Categories: Gettin The Mind Right

One Arrow to Decrease Stress

Happy Monday!

There’s never going to be a point in our lives when there is no stress. But the more mindful we are, the less we will let stressors and the stories we build on those stressors run our life.

There’s an ancient parable called “Two Arrows” that illustrates how we typically react to a stressor, and how basic awareness of our reactionary tendencies can reduce its impact.

The story goes something like this…there’s a man walking through the forest who suddenly gets struck by an arrow.

Rather than ducking for cover and going silent, he stays upright and yells about the arrow, becoming an easier target,.

Then he gets struck with another arrow…he has the same response.

Then he gets struck with a third arrow, and yet again has the same response.

Unwelcome events will randomly strike you, out of nowhere, and disrupt your life. There’s nothing you could have done to prevent them.

Each event is isolated, but the story YOU add to it determines if there’s going to be a second, third, or more arrows of suffering you’ll have to endure.

Each arrow—each reactive response after the initial arrow (event)—is self inflicted.

There’s a big gap between what happened and how we respond.

Too often we let our primal fight or flight instinct respond to non-life-threatening stressors, which puts us on edge. That’s a reactive response. When we are reactive, we lose clarity. Our mind gets lost in the anxiety of what else could happen, or draws on our past to make us think that more of the same will happen again.

But thankfully, every obstacle is an opportunity to improve our condition.

For daily first-world problems at home and work, you can learn how to become more mindful, be patient, show more compassion, and so forth.

For bigger, more serious threats like something happening to a family member, it’s an opportunity to gain understanding of how precious life is, and an opportunity to become a stronger person for those in your life.

Here are some concrete ways to help you gain that understanding and inner strength:

  • Start with awareness. It’s human to be reactive so don’t judge it; just become aware that you are reactive, and move past it as quickly as you can.
  • From there, try to understand from an objective bias (leave your emotions/feelings out of it).
    What is the event about? What is happening right now? What is universally true about this event?
  • Plan your course of action (instead of a reactive response). What’s the next best thing you can do right now?

Let me repeat the most important part: do not judge or shame yourself for reacting. It’s a natural human response.

Instead, work to become more aware and shorten the time you spend in reactive response mode.





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