Worry is a normal human condition—we all do it. While the need to worry is relentless, what we worry about comes and goes; and since technology has flooded the portals to the mind with far more advertising and information than generations past—you will see about one million ads this year alone—behaviors today are changing at a greater velocity than ever before.
Change is emotionally disruptive and forced change often increases the size, pervasiveness, and magnitude of what we worry about. Worry management is a life skill each of us can quickly strengthen; all you need to do is decide is it’s important and worth doing. Success is quick and immediate. Here are ten tips to instantly manage crowded airspace better than ever:
1. Commit to this: Your mind is a castle with a protective drawbridge that enables the castle’s king or queen to allow entry to some visitors and expel or deny others. This is vital. Not everything in your head should be there.
2. Accept that worry is normal and everyone does it, but what you worry about will change. Rather than fight worry, embrace it. Own the importance of dealing with worry as smartly as possible.
3. List all of the things you worry about inside a large circle on a sheet of paper. Empty your head; purge all of your stress creators onto that page.
4. Study what you’ve written. Sort each worry into one of three groups: things you can control and remedy via your own behaviors; things you can influence somewhat but not control completely; and things you have no control over whatsoever. Make sure each of your worry topics is accounted for and has been assigned to one of those three specific categories.
5. Things you can control: These are good worries. The reason why is they inspire action and positive change when the time or need arises. Typically these are low-stress creators because we have confidence that our behaviors can remedy them if and when the time is appropriate.
6. Things you can influence but not control: These worries are burdensome and unduly stressful but not toxic. Solution: Influence issues contain some element we can control and other portions we cannot. For each influence issue you’ve identified, carve out and take ownership of the piece you can control. Jettison the rest. Kick the uncontrollable part out of the castle.
7. Things beyond your influence or control: These are toxic for a very important reason: When we worry about things beyond our control, the mind projects the problem’s ramifications to its worst possible extreme—which almost never happens. This is hyper-dangerous; excessive worry over uncontrollable things can knock you to your knees. These worries are to be kicked out and permanently banned from inside the castle.
8. Worriers beget worriers. If you worry all the time, chances are worriers raised you. Since our adult behaviors dealing with behavioral traits like this tend to reflect our upbringing, it’s in everyone’s best interest to coach others how to better handle stress, too.
9. Put “worrying about only controllable things” on your mental list of things you do with discipline. Each of us has core pillars, core values, and integrity behaviors that trademark our personal brand. Own this as part of that package. You guard the castle; you only worry about controllable things.
10. Put “worrying about things beyond my control” on your mental list of things you do not do. Many of us used to smoke but quit. Some used to drink and drive but no longer do. Some used to carouse but now walk the straight and narrow; others never eat fast food. The reason why is choice. Each of us has things in our life we used to do but do not do today. Treat worry with the same well-deserved respect. I’ve surveyed over 4,000 people around the world about what they worry about. Sixty-two percent belongs inside the castle. But nearly two out of five worries do not. Own the ones that do belong; bar all the rest.
Worry Circle management isn’t taught in school. Far too many, unfortunately, never learn it in life. Learn it, apply it, practice it, embrace it as part of your personal approach to life, and share it. Teach this to people you care about. Just because someone has access to your mind does not mean he or she has the right to be there.
Remember: Your mind is a castle, not an open bar. No longer are battalions of worries allowed to randomly show up whenever they want, hang out and trash the place, stay and linger or leave on a whim, and leave you to clean up the wreckage and mess. The right worries are allowed to reside in the castle under strict guidelines. The rest are marched back out across the drawbridge. Then raise that drawbridge right back up and protect yourself. After all, if you don’t look out for you … who’s going to?
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