Recently a friend shared something they learned in a management class:
Stress is created by the gap between vision and reality.
To reduce stress, change the vision or change the reality.
One or the other must change*.
It is really quite a simple idea, though many struggle with it. I don’t think people struggle with understanding that the gap causes stress – I believe they struggle with the idea of having to “change” what they want or with how best to change their reality. My husband says that the only change he likes is if it’s loose and in his pockets.
Should you change your vision?
Your vision of what reality should be may be right or it may be wrong. Only you can decide that. This concept does not judge or challenge the vision. It may be your dream, it may be your understanding of how things should be, or it may be what those around you are defining as the vision. This question only asks if the vision needs to be adjusted.
Assess the vision. Take a hard look and decide if you need to change it.
Should you change your reality?
Instead of griping about the situation – change it. A former Program Manager I knew used to say; “Own what’s yours.” What do you need to do to change your reality to align with your vision? Things like training, organization, better communication, and clarification all can change a reality.
Assess the reality. What is necessary for you to do to obtain the vision.
As leaders, we must clearly communicate a vision, and provide the things necessary for the reality to align to the vision. If your team seems stressed, ask yourself if it is their vision or reality that needs adjusting. Better yet, ask your team. They’re smart people. They’ll know.
Disclaimer: We all know there is both good stress and bad stress. To obtain world class quality it is necessary to embrace a vision that reality has not yet quite achieved AND the stress of getting there is not bad. It drives continuous improvement. It is only when we are either defeated or apathetic that good stress turns into bad stress.
Remember, the first step in making any change is recognizing what needs to change. So either change your vision or change your reality. Pick. Act. De-stress.
*Paraphrased quote from Gustav Kaeser Training International management training