Stop Worrying!

Convert any worries to constructive thoughts and the most important thoughts into actions; leaving some time to let unproductive thoughts out as well as some space to proactively pour the good in.



Whether the times are at their very worst or best, worrying about what might happen is one of the most destructive things that you can do. That’s because it’s a paralyzing emotion. It interferes with your ability to think and shuts off any ideas you might have about what action to take.

What you do always reflects what you think, whether you act deliberately or “accidentally.” Not only that, but worry leads to fretting, and fretting leads to impulsive behaviour.

When worry dominates your thoughts, you become like the proverbial rabbit who gets hit by a car, not because it isn’t fast enough to get out of the way, but because it can’t decide which way to go. It expends all of its energy going back and forth over the same ground until it’s overtaken by events.

You know, as a leader or manager, that even at the best of times there’s much that you don’t know. Although there are periods when the future seems to be somewhat more predictable than at other times, you know that things could and often do change rapidly and without notice. And it’s especially at times like that when you have to keep your wits about you so that you can make the best decisions, not only for your organization, but also for your people.

It’s been said that the best defense is a good offense, and that’s true. The best way to protect yourself when things are against you is to have a plan for how to attack the weaknesses of your adversary.

But what do you do when you’re suddenly confronted with something that’s bigger than anything you’ve ever encountered or thought possible?

What then?


Worry is an outcome

Worry is an emotion, which means that it’s an outcome; a result. It comes from your imagination.

When you’re faced with certain circumstances, whether you expect things to turn out well or not, your mind imbues you with the feelings that you’d normally associate with it. The greater the experience, the more intense the emotion. It’s why traumatic events can leave people scarred for life. Whenever they think of one thing, it reminds them of everything that went with it.

Worry compounds whatever other feelings you have by appending to them a sense of foreboding and dread, and negative thoughts can race through your mind when you least expect it. The more you think about them, the worse it gets, because over time your mind works out the details of the disasters that you imagine are coming.

This can become something of a self-fulfilling prophecy in that you tend to see only the things that support what you believe will occur, whether it actually does or not. And then when you see those things, you react in a way that is consistent with it.

Let’s think about an example that has nothing to do with organizations.


Panic shopping.

Here’s a truth.

Stores order what they need on the basis of an established demand. Manufacturers make what stores order at a rate that ensures that stock levels can be maintained without storing too much or too little in their warehouses.

When people buy much more than is expected, the stores shelves become empty. This gives the appearance that there’s a shortage in the supply chain, even when one doesn’t exist.

When food does appear on the shelves, then people snatch it up because they believe falsely that there’s a shortage, and that if they don’t get it now, it could be weeks before they see it again.

The cycle repeats itself until people believe that there’s enough food for everyone, they don’t have room to store any more, or the crisis is over.

But their false belief propagates the lie that there’s a shortage of food.

The truth is that theres plenty of food in the system. The shortage is in common sense.

When you let worry dominate your thoughts, you do exactly the same thing. You act as if there’s a crisis that doesn’t exist.

That’s not to say that there isn’t one; just not the one that you imagine.



How to overcome worry

To overcome worry, you must first recognize that the outcome isn’t controlled by you. That’s not an abdication of your responsibility. Instead, it’s a simple acknowledgement that there is much that’s outside of your control.

One of the biggest mistakes that people make, whether in life or in business, is to focus so much on the outcome that they lose sight of the process. You have more control over the process than the outcome, so why not give it your time and attention?

The process isn’t accidental, nor can it be.


The second thing you must do to overcome worry is to think logically - as if you weren’t worried about the outcome.

Again, that’s not to say that you ignore the outcome; only that you must be able to think about the problem - the thing that you’re trying to solve - without allowing your judgement to be clouded by worry.

Ask yourself this: “What would I do if I wasn’t worried about the outcome?” That is a logical question devoid of emotion.

Start there.


The third thing you must do if you are to overcome worry is to think constructive thoughts. Remember that all actions follow thoughts.

Bestselling author and personal development guru Tony Robbins recalls an instance when he was learning to drive a sports’ car on a circuit. He was in the driver’s seat, and the instructor was sitting next to him.

At one point, the car started to drift closer and closer to the wall. The instructor told him to look straight ahead, and not at the wall. Robbins recalls thinking, “Yeah, yeah. I teach this stuff every day.” And he may have even said so; but it was only when the instructor grabbed his chin and forced him to look straight ahead that the car stopped heading towards the wall, which was getting closer by the second.

You’ll never overcome worry by focusing on the negative thoughts. Negative thoughts are the wall that surrounds your circuit. If you want to develop positive thoughts, then you have to look straight in front of you.

What do we tell children who are learning to bat? “Keep your eye on the ball.” Don’t look where you want the ball to go. Instead, look at the ball.

Positive thoughts, constructive thoughts, have to be something that you deliberately think about; that you focus on.

That’s the process. Focus on it.

If you focus on the negative, then you get more of it. You’ll see more of it. You’ll reach a point where the only thing in your horizon is a wall. And then you’ll be paralyzed. You won’t be able to do anything else even as you head directly for it.

As your ability to focus on constructive thoughts grows, however, you’ll be able to delineate those things which are the most important from those that are nicer than negative ones, but which matter less.

You already know what to do when that happens because it’s then just like making ordinary decisions where you prioritize your activities. The difference is that in this case, you’re deciding which thoughts are the most important.

And as thoughts always precede and yield a specific action, you know that whatever you think about, you’ll get more of. That means that you must exercise a lot of care in what you think about, not only to avoid thinking about the negative, but also to stop dwelling on the less important things, even if they’re positive.

In a crisis, you should be thinking only about the most important positive things.

You can only hold three or four things in your conscious mind at any one time, and the more focused you become on just one of them, the less focused you’ll be on the others.


Twenty-five years ago, there was a crime mystery programme on television called Frost. Maybe you remember it.

Jack Frost, the detective, had a reputation for being a clever plod - a sort of British Columbo. This guy was so focused on his work, however, that he forgot to do other important things, such as pay his electricity and telephone bills.

That kind of single-mindedness is rare, even if it can cause inconvenience. Most people are so distracted by their phones, for instance, that they can’t concentrate on their work.


In a crisis, you need to narrow down the list of things that you think about almost to the same extreme as Detective Inspector Frost.

Thinking about just one thing is the ideal, though it may not be possible; but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t aim for it. Delegate the thinking that’s required on the second, third, or fourth thing to someone else.



Let your mind breathe

It’s not enough, however, to replace negative thoughts with positive ones. You also have to let your mind breathe.

Breathing is characterised by two activities: inhaling and exhaling. When it comes to your mind, you have to take information in, but then you have to let it out. If all you do is take it in, then like a balloon, you’ll reach a point where there’s no more room for any more, and if you do try to put more in, then you’ll become overwhelmed.

It’s also why you have to be selective about what you put into your mind. It can only hold so much, and it doesn’t distinguish between what matters, and what doesn’t. You have to decide that, and then control what goes in. But then you have to remember to breathe out again.

Knowledge isn’t power. It’s potential power. But it’s like the air you breathe. If you hold your breath for too long, then you’ll pass out because you will have used up the good that was in it.

If you hold onto your knowledge and don’t use it, then there will come a time when it stagnates, and is of no value at all. But because you failed to exhale, you’ll suffocate mentally.

Lighter reading is a good way to let your mind breathe. So is writing - getting your thoughts out on paper. But you’ll be able to feel how much brain power is required to do both. If a lot of concentration is required, then you know that mentally, you’re breathing in. If you’re breathing in, when you’d planned to breathe out, then you must change what you’re doing.



Actions follow thoughts

All actions follow thoughts. What you think about, your mind will find a way to do. This is true of many things in life - not just leadership and management issues.

If you think about all the bad things that are happening, then you’ll see more of them and react to them.

But if you think about the good that you see, the opportunities, and the positive things that are possible - even in a crisis - then you’ll respond to them as you should. The more you think about them, the more detail you’ll see, and the more you’ll be able to see how to act appropriately.

It’s up to you to make sure that the thoughts you allow yourself to ponder are the most important and productive.

When you think about them, then you’ll get the results that you want.



What do you do when youre suddenly confronted with something thats bigger than anything youve ever encountered or thought possible?

Focus on positive thoughts that matter and stop worrying about what might happen.

When you worry, you play into the hands of that challenge.

You go on the defensive.

You become a reactionary - someone who waits to see what will happen next before doing anything, rather than a leader who decides the direction to go, and who leads people through it.

Anytime a crisis comes a long, you can bet that you’re not the only one who has to face it. But as a leader, it’s up to you to shine light on the path that people must follow.


How do you do that?

By sharing what you know. Don’t keep your people in the dark.

Include them in the decisions that you have to make.



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