30-60 seconds might be enough.

For example, on your next mini-break, listen to the farthest sound. Just listen—when your thoughts intrude, go back to listening. This is passive, effortless listening. Let sound clear your mind.

As if you were an audiologist.

p.s. It’s obvious that I have no idea what audiologists do.

I first learned the simple practice of listening to the farthest sound from the Philosophy Foundation, a nonprofit educational organization that, to my knowledge, had nothing to do with audiology.

© Copyright 2015 Paul Hellman. All rights reserved.

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