Nine Keys to Living a Virtually Stress-Free Life Article by: Jim Rohrbach

“Don’t ever tell anybody that they’re not free, ’cause then they’re gonna get real busy to prove to you that they are. Oh, yeah—they’re gonna talk about individual freedom. But they see a free individual, it’s gonna scare ‘em.”
—George Hanson (played by Jack Nicholson), Easy Rider

I’ve come to realize that my highest value is freedom. I want and need the flexibility to pretty much do what I want to do, when I want to do it. To most people, this notion of freedom is a pipe dream—who can live such a life? A lot of my friends and acquaintances shake their heads in admiration (or is it jealousy?) when I tell them that my weekend begins no later than noon on Friday: in the summer, I’ll be at Wrigley Field for a Cubs day game. They also raise an eyebrow when they notice me coming and going as I please; they’ve never known anyone so available. And it really pisses ‘em off when I tell them I have zero regularly scheduled meetings each week, except with my “coachees.”

This does not mean that I spend my days as a shiftless hedonist. I am totally dedicated to and passionate about my clients. But I believe all of us have the freedom to set up life just the way we want it. The question is, will you take the responsibility to do the work to get there?
And, trust me—it is work. Since 1981 I’ve spent thousands of dollars on books, audio programs, personal development workshops, professional training, and one-on-one coaching while investing thousands of hours to get my life to the virtually stress-free place it is today.

When I say “virtually stress-free,” I don’t mean that I’m not busy, or that I don’t have to put any effort out, or that my idea of a challenge is rolling over to hit the snooze bar. I mean that I don’t encounter the kind of self-induced stress that we create by inadvertently allowing life to program us, instead of vice versa. I believe most people are stressed out because they haven’t taken conscious control of the way they want things to go. They’re running on autopilot, driven by our society’s default stress-manufacturing mantra: “You always need more; you never have enough. There’s not enough time, not enough money, and not enough stuff.” What a nasty merry-go-round ride that is!

The path toward stress-free living
Of course, that merry-go-round looks pretty nice at times. It’s colorful, it has lots of bells and whistles, and it’s very easy to stay on—especially when all your friends are on it too. Plus the whole idea is that it seems like you’re going somewhere. But you’re not. You’re sitting on a beautiful imitation of a horse that goes up and down and round and round in the same spot forever.

If you want to live stress-free, you’ve got to step off the ride, find yourself a living and breathing horse, take the reins, and direct it to wherever you want to go. It’s harder. It takes more skill. It’s not as safe. But it is far more exhilarating. Here are nine keys to living a virtually stress-free life:

  • Know your purpose. Perhaps the first and most important step on the road to freedom is to develop your own mission statement. Most people never take this first step to becoming an “inner-directed” human being. Most don’t know that it’s even a possibility. Let me rephrase a famous quote: “If you don’t define your mission in life, you’ll be working for someone who has.” And that describes about 98% of all people. Have you created your mission statement?
  • Work toward inspiring goals. The late, great Earl Nightingale said it best: “People with goals succeed because they know where they are going. It’s as simple as that.” The vast majority of people spend more time planning their vacations than their lives. So if you don’t set goals, I know exactly where you’re going: nowhere (a place I used to spend a lot of time in). Once you’ve defined your mission and set your goals, these become the benchmarks of what you’ll need to accomplish, and by what date, to fulfill your mission. Are your specific, measurable goals written down?
  • Take control of your time. I occasionally run into acquaintances who say to me, “Man, I am so busy!” And then they proceed to describe how overwhelmed they are, as if this were some badge of honor that will impress me. I used to live that way, but you know what that kind of schedule makes me think now? “You mean to tell me that with all of your advanced education, you’re not smart enough to figure out how to run your life better than that?” Once you’ve set your goals, sit down and schedule the activities you’ll need to engage in to fulfill them. I recommend doing this regularly, on the weekend. I call this “the most important appointment of the week” because you’re setting up the coming week for success. Are you taking time to schedule yourself?
  • Visualize success. Freedom begins in the mind. The concept is “You’ll see it when you believe it.” Once you have your mission and goals, be like a great athlete: use mental rehearsal to visualize the outcomes you want before they happen. Here’s what Tiger Woods has to say about the technique: “Visualization has become a major part of my shotmaking, especially as it pertains to shaping shots… It’s easy to get in a rush to hit the shot or get caught up thinking about trouble on one side of the hole or the other. Don’t forget the visualization part, though. It makes a huge difference in your performance.” Can you clearly picture your successful outcomes, and do you practice this daily?
  • Assert yourself. Because they know where they’re headed, inner-directed people are skilled at making clear requests for what they want. They will also persist in asking, as they know they’ll often need to make numerous requests to get results. And they don’t worry about getting turned down: they are not concerned about getting others’ approval. They live by the acronym SW4: “Some will, some won’t, so what? Someone’s waiting.” Are you good at asking for what you want?
  • Commit to lifelong learning. I graduated from a Chicago public high school with a 1.74 GPA, and I couldn’t wait to get out of there. I thought I knew everything. It’s pretty interesting that now I am a learning fiend. I regularly attend seminars, as well as read 40 books and listen to 20 audio programs a year. I do this because my clients depend on me for fresh ideas. And a whole world of new ideas is as close as the local library. What’s your learning goal?
  • Get fit. The effort to get free takes energy. The only way to get consistent long-term energy is to take care of yourself. How are your eating habits? (The “chocolate doughnut diet” may not be the highest-grade fuel.) Are you exercising regularly? (“Light beer lifts” won’t build muscle, but they do pack on an impressive spare tire.) Getting enough sleep? (I know—Letterman’s latest “Stupid Pet Trick” is too much to resist.) When we go for immediate gratification, it usually robs us of long-term gains. And it’s not just ourselves we’re robbing. I heard a quote once that really grabbed me: “You can only take care of others to the degree that you first take care of yourself.”
  • Pursue enjoyable recreation. All work and no play make you a burnout candidate. This is actually an important part of taking care of yourself. You gotta have outlets, ways to blow off steam. Otherwise, what’s the point? What are you doing for fun?
  • Be grateful, generous, and forgiving. In my opinion, this is the trifecta of behaviors that’ll have God smile down on your quest for freedom. Can you wrap these three spiritual qualities around all you’re up to in life?

I know I’ve made this all sound real simple, but trust me—it ain’t easy. It all boils down to this: Are you willing to be proactive about creating the life you want? Most people get swept downstream with the prevailing current—they’re practically drowning, but they figure this is the best they can do. I’m suggesting you learn to swim upstream—it’s going to be a mighty struggle at first, and it will take you years, but once you attain some mastery, you’ll drink the sweet water of a virtually stress-free life. I hope these words inspire you to begin to get free, then stay free.

Success Skills Coach Jim Rohrbach, “The Personal Fitness Trainer for Your Business,” coaches business owners, entrepreneurs and sales professionals on growing their clientele. He has helped hundreds of individuals to achieve their goals since he developed his first coaching program in 1982. To arrange a Free Consultation with Jim, go to