My wife’s grandmother used to say, “Worrying is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it gets you nowhere.”
Worry depletes us. It steals our resources and provides no return. It’s most often fueled by fiction. And we all do it. Worry is a learned habit. Why? Worrying often poses as action when it’s really just aimless motion. Worry can serve as a distraction for us to avoid making decisions, moving forward, or taking action. It's often easier than the alternative – being solution-focused and planning.
The open and shut case against worry
Worry steals energy
Worry-stress quickly drains you. When you worry, you experience an emotional reaction as if the terrible outcome you’re envisioning is already upon you. Physically, mentally, and emotionally you'll find yourself exhausted.
Worry sabotages focus
Worrying hijacks your brain and makes it difficult to focus on what is important because all of your brain’s energy is busy creating worst-case scenarios.
Worry wastes time
There is no progress or forward momentum with worry. When you spend time worrying, the situation doesn’t change AND you lose valuable time.
Worry is preparation for failure
When we worry, we shift our mindset and cue our bodies and brains to prepare for failure.
Worry debilitates your brain
When you worry you think less rationally and can’t engage the creative solution- generating part of your brain. You become prone to making reactive, sub-optimal decisions.
Worry bankrupts health
Worry leads to emotional stress which can trigger a host of significant health problems. If you want to read more on this, check out this resource from The American Psychological Association.
How can I unlearn my worry habit?
Here are 5 strategies to help you create a new relationship with worry and form some more productive habits.
1. Call worry out for what it is. A waste of your time.
When you’re trending towards worry, ask yourself some direct questions. Is this a real problem or simply speculation? Can you do anything about this? Now? Later? This decision tree may help you.
2. Separate story from fact.
Separate the known from the unknown. What do know for certain? What remains uncertain? Identify what you have control over and what you don’t. Of the things you have control over, where will your focus provide the highest return? Storytelling won’t serve you; it steals resources. Name your stories and call them out for what they are – pure fiction and conjecture.
3. Own your mindset. Check your resolve. Look for the growth opportunity.
Within every obstacle there is opportunity. We cannot always control what we’re faced with, but we can control how we perceive and respond to it. There is usually opportunity within the obstacle. How can you find it?
4. Don’t go it alone. Surround yourself with solution-focused people.
Who we surround ourselves with is a key determinant in the enjoyment of our lives. Do your friends make you a better person? Specifically, how? Do you need to supplement your current friends with a few new, more solution-focused ones? Who in your life has permission to speak truth and ask hard questions? How receptive are you to their feedback?
5. Create If-Then plans.
When faced with uncertainty, creating contingent action plans that pivot based on possible outcomes can provide clarity (especially when certainty is elusive). During COVID-19 each of our businesses have had some major decisions to make with limited information. If-Then plans help provide clarity of direction and timing.
A simple example of an If-Then plan might be: If this contract comes through, then we will proceed with that software purchase. If this contract does not come through, then we will make do with the software we already own.
Is it time to redefine your relationship with worry? Is the time you spend worrying interfering with your (avail)ability to taking steps towards what you really want? Try these strategies to transform your worry-driven time to purposeful planning time.
Some clarifying questions
How can you harness your mind’s fascination with the future to create the future you want, rather than the future you fear? Here are a few powerful questions to help you get started:
- What can I control right now? What is outside of my control?
- What action(s) can I take (right now) that will make life better for me and others today?
- How can I reframe any worry-stories I’ve told myself about the future?
- Who are the solution-focused people in my life? How can I build on those relationships? How can we help each other through these challenging times?
- What’s one If-Then plan that I can commit to today?
Our favourite questions
By investing your energy, time, and heart in the "now”, you remain connected and focused on things that are real and within your control. With that in mind, two of our team’s favourite questions are:
- What am I not seeing right now, because I’m so focused on something out of my control in the future?
- How can you win the moment that is right in front of you?
Remember, you can influence the direction of your future by choosing how you fuel your mind today. It’s far more powerful to choose the future you want then to worry about the future you don’t want.
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CEO + Founder
Peter founded Smart Savvy as a response to a gap in the recruitment industry. As a leader, entrepreneur, and specialist in group moderation and facilitation, Peter brings an experienced, people-first perspective. He passionately believes that in work and life, People are the Plan™.
Smart, Savvy + Associates are experts in helping marketing and communications leaders find people and develop teams that thrive and deliver inspiring results. As a people performance company, we specialize in finding marketing and communications talent. We also offer training programs for leaders and teams as well as options to become a certified coach or get coached.