How to Turn Stress Into Success

stress into success

What if you could take stress and turn it into success. Wouldn’t that be a better way to use your energy? Sometimes a simple shift in the way we direct our energy and focus can radically alter the way we experience life.

Often times, we don’t really need more time and energy. We just need to shift the way we are using what we already have. Let’s look at three specific ways that we can create a shift away from stress and toward success.

Accept the fact that some things can’t be changed

We can’t change the past, period. Worrying about it will only create unnecessary stress. One of the best things you can do for yourself is accept that fact. Everything that has happened in your life up to this point is history, it’s completely unchangeable. One of the biggest ways to waste your time and energy is to fret over the past; it’s gone so let it go.

Looking back at missed opportunities won’t recreate them. Feeling guilty over past mistakes doesn’t serve you. Harboring any kind of negative energy toward yourself or others over things that have already happened will only leave you feeling drained and frustrated. It is a complete waste of vital force to hang on to any negative emotional anchors from the past.

Action step: Make a list of any past events, situations, relationships, or mistakes that you feel bad about or that cause you stress. Write them all down along with the negative feelings attached to them. When you are done, read each item and then ask yourself: “What do I need to do to get closure here?” If you need to apologize to someone, go do it. Most of the time all you need for closure is to let it go.

Once you’ve answered that question for each item, tear the list up and throw it, and those negative feelings, away. It’s trash and that’s where you should put it. The next time you are tempted to revisit those feelings or events, tell yourself “no emotional dumpster diving.”

Accept the fact that some things can always be changed

One thing that you can always change is your perception of, and reaction to, everything that happens in your life. It’s your life, you own it and that means that you have the power and the freedom to decide the meaning and value of every experience.

Many people are so locked into reaction mode that they fail to recognize their own ability to control their response. This mindset is a huge source of stress. Nobody makes us mad or happy, we choose those feelings. When we decide to exercise the ability to choose our emotional response, we tap into a huge source of personal power. We are not victims of our circumstances unless we choose to be.

Action Step: The next time you feel like “reacting” instead of responding, ask yourself: “What else could this mean?” Then come up with three alternate meanings and choose the one that feels the most empowering. Now respond to that. Doing this will transform a stressful reaction into a successful response.

Don’t let other people’s problems become your problems

Some people are just a disaster looking for a place to happen. One way to avoid getting stressed out along with them is to simply get out of their way. If someone is in a bad mood, do your best to stay away from them. If the driver behind you is tailgating, pull over and let them pass. It’s their problem, but taking it personally will make it your problem too.

If you go out to eat and there are loud, obnoxious people next to you, change tables. If someone tries to vent their anger at you, excuse yourself without taking personal offense. By staying alert to potentially dangerous situations you will be able to avoid them most of the time.  You can’t control the way other people behave, but you can control whether or not you allow their problems to become your problems.

Action step: Review the most common scenarios where you have allowed other people to stress you out. Now devise an alternate strategy that you can use the next time that situation arises. Make sure it is a strategy that allows you to remain emotionally neutral. Rehearse that strategy in your mind so you can easily implement it next time.

Choose success over stress

As you can see, we all have opportunities to redirect our personal resources toward success and away from stress. Isn’t it great that we each have the power to choose where our energy will go and how it will be used?

Do you use any of these stress to success strategies?
Do you have a favorite way to avoid stress and create success?
The lines are open!

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Want more? Here’s a free stress coaching video with lots of great tips.


  1. Sandra Hendricks July 9, 2010 Reply

    Hi Jonathan,

    We do get needlessly stressed over the silliest things. Changing our thoughts, and perception toward people and events is the only way to eliminate the mental stress we bring upon ourselves. In addition the emotional stress that comes with these thoughts dissipates as we succeed. I try to look at everything from my past as a positive issue. Both the things I have gone through and the people from my past that made it difficult, at the time. These made me who and I am, and once I discovered the good in myself, I understood the good in each past occurrence.


    • Jonathan July 9, 2010 Reply

      Hi Sandra, it’s true, we really know how to complicate things. I have a similar view of the past as yours. In fact my version is one of consistent blessings and wonderful experiences.

  2. Mars Dorian July 9, 2010 Reply

    Heya Jonathan,

    some nice tips on stress management.

    “Accept the fact that some things can always be changed”

    I believe perception is everything. Some people even say: there is no stress, it’s just in your mind.
    Gosh, I still have to find that mindset ;)

    • Jonathan July 9, 2010 Reply

      I agree Mars, perception is basically the whole thing. With the right attitude it’s all good. With the wrong attitude, it’s never good enough.

  3. Zeenat July 10, 2010 Reply

    HI Jonathan,
    So lovely to read your blog again. I did miss you and your writing. Somehow it always makes me think the right kind of thoughts…and makes me learn something new every time.
    As for my way of managing stress…I agree with you that acceptance is key. Once we can truly accept the situation or problem for what it really is and step out of it(think from outside ourself) its gets easier to manage and divise a plan of action or change.
    I personally love to deep breathe. Whenever I get stressed I just breathe deep….till I can calm down. Only then do I go ahead and allow myself to think further about the solution or change that is required. Cause decisions made in angst really aren’t the right decisions after all….right :)
    Thank you fro sharing your wisdom Jonathan. Just know its appreciated..and I really did miss you while i was offline.
    Much Love,

    • Jonathan July 10, 2010 Reply

      Greetings Zeenat, a deep breath (or 20) is often the way we get from “reacting” to responding. Because they are completely different states, deep breathing can really help facilitate the transition. I like exhale the urge to react, inhale the power to respond.

      So glad you like the newsletter, it’s been a big hit. It is so nice to be interacting with you again Z. I would think the one consolation to being gone would be finding out how much everyone missed you, I know I did.

  4. Farnoosh July 10, 2010 Reply

    You have explored yet another theme of great interest for me (and I have no doubt, for many others). My big challenge is to apply this clear, logical, reasonable way of thinking the moment I find myself stressed. I seem to go right past the stage where I pause and think…..sometimes I simply react without thinking – and while I have improved greatly, I envy those who can apply such simple yet difficult concept every day to their life…..So much room to grow! Thank you for the food for thought as always!

    • Jonathan July 11, 2010 Reply

      No worries Farnoosh, we are susceptible to the impulse to react rather than respond. That’s one of the reasons I like questions like “what else could this mean.” As soon as we ask it our focus changes and the temptation to react is greatly reduced. It turns the whole thing into a mental game instead of an emotional one.

      • Farnoosh July 18, 2010 Reply

        Hey Jonathan, I am getting better at my reactions. I can’t tell you how many of my friends I have referred to Advanced Lifeskills over the last few months. You are a gem of a find, thank you!

  5. Marko July 10, 2010 Reply

    A small guide for big change… nice.

    Art of transforming “stones into gold” is very important for anyone who wants to advance and grow. With the help of humor, we can turn anger into laughter. With a positive attitude and calm mind, we can turn the worst situation to learn valuable life lessons… Opportunities are everywhere around us, if we have enough desire to observe them.

    Tips are great Jonathan, but I have one thought… As to the first “Try this”, the proposal is interesting, however, I think that some people would react badly to it.

    Why do I think so? You say “Make a list of any past events, situations, relationships, or mistakes that you feel bad about.” I think that compiling a list of negative things would put too much focus on negative things.

    Imagine the person that all people condemn because it is shy. And that person is under stress because of his/her shyness. If he write about his/her shyness would that be more or less helpful? I think that the action of writing would put too much focus on negative circumstances…

    Yes, you say that after we should tear up and throw the list… However, I think in this case just compiling a list will not so positively influence on the future course of events…. I’m interested in what you think? :)

  6. Jonathan July 10, 2010 Reply

    Excellent point Marko, and it illustrates why we don’t all get the same results from any given approach. A case like you mentioned needs a more taylored approach and would probably do better in a one on one setting.

    Sometimes there are underlying issues that can cause a perfectly sound technique (for most people) to completely backfire. I am really glad you brought this up because no matter how good something sounds, we still need to make sure it’s a good fit for us personally. One size fits many, but not all.

  7. Stephen July 11, 2010 Reply

    Hi Jonathan, great advice.

    “You can’t control the way other people behave, but you can control whether or not you allow their problems to become your problems.”

    Many people want to and think they should be able to control others. The desire to control others is a huge trap that will make your life miserable. Constantly being irritated by others will only make you frustrated. It’s difficult for me because I’m easily irritated, but I’ve learned to just not worry about it. Like you say, if it’s bothering you that much you can leave.

    • Jonathan July 11, 2010 Reply

      Hi Stephen, trying to control other people is equivalent to banging your head on the wall. Both are guaranteed to produce little more than a headache. No matter how strongly we feel that someone else needs us to provide direction, the truth is that people do whatever they want and learning to accept that is a huge stride in the “letting go” process.

  8. Dia July 12, 2010 Reply

    Very nice post Jonathan! One of the best things we can do to get rid of stress is by changing our thoughts. It is all in our thoughts. If we control our thoughts, then we can turn stress into success. Thanks for sharing

    • Jonathan July 12, 2010 Reply

      Hey Dia, I totally agree. We see our entire life through the filters of our thoughts and beliefs. If we want to see things differently we just need to learn how to change the filters.

  9. Steve July 13, 2010 Reply

    Accepting that some things in the past cannot be changed. That’s a great point. One of the techniques from cognitive psychology is the compassion principle. When we tend to be extra hard on ourselves, it is helpful to think, “What kind of compassion would I extend to a friend in a similar situation? What would I say to him or her to show him/her compassion.” Then we can address those comments to ourselves.

    • Jonathan November 23, 2012 Reply

      Hi Steve, yes, what a difference it can make if we just learn to treat ourselves with the same level of compassion and dignity that we would afford a valued friend.

  10. Alison August 29, 2010 Reply

    I try to deal with stress as soon as it appears in my life. My approach is very rational. Is it positive or negative stress? What’s causing it? What can I do about it? Sounds very simple, but stepping back and asking questions like these will help you understand the situation and take action. Don’t let stress consume you!

    • Jonathan November 23, 2012 Reply

      Great approach Alison, your rational questions prevent it from becoming an emotionally draining experience and allow you to be more resourceful in your response.

  11. Lin July 15, 2011 Reply

    All of the above seems to apply to many situations I was in over the past years.
    I easily submit to stress because I tend to worry a lot. I get anxious very easily.
    Possibly because I’m just always looking for that perfect way out.
    Yet never finding any, and worrying myself sick with all my hair falling out:(
    It’s not that easy being 17.
    Thanks for the tips!

    • Jonathan November 23, 2012 Reply

      Hi Lin, worry will rob you of your emotional balance and over time, even your health. If you can’t change it – let it go! You can’t control everything and trying only leads to unnecessary frustration. Focusing your energy on the areas where you can have a positive influence will help take your mind off of the worry.

  12. John November 19, 2012 Reply

    Hi Jonathan,

    Great post. I like the ‘rehearse a strategy in your mind so you can easily implement it next time’. Having an alternative behaviour that is more resourceful, instead of the old limiting one gives your mind a choice and a better decision to take.

    The moment you see/hear the old situation, your mind can switch and choice the new behaviour instead. In the toolkit of NLP, there is a technique called The Swish Pattern, it’s perfect for this kind of behaviour change.

    There is always room for more happiness and less stress in life
    John Vincent

    • Jonathan November 23, 2012 Reply

      Well said John and I agree 100%. Thanks!

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