A man was pacing back and forth across the floor. His wife entered the room and asked,"Honey, why are you pacing like that?!"
"Tomorrow our $50,000 note at the bank is due," answered the husband.
The wife left him pacing, but returned a short while later and said, "Are you still pacing? What are you doing that for?"
"I told you. Tomorrow the note for $50,000 is due to the banker", he snarled
"Oh, sweetheart, "she replied," Come to bed. Let the banker pace."
Unfortunately, bankers are not the only ones pacing today. The very mention of the word “recession” is sending shudders of worry throughout workplaces.
Wouldn’t life be easy if you could shun worry like the wife above? You can’t st
op worrying, nor should you. As human beings we think and feel, therefore we worry. Sometimes a proper dose of worry can be good. A little worry about an economic recession prompts you to hone your sales skills, curb spending, and diversify your investments. But too much worry chokes off your creativity and resourcefulness. In fact, the word “worry” comes from the Germanic wurgjan, which originally meant, “strangle”. Too much worry about the faltering economy creates panic.
You can’t stop worrying, but you don’t have to allow worrying to stop you.
Being born without arms, I have worried plenty. I use my legs and feet to do everything including shaving, eating, and driving a car. But, I worry that some day I could lose the use of my legs from arthritis. Living with such a scary situation has given me some insights on how to manage worry. I offer the following ideas to help you.
Examine your expectations
I recently delivered a speech for a company whose meeting planner went into a whirlwind of worry, ravaging everything and everyone in her path. She was a well-organized, take-charge kind of person. Like many meeting planners, she had high expectations of executing the perfect offsite. Like a nervous bride, she controlled every detail to make certain “her” event went off without a glitch.
But, when the hotel switched the meeting room at the last minute and the printer messed up the handouts, she panicked. The planner’s co-workers told her she was needlessly worrying over things she couldn’t control. As the meeting day went on, the amount of details the planner was trying to handle alone overwhelmed her. At one point, she broke down in front of the CEO.
I am all for having high standards, but your expectations of yourself can create a lot of anguish. Some people allow themselves to become stressed over the way things should be. When the winds of change blow, you may need to adjust your sails accordingly. Perhaps you need to re-evaluate your expectations. Are you expecting too much from yourself or other people? If your expectations are making you worry, give yourself a break, and keep an open mind. Some of life’s greatest opportunities and most beautiful moments are spontaneous.
Explore your options & keep them open
Recently, a client needed to reschedule a seminar I was supposed to deliver in San Diego. The new date my client needed would put me back-to-back with a previously scheduled speaking engagement for the Illinois State Police in Chicago. I worried how I would deliver one speech after another halfway across the nation. After spending an entire afternoon exploring options with five different airlines, I panicked.
The earliest flight back to Chicago arrived at 12:05 pm on the same day I was scheduled to speak to the officers at 2:00 pm. That meant I had only two hours to get to the meeting location, get my audiovisual equipment set-up, and gather my thoughts for the speech. Looking at such a short period, I worried, “If I get delayed in any way, my client won’t have a speaker and will be upset with me.” I resigned that I would have to cancel one of the engagements.
Thankfully, I talked out the problem with my Business Manager, Marcia, and she suggested that I ask an old friend and fellow speaker to be available as a stand in on short notice. My friend was happy to do so. The meeting planner felt reassured having another speaker on stand-by. He even arranged for a State Trooper to pick me up at the airport and drive me in a squad car so I wouldn’t get caught in traffic!
Ultimately, my flight landed precisely on time. The trooper met me at the airport; fully uniformed right down to his wide brim hat and gun. I felt very official as he grabbed my suitcase, and whisked me off. We arrived at the venue so expediently I was able to take the stage a few minutes early!
You can always find options as long as you are willing to open up and acknowledge the problem. Opening up requires personal courage to admit a mistake or ask for help. Opening up also involves listening to the advice and viewpoints of others. Remembering that other possibilities exist helps us feel less trapped. Where there are options, there is hope.
Live in the present
Henri Nouwen writes, “It is hard to live in the present. The past and the future keep harassing us. The past with guilt, the future with worries…Our worries fill our lives with ‘What ifs’: ‘What if I lose my job, what if my father dies…’”
Kids often ask me, “What if God would give you arms today, would you accept them?” I don’t like to ask “What if…?” questions. Many times, “What if?” questions don’t have clear answers. Asking “What if?” questions takes us out of reality and leads to more questions and more worry. Have you ever noticed that many of the things you feared the most never happened? But the things that you never expected to happen ended up blind-siding you.
A caveat here: If you are going to ask, “What if…?” questions, ask them ahead of time when the sky is clear; not when dark clouds are looming and thunder is rumbling. “What if we have another terrorist attack?” “What if our server crashes?” “What if the economy slows?” A responsible businessperson prepares his or her company for such catastrophes. I have worked with many small businesses that do not have a budget, succession plan, or credit line available.
How does one live in the present moment? Charlie Brown (Charles Schulz) once quipped, “I've developed a new philosophy... I only dread one day at a time.” You don’t have to dread one day at a time, but you might need to fight one battle at a time. Often the best way to get through a problem is to break it down into manageable parts. When you take life one challenge at a time, you focus on your assets and strengths. Such an inventory gives you self-confidence, and tells us where to start tackling the problem. When you take one thing at time, you can focus on what you know to be real right now.
You can also live in the present moment by investing a few moments of daily quiet time or prayer. Worry winds us up, but quiet time winds us down. Whether you take a warm bath, a walk in the park, or write in journal, taking time to relax creates a well of serenity, from which you can drink. As the day becomes hectic, your mind will revert to the quiet time, become steadied and give you composure to get through the difficult moment. Of course, finding time to be still is not easy. But, sometimes the last thing you have time to do is the first thing you need to do.
During these uncertain times, it’s hard to stop worrying. It’s more important than ever to be good to yourself. Don’t waste your psychological energy on thoughts of fear and self-doubt. Invest your energy into examining your expectations, exploring your options, and living in the present moment. When you find yourself looking ahead and fearing what may happen, pause and look back. You’ve overcome tough times before. Don’t allow worry to stop you now!