Examining the words that define your goals will unearth the root cause of your stress – and new paths to satisfaction and happiness.

Many professionals experience stress because their belief systems guarantee that their desires will never be achieved. One definition of “stress” is how we feel when we don’t get what we want or when we wish our lives were different. 

Neurolinguistic programming studies show how our internal definitions of the terms we use can cause us to always fall short of our goals. For example, our personal definitions of terms like success, wealth, and control will determine our mental and emotional health and our quality of life. 

Subconscious Belief that We’re Not Good Enough

A typical example is the belief that we are not good enough, which we learned from authority figures in our early life that encouraged us to “do better”. When you have an internal, subconscious belief that you are not good enough, nothing you do will ever be good enough. This cognitive bias of not being good enough will search the universe for evidence that you are not good enough and you will always fall short. 

The way out of this negative belief system is simple, but not easy. We must release these negative belief systems (definitions) and replace them with rational, realistic beliefs about the events in our lives. There is a huge difference in the quality of life of someone who believes that they failed and someone who believes that they learned from the experience so they will do better next time. 

Negative Beliefs Cause Stress; Realistic Beliefs Cause Satisfaction

To prove this point, let’s examine the terms listed above on how negative beliefs generate stress and realistic beliefs generate satisfaction and fulfillment.

1. Success.

This word can cause great stress and burnout or satisfaction and joy, simply by how we define it. Take a second and write down your personal definition before you read any further. 

Webster’s definition is “favorable or desired outcome”. Many people go further and combine this with a comparison of how they did with how others did. They are always looking sideways at their colleagues or celebrities and judging and comparing their outcomes with others. You notice that Websters does not include “better than others”. 

I would suggest that a healthy definition of “success” is “doing the best you can and showing up and enjoying your job”. Everything else is gravy. Quit looking sideways and focus on your own work. No one is going to remember how much money you made last year, however, they will remember your compassion, your kindness, and your efforts. Sometimes we make decisions that we will never make again. That is okay, it’s called life.

2. Wealth.

When people are stressed and considering quitting, they often define wealth in terms of money, which generally leads them to thinking they never make enough. The Buddhists tell us that the root of all suffering is desire. That is because desire does not know the concept of “enough”. 

Many professionals don’t have a definition of wealth that includes other things beyond money. That is a problem because we can never have enough money. Thus, if we define “wealth” in this manner, we will never be wealthy. 

I suggest to my clients that they must define wealth without reference to a dollar amount. For example, I have a loving wife and sons. I have close friends and my health. I am wealthy beyond measure, no matter how much money I have. I would have none of those things if all I focused on was how much money I had. 

3. Control.

Most people want control. Control over their career, clients, friends, and family. They want everything to be easy and effortless. They want their name on the letterhead and on the front page of the business section. The problem is all of that is external and an illusion. Have you ever looked in the mirror and tried to reach out and comb your hair (in the reflection) in the mirror? We can only control what we do and how we think or feel about what happens.

This is like the proper application of leadership. Many experts agree that a great leader shows others how to be rather than just telling them what to do. If you want to control your life, you must control yourself. This includes what you think, feel, and believe. 

If you can be positive in your beliefs, thoughts, and emotions, you will be the lodestone and light that will draw others to you. If you exude confidence and kindness, you will attract everything you need. If you are having fun, people will beat a path to your door.

If you want to control your relationships, control your relationship with yourself. Love yourself, forgive yourself, be the person you want your children and partner to be. Make a list of the attributes you want from your colleagues and intimates and be that.

We usually look outside of ourselves for fulfillment and happiness. That is like trying to comb our reflection’s hair. Examine your goals and then the definitions of the words that comprise your goals. You will then find the root cause of your stress and new pathways to fulfillment and happiness.

View the article as it originally appeared on FamilyLawyerMagazine.com