Stress or Creative Intensity

“If I am not stressed, I must not be working hard enough.”


Nobody ever thought me this toxic rule—not directly. But I picked it up early. Maybe you did too. In my case, I was conditioned during my young professional life to feel that if I was not overwhelmed, I was lazy or slacking somehow. Probably I was too ambitious or too eager to please—likely both. Boy, it took a lifetime of unlearning to get over this.

I use the word stress in its negative, popular sense: The state of psychological overload and confusion we feel when our attention and energy is spread too thin. A state of heightened activity in which we are unable to tell apart what is important and what is trivial.

The practical truth I learned is that nobody benefits if am stressed out I am or if I just pretend to be to gain someone’s sympathy. What my clients and my projects ask for is maximum impact. And as it turns out, stress is a fundamental obstacle to influence others positively and powerfully.

Now, I do believe in creative intensity; this type of energy is not stress. How do I know if I am driven by creative energy? Because when this energy takes over, there is no confusion about what is important or not. Just the opposite—there is a sharp clarity in and around me. Another clue that creative intensity is at work is a calm detachment from the outcome. This work just calls to be done. Period. The process becomes more important than any specific result. I do not want you to think that my creative intensity is some elevated state in which I compose music or paint a masterpiece (I do neither.) It is simply a state of complete immersion in the task at hand. May it be cleaning the garage, doing invoicing, or planning the topics for the next meeting.