Most of us are chronic worriers and the effects can be utterly paralyzing.
I run my own business, so the mental chatter can be exceptionally bad. Sometimes I wake up at 3am worried. Dozens of questions run through my mind:
- Will my business keep going well?
- What if all my clients dry up, and nobody wants to work with me?
- What if I can’t feed myself?
- What if I make one stupid mistake and everything I’ve built gets torn down?
One time I got in a fight with my girlfriend and she said that I, “wasn’t even her type anyway.”
What is THAT supposed to mean?
Was she saying that just to hurt me?
What if I’m really not her type? Is she going to cheat on me? Is she already cheating on me?
I think she likes bigger guys. Should I start going to the gym more?
Worries, worries, worries.
Compound worries for the future with over-analysis of the past and it leaves precisely zero percent of your mental capacity to seek opportunities and enhance your creative muscles in the present.
Why are we even worrying so much anyway? What’s there really to worry about?
I don’t know about you, but when I’m worried, I’m not at my best. I think when I’m worried, I actually get stupider.
I haven’t run any statistical tests to back this up, but I think if you were to take two IQ tests, one when you were fraught with worry and one when you was somewhere fun like Disney World, I bet you’d find that you’re much smarter on Space Mountain.
It’s just a hypothesis. Test it. (Attention: Grad students)
When you’re happy, when you’re not agonizing over the past or obsessing about the future, you actually make smarter, more insightful, more creative decisions.
When you’re not worried about anything, you’re actually pretty brilliant.
As entrepreneurs or aspiring entrepreneurs, we can’t afford to get any stupider because we are worrying about things we can’t change.
To have the clarity to make smarter decisions, we have to stop worrying so much about things that are outside of our locus of control and instead, only focus on the things that we can control.
Sort your worries into 3 “buckets”
We have to mentally clean house.
Our brains are computers – and when a computer has too many programs running in the background, it crashes.
Let’s sort our worries into 3 “buckets”:
Things you can’t control.
Things you can control, but you’re choosing to let go of.
Things you can control and you’re going to act on immediately.
Notice how there isn’t a fourth bucket entitled: “Things I can’t control but I’m still going to think about incessantly until I can find a way to control them, or if I really can’t find a way to control them, spend energy being worried about the potential outcome.”
Most of us love this phantom fourth choice. Forget that guy. Banish him to Siberia. He’s no longer an option.
And while you’re at it, banish the options in buckets 1 and 2 as well.
Anything you can’t control in Bucket #1 gets the mental DELETE button.
99% of everything in the entire world falls into this bucket.
What people think of you. The actions others take. The way people feel about things you say or do. Events that happen as a result of things you can’t control.
DELETE, DELETE, DELETE.
This isn’t to say you should be thoughtless. Be kind to others. Do your best. But if that’s still not good enough, throw your hands up and be done with it.
Some things you can control, but you should choose not to engage them. Just because you CAN make a choice, doesn’t mean you should. Sometimes the tradeoff just isn’t worth it.
You could choose to continue a business or personal relationship that causes you worry and anxiety. You could push through. But why?
You could choose to continue a fruitless argument, but in the end, it won’t make a difference whether you “win” or not. The damage is in the arguing, not the outcome.
I only want to deal with things in Bucket #3.
I want to engage with things I can immediately have an impact on. If there’s something I can do that will resolve the situation, or at least make the situation better, I want to do it immediately.
If I have things I need to get done, and it’s within my power to do them, I’m going to create a plan of action and knock them out. (Here’s how I create to-do lists that practically do themselves.)
Otherwise, I’m not going to let worry and clutter simmer in my subconscious and take up precious mental energy.
This isn’t the same as saying that you shouldn’t care about outcomes. You should.
But you have to realize that you rarely have the power to change the thoughts and opinions of other people. So do your best, then just stop worrying about it.
Worry has never helped you solve any of your toughest problems. And if you’re a true entrepreneur, you should only be interested in solving tough problems.
You should leave a comment and tell me what you think. That’d be cool. Then again, if you don’t, I’m not going to worry about it.