I think we can all agree that worrying sucks. It’s a waste of energy, because nothing gets fixed by just worrying about it. We worry because we feel that by worrying we are in control of situations, but we all know that this is just an illusion.
I used to be a chronic worrier and for the last couple of years I’ve been experimenting different techniques and reading books on how to get rid of worry. This is, in a nutshell, what I’ve learned.
Step 1: Think About the Worst Case Scenario
As it turns out, in most cases the worst that could happen isn’t too bad after all. Think about all the things you could do if the worst happened. For example, let’s say you’re worried about losing a key employee. What would that scenario be like? How would you react to it? Would you still be able to run a profitable company without her?
Most worriers prefer a guaranteed bad outcome than the possibility of a bad outcome. Uncertainty is for them worse than the worst possible outcome itself. Once you realize that the worst case scenario isn’t the end of the world, you’ll feel much better.
Step 2: Figure Out How Likely It Is for the Worst Case Scenario to Become a Reality
Most of the time we worry about things that aren’t likely to happen at all. What are the chances that your daughter has been kidnapped? 0.0001%? Isn’t it more likely that she’s having fun with her friends and is running a few minutes late?
Step 3: Do What You Can Do
Let’s go back to the worry of losing a key employee. What can you do about it? Maybe you can talk to her and find out what she wants and whether she’s getting it at your company. You can ask her what your company can do to keep her on board. Do as much as you can do.
Step 4: Accept that You Don’t Have Control Over Everything
There are things you can’t do anything about. Maybe a competitor can afford to pay your employee much more than you can. Maybe she wants to move to a different city, or go back to school. Do whatever is in your power to retain her, but at the same time accept that there are external factors you have no control over.
Step 5: Accept Uncertainty
There’s uncertainty everywhere. Especially if you’re an entrepreneur. Most worriers try to think of every possible scenario and they feel that if they plan everything carefully enough, things will go smoothly. But that’s not how it works. I learned this the hard way. Uncertainty is real, whether you want to accept it or not.
99% of the problems I used to worry about were imaginary. They were “what ifs”, such as “what if this client isn’t happy with the report we provided?” or “what if my wife doesn’t like this sweater?” Stop worrying about imaginary problems. When real problems arise, you’ll deal with them. In the meantime, let go of the “what ifs” and get ready for a much more fulfilling and relaxed life.