Stress and pressure…we often use these words interchangeably. However, there is a powerful distinction. Both can cause great damage and destruction. But pressure is also used to create one of the most valuable elements on Earth.
In the natural world, the process of creating diamonds occurs with the presence of the atomic element carbon. This process takes place in the mantle of the Earth far below the surface. The first thing needed to produce diamonds from carbon is heat. And it’s definitely hot down there. Temperatures reach at least 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, intense pressure is applied to the carbon. Somewhere in the vicinity of 725,000 pounds per square inch. Just for comparison, the tires on our cars contain somewhere around 30 or 35 pounds per square inch of pressure.
But the intense heat and immense pressure are necessary to create something of such great value. The quality of diamonds leads us to often use them to commemorate one of our strongest commitments…marriage. So how can we use the stress and pressure in our own lives to create something of such high quality and value?
Pressure Can Be Beneficial
To begin, we need to understand the difference between stress and pressure.
Stress comes from the outside. Pressure comes from the inside.
Stress comes from sources outside our control. Pressure comes from sources inside our control.
Stress can come from physical intimidation or violence. It can come from natural disasters or accidents. It often comes from other people’s thoughts and words about us…and our failure to let them pass. Stress causes damage…physical, mental, and emotional damage. That is, if we don’t use pressure to counterbalance the stress.
Pressure can also cause damage, such as when a water pipe bursts. But while stress is never beneficial, pressure can be used to produce items like diamonds. In our lives, we may not be able to control the stress from the heat of the environment we are in. We have minimal control over what is happening around us, what people are doing to us, or what they are saying about us. But we do control the pressure we apply on the inside of ourselves. And when that pressure is applied in the right way, we can produce diamonds.
Diamonds Rise to the Surface
How do we apply the pressure in the correct way to create value inside ourselves? We focus on responding, rather than reacting, to negativity. We commit to creating our future with all the opportunities available to us. We embrace the responsibility of writing our own story…with purpose…and for impact.
Do you know what happens in nature after the carbon is heated to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit and then 725,000 pounds per square inch of pressure are applied? The diamonds rise to Earth’s surface to cool. Just like diamonds are made inside the Earth and then the product is seen on the surface, so too can we use the pressure of negativity and suffering inside of us to create something beautiful. Then, the outcome of this process is seen on the surface in our daily actions and interactions with others.
Choice in the Midst of Suffering
Our fundamental of success of Rising Above is all about the attitude we take toward the stress in our lives. Viktor Frankl created the term unavoidable suffering for the things which create stress. Unavoidable suffering comes in many forms. Frankl, and many others, suffered an extreme form of stress during their internment in Nazi concentration camps. Some men and women became almost like animals in their behavior and treatment of other human beings in response to their environment. Meanwhile, others endured their suffering while maintaining their integrity. Some even refused to harbor any ill feelings toward their persecutors.
How could different people, subjected to the same stress from unavoidable suffering, respond in different ways? Through Frankl’s experience, he realized nearly everything can be taken from a man or woman except one thing…the power of choice.
The Quest for Soul Success Produces Pressure
Gratefully, most of us do not have to endure the same experience as Frankl. However, we all face the choice of how we react or respond to our suffering. We have the power to choose how we use pressure in our lives. Our stress often results from conflict in our relationships. This is because relationships are so important in our lives and we don’t like it when they don’t go well. People might say mean or hurtful things to us or behind our back. These things can hurt. The feeling of not belonging is one of the hardest emotions to deal with.
But Frankl also proposed the attitude we take toward our stress and unavoidable suffering can be one of the avenues we use to discover and live the unique purpose for our life. When we Rise Above the negativity, we don’t just brush it off. We use it to make us stronger and create more value inside of us.
We can choose to not let stress from the outside damage us. Instead, we can use the opportunity to focus on the pressure inside of us to improve. The race to achieve worldly success produces stress. The need to produce and achieve externally to show we are worthy is often a contributor to our suffering. We mistakenly believe worldly success will satisfy our need for belonging and create perfect relationships.
But the quest for soul success produces pressure. This is the pressure to be all we were created to be. It’s the pressure to live our unique purpose and give away our gifts and abilities. Our value doesn’t come from outside of us…it comes from what we make of ourselves in response to our suffering. And we aren’t living to our full potential if we aren’t giving our value away to others.
A Better Version of Ourselves
We all have carbon in us. We just need to use the heat around us, and produce the right amount of pressure in the right way, to make diamonds. As teachers, we may face stress in our relationships with students, parents, colleagues, or administrators. Our race toward worldly success may compound the problem. But we can make the choice to use pressure to create more value from the inside-out.
Eventually, the value we create on the inside will rise to the surface as we give our students a better version of ourselves every day…