Sunday, February 01, 2009

3 Questions for Moving Past Worry

Lots of people will suggest that you deal with worry by asking yourself "what's the worst thing that could happen?"

Unfortunately, the worst thing that is likely to happen is that you will choose a bad moment to ask the question and use it to generate dozens - maybe hundreds - more things to worry you.

Here are three other questions you could ask instead. Each will lead to a different perspective and a renewed sense of control.

Ask yourself:

• Exactly how bad will it be if this doesn't work out the way I want? The word "exactly" does a remarkable thing: it asks you put limits around the experience you are describing. Since most of our worry is generated by the way worries snowball, it's really helpful to put boundaries up.

• How close am I to turning this around? This one works by forcing you to imagine things turning out better than you expect, and then moving back to the current situation. It doesn't make any promises; it just opens a door.

• What's the one thing I need to do now? Again, this does not ask you to accept that the situation might be within your control after all. It just causes you to think and act as you would if the situation were within your control. It creates a wonderful, manageable focus. And you can just keep getting smaller and more specific until you are sure about the one thing. For instance, you might not be able to "make a sale" immediately if you don't have a prospective client at this very moment. So you can just keep asking "what's the one thing I need to do now?" until you get to something you have the skills and resources to do at this very moment.

Yes: if you change the pronouns you can use these questions to help someone else on the verge of panic. If you want to practice, just look around. There are lots of people on the edge these days. You do not have to be one of them.

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