He was more amped up then a Chihuahua after a can of Red Bull.  Here was my peer yelling at me because some people were sitting in the wrong area of a conference room during a sales meeting.

When I told him we could “make it work as is”, he said “Well I am glad you can be so flip about this Dave!”

Some people do not react well to stress.  In fact some people create their own stress and then don’t react to it well.  On the other hand, other people never seem flustered by the most stressful circumstances.  What do the calm have that the amped up Chihuahua does not?

Are You Really Calm?

Calm People Maintain Perspective

My response to the Red Bull addicted Chihuahua was “Maybe I seem flip because a few years ago I had people in the Middle East trying to shoot me.  This issue seems to pale in comparison.”

That may have not been the most eloquent way to handle the situation, but it illustrates how perspective helps people remain calm.  Experience can give seasoned veterans perspective, just as my experience in the Middle East gave me perspective.

When someone loses sight of the big picture, stress is not far behind.   Some of us have been through a lot in business or in life that allows us to stay calm.  This perspective needs to be shared to bolster the inexperienced people around us.

We lose perspective when we focus on the means without regard for then end or on ourselves without regard for others.  In both cases our perspective becomes myopic and our ability to remain calm is hindered.

A Person With Perspective May Say:

“Yeah.  Things aren’t good.  But lets focus on fixing this versus looking at the possibility of complete and utter failure.”

“I know this is hard on you now.  But, what can you take from it that will make you better?”

Calm People Prioritize

If I don’t know what is important, then everything seems important.  Stressed people tend to move from one crisis to another.  Their days are filled with problems, causing them to eat Tums like they are M&M’s.

I know as a leader, a husband and a father I have to juggle a lot of balls.   If I regard everything I am juggling like balls of fine crystal, dropping one feels like a disaster.  But in reality, some of the balls I am juggling are rubber balls.  They can be dropped without much damage.

Calm people know what their priorities are at work and in life.  They are calm because they have established what is important to them and rarely allow circumstances to cause them to waver from those priorities.

Honestly, if circumstances are consistently changing my priorities, then those things are not my real priorities.  Claiming priorities does not make them priorities, my actions do. 

A Person Who Prioritizes May Say:

“It’s okay.  I’ll call him back later.  You and I are discussing your career goals.”

“I’m sorry I didn’t get your voicemail until this morning boss.  I was at my daughter’s dance recital.”

Calm People Exude Positivity

Have you ever met a stressed out “glass half full” person?  Doubtful.  On the other hand, stressed out “glass half empty” people are around every corner.

Positive people tend to see the opportunities and not dwell on the obstacles.  They move to problem solving mode and do not linger in problem finding mode.  I know when I am focusing on solutions instead of problems my stress level goes down.

People who major in the negative possibilities of every situation always seem unhappy and on the verge of exploding.  They also tend to spend more time alone because they wear other people out.  If others people do spend time with them, they tend to be the stressed out and negative types as well.

When people see the possibilities instead of the obstacles, they tend to have hope.  When someone has hope, that hope attracts others.

A Person Who Exudes Positivity May Say:

“Wow.  I guess that could happen, but I can see three other possibilities that would turn this into a win for us.”

“He may have had a good relationship at our largest account.  But I think we are missing the fact that now that he is gone, we can finally hire someone who can build better relationships at our other accounts as well.”

The Bottom Line:

Stress happens.  Circumstances occur in everyone’s lives that can cause us to lose our cool.  Unfortunately, some people exist in a world of perpetual anxiety.  What can they learn from those who always seem to stay calm?

  1. Perspective:  What is the big picture?  Keep that in focus and the bumps in the road will just be part of the journey.
  2. Prioritize:  What’s really important?  Identify those few key priorities and don’t let the small stuff take over.
  3. Positivity:  What could go right?  Look for reasons something will work versus reasons it won’t.

Calm people stay calm because they have developed habits that help them stay calm in real or imagined pressure situations.  Perspective, Prioritizing and Positivity are all habits that calm people tend to have.

For some, this is easier than others. It is part of their personalities.  For others, their personalities push them towards other habits that create stress.  But, these are our personalities not our destinies.

How do we change our habits?  One decision at a time.

We can change our behaviors and form new habits that will help us be considered one of the calm ones.  That is a lot better than acting like a little canine hopped up on caffeine


What decisions can you begin to make to change your perspective, to prioritize or to look at circumstances in a more positive manner?