Control your attitudes 103
and what we see as our vocation and purpose. We might call this
your ‘life project’.
An authentic life project
Stress arises when your life project is ‘inauthentic’. That is, it is
one that you feel you ought to pursue, in order to conform to
the pressures and expectations of society, your family or other
people around you. Such a role in life is almost predetermined
for you by others and you will therefore have no motivation
of your own to pursue it. The extent to which you do will be
determined by the strength of your drivers to work hard, please
others, be perfect, be careful and hurry up about it too!
You will be far happier and less stressed when you pursue an
‘authentic’ project: one you determined for yourself from a
considered evaluation of your experiences. This will result in
a decision freely made, and you will feel powerfully motivated
when you work on it. Progress will be enormously satisfying.
Decide what you want from life: what will give you fullment
and make you happy? Set yourself goals that enhance your life,
and start to notice all of the opportunities that are available to
help you meet your goals.
Too often, we put our goals far out into the future. Bring some
of them forward and decide how to achieve some of them now.
Some people spend a lot of time saying ‘when I have some free
time . . .’ or ‘when I retire . . .’ If it’s important to you, start now.
Your hobbies, your pastimes, your very passions are massively
empowering when you pursue them with vigour. Making time
for what you really love to do is one of the best ways to reduce
your feelings of stress.
From myths to mastery
Can someone else make you feel good? For that matter, can they
make you feel bad? Most of us recognise times when a careless
104 brilliant stress management
word or a deliberate insult has left us feeling awful, yet Eleanor
Roosevelt said: ‘No one can make you feel inferior without your
The belief that other people can make you feel good or bad, by
what they say, is just a myth. How you interpret their words is
entirely up to you: ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones but words
can never hurt me.’
Immunity to words
To be immune from taunts and insults, you need a strong
positive self-image, which comes from valuing yourself and
accepting your weaknesses yourself. Good self-esteem is an
important asset in controlling stress. To help build up your self-
esteem, here is a great exercise.
Buy yourself a small notebook – small enough to keep hidden, and
to take with you when away from home overnight.
Each evening, take ﬁve minutes to write down three things that
you have achieved today, or that you are proud of, or that you
have contributed to in a positive way. These can be very small
achievements or storming successes. What is important is that you
do this regularly and keep it up until you start to feel really good
about who you are and what you can do.
Your self-esteem exercise will start to build up your condence
levels. To create a managed programme of condence building,
there are three further things you can do.