How To Stop Worrying And Get Back To Work
As the child of a consummate worrier, I know the dire consequences of inertia. When the internet bubble burst, my high-flying job offer was put on ice. So I planned to backpack across Europe or walk The Camino…that is, until my mother cautioned me that I didn’t have insurance.
Turns out her imagination went global before I did.
Worry and guilt are two sides of the same coin. Guilt is about the past. Worry is about the future. Although between the two, worry is far more accepted and sometimes expected by certain managers in the workplace.
Because it’s a safe bet. Worry shows you care, means you’re responsible, and harvests enormous pity. A previous boss used to demand meetings to rehearse another scheduled meeting, which was a dress rehearsal for another meeting. In rare lucid moments, I think he would recognize the insanity – but would quickly justify it with “better safe than sorry” and a shrug.
At the end of the day, these are empty calories. Worry is junk food for the soul. And we would all be better off with less.
“The reason worry kills more people than work is that more people worry than work.”
-Robert Lee Frost
Any of these symptoms sound familiar?
- Holding your breath
And the list goes on and on. The shadow of worry is long and painful in more ways than one. There is little you can do about a greater culture (e.g., company, community, or family) but there are practical steps you can keep yourself grounded.
Imagine yourself back 5, 10, or 20 years. Make a list of everything that you worried about back then. Then take a second pass at the list:
- What never happened?
- What did – and what was the result?
- Did worrying change the result?
The lesson here is worrying implies a sense of control that none of us have. The twist is if you work for worry wart – they will naturally expect you to worry, otherwise they may believe you are not doing the job. The key here is to…
2. Take action
Ask yourself what’s the worst that could happen? Then create a plan to counteract that as best you or your team are able.
For example, I knew a marketing executive who was worried about the timing his PowerPoint slides at an important meeting. The room setup required a special audio-visual guy to click through the slides from behind a curtain (I wish I were joking). He didn’t trust him.
So the executive recruited one his directors to literally stand behind the audio-visual guy to tell him when to click to the next slide.
The moral of the story? Just do it.
3. Or Not
If the previous suggestion seems staid, try worrying. That’s right. Sit down and do nothing but worry. Visualize everything that could go wrong: you forget your keys (again), you sprain your ankle trying to find them, then a car outta nowhere comes barreling down the street at you.
“Worry is like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere”
– Erma Bombeck
My hope is that you experience the endlessness of what if’s and…get tired.
4. Recall The Worst
Think about the worst things that have ever happened to you. How many of them were completely unexpected?
My guess is 100%. And while in a way that sounds depressing, I also find it a relief. There is no way to know, and there is no way worrying can help.
This endeavor to re-imagine mentorship (especially for women) is the result of the collective workplace trauma that my friends and I experienced over decades. None of us saw it coming. Worse, nobody that could help us believed us.
But this worst case gave birth to a mentorship platform, where professionals from every generation come together to share what they’ve been through and what they’ve learned. Because we all need to be reminded not to worry.
“If everyone helps to hold up the sky, then one person does not become tired.”
-Askhari Johnson Hodari