With a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a Diploma in Shiatsu body therapy, Michael has helped thousands of people, and many Australian organizations, to understand their pressure profile, better manage their people pressure, and stop 'working themselves to death' .
Michael has also authored the book and CD pack ‘Turning Stress into Energy and Enthusiasm, and co-authored 'What My Favorite Teacher Taught Me, volume 3'.
In Michael’s high energy, interactive and very practical presentations, he demystifies what people need to do to become resilient to pressure in today's fast paced business world, and keep a clear head when dealing with difficult people or situations.
To download this e-Book - Using your mouse, right click on the download link, select "Save Target As" , and save to your desktop (or another file) for easy retrieval.
Get Into Flow
When people produce their best results, they talk about being in a state known as 'the zone'.
Put simply, this is a highly productive state of mind and body where you are simultaneously intense and calm, able to focus on the specific whilst monitoring the big picture, all whilst appearing natural and effortless.
For many, however, this state happens by accident and hence they are unable to harness it when needed. Interestingly, the key is not about how to push yourself to achieve more, but rather how to remove the obstacles that stop you from staying in flow. Feeling stressed from a heavy workload, frustrated from an angry client, down from a fight with your spouse or uptight are all symptoms of being out of flow.
When I ran the Shiatsu Centre of Melbourne, I remember one particular client named 'Peter' who was a Kung Fu expert. At the end of each Shiatsu massage, Peter would teach me some Kung Fu (at the time I was studying Japanese karate). He would ask me to throw a punch, to which he would defend with a block and counter strike. Within seconds Peter would have me in a lock or hold where I was unable to defend myself. I was in awe of his skill but became frustrated because of how easily he could control my attacks.
Peter would say, "The problem with you karate folk is that you don't understand flow – you either attack or defend - you don't flow with your opponent."
Peter took a step back and explained, that "In an attack, don't pre-plan a technique or try to achieve an outcome like a lock, hold. Instead, just try to respond to what your opponent does. Allow your body to mould theirs – like water does to a stream."
"But my body just doesn't instinctively move like that", I would say.
Peter paused for a moment and replied "Let go of your mind and just respond".
The best martial arts fighters don't think 'how should I defend that punch?' their body just responds. Years of training has created muscle memory so that their bodies just automatically respond to the attack in a way that looks natural and effortless. This is being In Flow.
When you are In Flow in your life, you speak with confidence, you are not bothered by arguments, you connect better with your clients and colleagues, your selling is smoother, your productivity is efficient, and you fall more deeply in love with your partner and kids. Life just works.
There is an old Chinese philosophy that states 'where energy flows, there is health, harmony and happiness – where energy is stagnant, there is disease, pain and suffering'. Many Traditional Chinese Health therapies are based on the premise that energy flows through your body, like water flows along a river. When that flow becomes blocked, we get sick, muscles become tight and emotions fly. As a Shiatsu practitioner, I used this principle of keeping energy flowing to help thousands of people repair their health, pain and energy.
So, how do you achieve flow?
Well, you don't. You don't achieve or make 'flow'. It already exists within you. You have to allow it. You have to remove the obstacles that stop you from being 'in flow'.
For example, worrying about making sales, carrying grudges against team members, family of customers, stewing over your loses, rejections and getting stuck in self pity – all these factors stagnate your energy flow and hinder your ability to be a great accountant, teacher, administrator, team member, leader, manager, spouse, parent, son, CEO, real estate agent, etc.
The three aspects to remove that stagnate flow are RULES, STORIES and OUTCOMES.
Remove the Rules:
You have unspoken 'rules' of how you expect people to behave, etiquette rules, manners, etc. For example 'be polite', 'ladies first', 'say bless you when I sneeze', 'acknowledge drivers who let you into traffic', 'people should respect me', 'people should show interest in me by asking how I am', etc. You believe these rules are right and become frustrated or upset with people who break your rules.
The more rigidity and expectation you place on how people have to respond, the more tension and disappointment you will experience. That tension stagnates your energy flow, because you end up fighting/resisting people that don't behave the way you want them to.
In the martial arts, people don't fight according to your rules. So if you want to survive you have to let go of the rules and go with the flow of what they throw at you.
Get into flow by realising your rules and letting as many of them go as you can.
Remove the Stories:
Your story is your well rehearsed set of logical reasons, excuses or conditions that you use when you don't achieve what you want. For example "I don't have enough experience", "I don't have all the facts", "She walked out on me", "It's all too hard right now", "I don't like conflict", "I don't have enough time", "I am just not good enough"….and on they go!
Your story is like a prison. It keeps you stuck in your current reality of life and justifies why your life is where it is. Stories makes it acceptable to be stuck because are often very logical and believable. Stories justify our pain and legitimise our limiting beliefs and ineffective actions. In my case with Peter, I would say "But my body just doesn't instinctively move like that", which gives me permission to not grasp what Peter was trying to teach me.
Your stories create a pattern of tension in your body that stop you from evolving and adapting to new challenges. Get into flow by realizing your stories and letting them go.
Remove the Outcomes:
You have expectations on how you want situations, events, projects and plan to turn out. It may be setting goals, writing business plans, setting up a daily 'to do' list, or just planning a car trip. You have outcomes that you want to achieve. That's fine.
When life, however, doesn't go according to your outcomes, you may try and force it to fit in with your plans - which create tension in your system. You will have customers who you were sure would do business with you whom suddenly don't, you will have days when all your agenda/plans are changed within the first 10 minutes of being at your desk, you will have children who take too long to get ready to fit in with your time agenda (I have three very 'time challenged', beautiful kids).
Learn to adapt your plans, your goals, and your objectives to accommodate for the obstacles and obstructions that will get in your way. In martial arts, you cannot enter a fight with a plan to do a block, kick, punch and then a take down, because you cannot predict how your opponent is going to respond to your first attack. Thus, you must be prepared to let go of your plan in order to control, and win, the fight.
Get into flow by letting go of the outcomes you lose control over and just apply yourself, to best of your ability, in the direction in which you want to move.
Develop your BounceBack skills by living into flow like the martial artist. Practice removing rules and expectations from others, let go of your excuses and logical reasons that hold you back, and be prepared to let go of your plans by adapting and responding to whatever life throws at you. Flow already exists within you – you just have to let it happen.
Many years ago people woke up with the sun rising, ate breakfast from produce that was grown or raised on their land, went to work and physically moved their bodies all day, stopped to eat, worked some more, then went to sleep as the sun went down.
In today's world, we get woken up with an alarm clock, and we immediately go into rush-mode. Our system is so tired it 'needs' an artificial kick start from coffee. We barely have time to eat or we quickly throw down some sugar saturated breakfast cereals, then rush off to work. Our homes are surrounded by electro-magnetic resonances emitted from our television, clock, microwave, computer, watch, appliances, and even the refrigerator.
After driving through traffic and pollution for 30-60 minutes, we work like machines, sitting at a desk, barely using our bodies to do anything except click on the mouse button. If time is taken for food, it is often processed, preserved and has little nutritional value. Our environment is always brightly lit with fluorescent lighting, so our bodies can be pushed to work into the night when we should be slowing down and resting.
We battle the traffic again, get home and get through more chores, then conclude the night with a few hours of sitting in front of the television watching shows that we aren't really that interested in, only to fall asleep in a fit of exhausted so we can wake the next morning to do it all over again....for 30 years of our lives!!
...And we wonder why we feel stressed!
It isn't that life is more stressful today, it is that the
PACE of life is faster...and we are burning
ourselves out trying to keep up.
To stay up to date requires sacrificing your own needs (health, fitness, weight, personal interests, and family) or so that work/business needs can be met. Modern day stress is not a disease, or a condition - rather, it comes from losing touch with what our body, mind and soul really need to stay balanced. More accurately, stress is the result of a lack of priority on ourselves, and the lack of discipline to do anything about it.
In one particular study 50% of respondents say they are too tired to say anything to their spouse or partner at the end of a 12 hour day. 55% say work interferes with their sex life. Yet 75% of respondents love their jobs. 66% say that the pressure and the pace are self-inflicted .
Another survey found that 40% of working New Zealanders have difficulty achieving work-life balance, almost half the population! And 22% of working New Zealanders work 50 hours a week or more, up from 17% fifteen years ago . Stephen Covey's research tells us that 42% of people feel life is a treadmill and they can't get off .
The problem comes from your identity and self esteem - how you define yourself. We often define ourselves in terms of our work, job, profession, etc. Being defined by your work, means that working more feeds your self esteem/identity (because that is who you are) - hence you are less likely to give yourself permission to wind down - or feel guilty for taking time off.
What defines you? It is easy to find out - just listen to how you respond to questions like:
a. How are you?
b. What's happening in your life?
c. How are things going?
d. What's new?
What percentage of your answers are about work? What about personal life? Leisure activities? Notice how you define your life. If your life is defined by your work, then burnout will inevitable prevail - and you will want to over commit and over work.
It's interesting - as I write this I can feel myself thinking "but that's what I do. I love my work and so I over commit - and sometimes lose the boundaries and over work because the work defines me. I find myself sacrificing the things that are really important and can forget to reprioritise them back into my life - like wellbeing, fitness and family time". They say the advice you give is that which you need to listen to most carefully.
I was watching the finale of the show 'The Biggest Loser' and saw the amazing transformations of how people lost 40,60, up to 125 pounds of weight! However, I noticed that another transformation was the way they started redefining themselves. They started by seeing themselves as 'fat people' who were controlled by food, and transformed into 'fit and slim people' who were committed to exercise. The process of the TV show redefined who they were - not just in their physical body, but in the image of themselves.
Think of the seven aspects of personal development - health, relationships, fitness, personal hobbies/interests, finance, professional, and spiritual. How much importance have you put on developing each of these aspects in your life? What goals have you set in each area? How much time, thought and energy do you put into each aspect during each month?
Let me suggest a process (one which I am doing at the moment) - just in time for the new year:
1. STOP THE TREADMILL
Working at full pace, without a break, is not mentally, physically or emotionally sustainable. Create the discipline in your time table to punctuate your pace and get off the treadmill.
Unless you stop, think and replan, you will always be 'busy being busy'. Demand never stops, so waiting for the pressure to ease off before you give back to yourself is madness...and it gives away your power and ability to control your life. Don't wait, just make the time to stop and stick to it.
2. GET ENTIRELY AWAY
To replan you need to think of what you want and where you want your life to go.
Sitting in your lounge room to plan, acts as a visual framework to your thinking. it limits your capacity to see, or imagine, what is possible to achieve in your future. As a result you may not aim high or really get in touch with what you want.
Get out of your environment and go to a place that gives you a feeling of unlimited potential or inspiration. I like quiet and nature - so the beach (cafe overlooking the beach) is ideal. Get yourself into an environment that is synonymous with where you want your life to go, not a reflection of where your life is.
3. DEFINE YOUR DESIRES
Becoming clear on how you wish to define yourself is a three part process:
Step 1: Feel gratitude for where you are and what you have right now in your life.
Take the time to feel your successes, celebrate your efforts and achievements. Start with a sense of accomplishment instead of a sense of dissatisfaction
Step 2: Develop a frame work for ideas to flow.
Set up writing space (perhaps one page per area) to get thinking about your life's future in terms of your:
d. Personal hobbies/interests
h. Spiritual growth
Get into the head space of defining your life in more than just your work or professional success, and open your mind to the 7 areas that can define you.
Step 3: Open up the possibilities.
Start thinking and writing your thoughts to answer this question (for each of the 7 areas):
'If anything was possible to achieve in the area of [ABC], what would I want to accomplish?
It is important that you just write whatever comes to your mind. Don't stop to punctuate. Don't think 'well, I could never do/have/achieve that', don't try to get the right words. Just get the energy out!! Give yourself permission to become all you can be.
It is your choice whether 2007 becomes a year of you becoming all you can be and experience all you can experience, or whether you stay a reflection of who you have been in 2006 and become just one year older.
It is time to move beyond being married to work and become engaged with life.
 Extreme Jobs: The Dangerous Allure of the 70-Hour Workweek by Dr Sylvia Ann Hewlett, President of the Centre for Work-Life (NY) Dec 2006
 New Zealand Ministry of Social Development Nov 2006)
 Stephen Covey, 1997 study
To download your free special report on the ‘Seven ways to prevent yourself becoming Over-Worked, Stressed-Out, and Run-Down’, visit: BounceBackFast.com
Do people tend to push your 'hot buttons', leaving you feeling frustrated and intense?
Do the mannerisms of your clients', or their poor communication skills annoy you?
Do demanding or abrupt customers make you feel stressed and uptight?
Then you need to get mentally tough!
Mental toughness is an essential skill required for becoming resilient to the pressures and stresses in work and life.
Just feeling frustrated, uptight or upset because of what someone has said or done will create tension and stress in your body.
Ronald Glaser, director of Ohio State University's Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research said, "It's clear that stressors produce abnormal changes in the immune system". Glaser and his wife, Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, a clinical psychologist also at Ohio State University, studied the mind-body connection and found that chronic stress and psychological stress can impede wounds from healing, may impair the effectiveness of vaccines and can weaken the immune system of caregivers . In this physical state, you may feel easily tired, emotionally sensitive, and your body becomes prone to strains, spasms and pain.
There is, however, a more positive effect created when changing the way you respond to potentially stressful situations.
Carol Ryff, a psychology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says, "There is a science that is emerging that says a positive attitude isn't just a state of mind. It also has linkages to what's going on in the brain and in the body." 
You may not realize it, but the way in which you react to the people you work or do business with, is creating the tension and stress in your body.
You may be unwittingly reducing your ability to be resilient to pressure.
So, what can you do about it?...
Change what you focus on
Toughen your mind by disciplining it to focus on solutions rather than problems. An undisciplined mind dwells on problems and churns over those negative aspects of people that bother you. This simply creates more tension in your body. Studies have found that "pain is a psychologically constructed experience" .
You create or reduce pain depending on what you
focus on or what you believe to be true.
The same is true about stress.
-> Focus your mind and energy on how problems can be solved, instead of getting upset because someone disagrees with you.
-> Focus your mind on the task at hand, instead of other people's opinions of you.
-> Focus your mind on all the good you can achieve, instead of beating yourself up over one or two mistakes.
-> Focus your mind on your good nature and sense of humour, instead of harsh words from a demanding client.
-> Focus your mind on the insignificance of your problems when you consider that over 150,000 people have lost their lives, and millions have been left homeless.
-> Worry less about people's bad moods, poor communication and outbursts. Get the message and get on with it. You don't need the stress.
'Don't let people's opinion of you become your reality'
- Les Brown
For the rest of your days, there will be people who say things you don't like, will disagree with you opinion and disapprove of your choices. If you let that resistance determine what you do, you'll never be free of stress and pressure.
I teach people how to become resilient to pressure and stress for many reasons, but one important reason is that in the past eight years I have lost several special people in my life due to tragic circumstances. If one positive lesson could come out of that it's realizing that 'Life is too short to waste time getting drained from stress because of what or how other people communicate with you.
I wish for you to enjoy work, family and life - not endure it. Don't live for the weekends - live today...because there is no guarantee of what tomorrow will bring.
Do you become stressed when you don’t succeed in achieving what you want? The very reason why failure and setbacks damages so many egos, breaks so many hearts, and steals so many dreams may lie in how resilient you are to pressure.
Resilience is characterized as being able to adapt to, and bounce back from, tough situations without compromising your objective. Being able to bounce back quickly from any setback, instead of dwelling in self-pity, allows you to get on with your life and keep working towards your target.
So, how do you develop resilience to the emotional stress of setbacks and failure?
When you cut yourself, your body instantly goes to work to clot the blood, seal the wound and fight any infection. If you break a bone, you body immediately goes to work on protecting the area with inflammation, healing the bone tissue, and restoring circulation. Your body is innately resilient and bounces back from setbacks because it adapts itself to restore balance and health.
In nature, the willow is a strong, resilient tree that can tolerate strong weather conditions because it bends easily in the wind without breaking. It adapts to its environment in order to not just survive, but thrive.
The degree to which your mind is able to adapt, and rise above, your setbacks, instead of getting sucked into self-pity, will determine how quickly you bounce back and get on with your life. Here’s how you can use your mind to bounce back from any setback with glory…
Focus on the upside
Why does a setback hurt so much? Is it because it makes you feel like a failure? Is it because you feel as if you are not good enough, and that no matter what you try you aren’t going to succeed? No. Setbacks hurt when you focus your mind on the pain.
Have you noticed how well people can cope with pain or injury well until they see blood?
In one study, three groups of participants were asked to soak their arm in a bucket of freezing cold iced water for as along as they could stand it. During the submersion, the first group watched funny movies and told jokes to each other, the second group practised a relaxation technique, and the third group just sat there in silence. Groups A & B were able to increase their pain threshold by 50%, whereas there was no change to the pain threshold of group C.[i]
By refocusing your mind on the empowering aspects of the setback, instead of the painful ones, you will bounce back quickly without feeling drained by the event.
Dr. Maxwell Maltz, a renowned plastic surgeon, began research into the human mind. He noticed that with some people, once the bandages were removed after receiving cosmetic plastic surgery, if their internal self-esteem had not changed, then no matter how perfect a job he did, they still felt ugly. What they focused on, regardless of the reality, is what they experienced as true.
What you focus on, regardless of the outcome of the situation, will determine whether you feel confident and self-assured or irritable and depressed.
Tip: Pay attention to the aspects of the situation that you felt good about. Focus on the aspects that did go well. Did you apply yourself well? If so, then be pleased that you did that! Were you proactive and used your strengths? Well, that takes courage, so if you did that then be proud of yourself. Did you give your best effort? Then, that’s all you can ask of yourself, so acknowledge yourself for having the confidence to be your best.
Tip: Acknowledge how you feel, but don’t dwell on the setback. Why waste your time doing focusing on something that hurts? It won’t get you any closer to what you want. It sounds harsh (because it is) but you have to tell yourself ‘Get up - Get over it – Get on with it’.
Is it a disaster or a learning experience?
Dr Rich Allen (Ph.D. in educational psychology) has studied how the brain receives, processes, stores and recalls information. In a leadership program of 80 participants, a 60-second movie clip was shown of a car traveling down a dirt road and then colliding with a barn. Immediately after the clip the group was given a list of questions about what they had just seen. Two different questionnaires were then distributed. Half the participants were asked ‘How fast was the car moving when the car bumped into the barn?’ The other half were asked ‘How fast was the car moving when the car smashed into the barn?
The group that was asked to describe the collision as ‘bumped’ reported an average speed of 42km/hr. The group that was asked to describe the collision as ‘smashed’ reported an average speed of 67km/hr. The alteration of a single word produced a significant change in the participants’ perception of the film clip.
In the same sense, if you describe your ‘setback’ as a personal reflection of your self worth, then you will probably feel like a failure and give up. Your setbacks feel painful and you feel worthless when you describe them in terms of ‘you’. Comments like ‘It’s all my fault’, ‘I always achieved what I set my mind to - why can’t I just get the darn job?’, ‘What’s wrong with me?’ is an invitation for self-pity and misery. Even the word ‘reject’, which is defined as ‘to refuse to accept or use; to throw away; to discard’ conjures up images of worthless garbage tossed away into the bin. What a ridiculous way to describe a human being!
Putting yourself down reduces the effort you put into your other aspirations. Research has found that people with lower self-esteem set lower expectations for their performance[ii], underestimate their capabilities and set less challenging or mediocre goals[iii] which leads to putting in less effort than those with high self esteem[iv]. In short, taking rejection and setbacks personally can lead to not trying as hard in your next life challenge.
However, describing the event in terms of the ‘learning’ you gained from it, allows you to feel empowered that this situation will make you either smarter, stronger, and one step closer to a ‘getting what you want from life’.
Look at setbacks is as a stepping-stone that points out the path to where you want to go. In that sense, the setback is actually a helping hand that shows you the way that didn’t work, so that you can find what path that will work. Without knowing what doesn’t work, how can you expect to grow and improve?
As a child, you would have fallen over many times before you finally took your first steps. As I watch my own children grow and learn how to walk, I notice how each failed attempt teaches them how to improve, adapt and overcome. Each false step is actually a step closer to the right step. A setback is your arena to learn how to improve, optimize and strengthen so that you can get what you want.
Tip: Describe your setback experience in empowering terms instead of ‘put-down’ language. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, look at how it is showing you the way to getting what you want. Ask yourself:
‘What can I learn from this?’
‘How can this situation make me stronger, smarter or happier in my life?’
‘What do I know now, that I didn’t know before the situation?’
‘How will this outcome help me improve in my next challenge?’
Is that being a Pollyanna, pie-in-the-sky optimist who is less in touch with reality? To a certain degree, yes. Will being positive and optimistic help you bounce back from rejection faster, keep your self-esteem intact and your motivation strong? Absolutely!
Becoming resilient to pressure is a choice of how you wish to react to the obstacles and setbacks that life throws at you. Now it’s up to you decide whether you will let failure and setbacks stop you in your tracks and wallow in self-pity, or whether you will see the positive learning and focus on what you have done well, so that you can keep on trying until you get what you want from life.
It’s your move.
[i] Sarafino, E. P. ‘Health Psychology – Biopsychosocial interactions’, 1990