I have long been a fan of James Clear’s blog. His regular emails have survived many an unsubscribe cull over the years as he has written so much good material. One of my favourites is his explanation of the Four Burners Theory. His full article can be found here and I would highly recommend you read it: jamesclear.com/four-burners-theory.
In brief he describes the theory that we can look at our lives as a four burner stove. One burner is our family; one our work; one our friends and one our health. Essentially there is only a limited supply of gas. If we are to become true experts in any one of these four quadrants we have to turn off one or even two of them to allow a greater flow of gas to the remaining burners and have them consistently burn at full strength.
We are all constantly looking for the right balance and are of course having to make trade offs or compromises between quadrants in order to remain sane and meet our responsibilities. If we are lucky we have a lot of control over which ones we have burning most brightly at any one time. Even the most casual observer might recognise that the first burner to be turned down when others (often work) need more heat is our health.
However, I think there is an extra element to this which is important we take in to account. I often talk to my customers about a stress bucket and how things that need to be processed by the brain (very often negatives such as set backs, losses, painful experiences etc) end up in the bucket. We know the subconscious will process these things during downtime, when accessing a positive trance state and, most importantly, during REM sleep. All these things will lighten the load in the bucket.
However, when the bucket gets too full the brain will work less effectively, we will be more likely to suffer mood swings, anger, anxiety, low mood and a whole host of other negative side affects. We will be less focused and our performance may suffer at work, we may feel less connected to our friends and family and looking after our health becomes an even greater chore. In short the weight of the bucket restricts the supply of gas to all the burners meaning none of them will burn as brightly as we would like. Frustratingly this can create a negative thought loop (“I am not doing enough/performing as well as I know I can” etc) which continues to pile more things in to the bucket cutting the gas supply further.
There are of course ways to reduce the amount that goes in to the bucket. Skills we can practice, things we can do or perceive differently. Ultimately though it is often crucial that we find a way to redirect some additional gas to the health burner, because this will have a direct impact on the weight of the bucket too. The temptation to cut the gas supply to this burner is a very short term way of thinking.
Need help getting your stress bucket under control or working towards having a better supply of gas to the burner of your choice? Alex Brounger is a Clinical Hypnotherapist with clinics in Stroud and Cirencester in Gloucestershire. If you do not live near Stroud or Cirencester visit the AfSFH’s (Association for Solution Focused Hypnotherapy) web page: afsfh.com or contact Alex for further help. Alex is the Chief Executive for the AfSFH.