Stress Management and Mastery: Shake It Off and Step Up
The moment I read the story I'm about to share with you, I knew it would make a good article. It has one of the best approaches to managing stress, change and, for that matter, life and its living that I have ever read. Give it a read, and then we'll put some hands and feet on it to make it immediately useful.
A parable is told of a farmer who owned an old mule. The mule fell into the farmer's well one day, and the farmer, hearing the mule braying, rushed over to see what had happened. After carefully assessing the situation, the farmer decided that neither the mule nor the well was worth the trouble of saving. Instead, he called his neighbors together and told them what had happened and enlisted them to help haul dirt to bury the old mule in the well and put him out of his misery.
At first the old mule was hysterical! But as the farmer and his neighbors continued shoveling and the dirt hit his back ... a thought struck him. It suddenly dawned on him that every time a shovel load of dirt landed on his back, he could shake it off and step up.
So this he did, blow after blow.
Shake it off and step up ... shake it off and step up ... shake it off and step up,' he repeated to encourage himself.
It wasn't long before the old mule, battered, dirty and exhausted, stepped triumphantly over the wall of the well. What seemed like it would bury him actually blessed him, all because of the manner in which he handled his adversity.
Can't you just imagine how the average person would handle this situation today?
The first thought after falling in the well would be, "Who can I sue?" followed closely by, "This is just not fair!"
And who wouldn't panic? You don't have to have claustrophobia to feel extreme terror in this situation. It brings to mind the opening lines of one of my favorite jazz songs by sax man Wilton Felder:
"If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, you can inherit the wind."
Respond to what life throws at you with an attitude that allows you to make it work for you, no matter what.
Notice also that the mule came out beat up, dirty and worn out. If it had been a superhero action figure in the well, he or she would have come out of the well shiny clean, with every hair in place.
Have you noticed that real life is usually a whole lot messier?
One of the least-spoken but important lessons of life is that there are times when you can't save your face and your rear end at the same time.
The really nice thing here for us is that there was nothing extraordinary about the mule in this story.
Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is when you are scared silly and still decide to make the right choices at the right time.
I'll close with a couple of action questions and a quote from the e-mail from which I found this story:
We all have wells in our lives. What are some of the wells in which you have found or now find yourself?
What would it take and how would it change your life to shrug it off and step up?
The adversities that come along to bury us usually have within them the potential to benefit and bless us.
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