Worrying: upset-534103_1920.jpgAmerican’s Favorite Pastime

Lately, I have been worrying a lot; about my professional growth and development, to thoughts of buying a house, these things plague my mind day in and day out. I am sure that my thoughts are not far from any other professional, entrepreneur or the like.

Worst case scenario is something a full time worrier loves to dwell in. What if I’m laid off in the next budget cut? What if I can’t land that next job on my professional climb? What if I can’t qualify for that mortgage?  

I have recently had a telephone conversation with a peer and graduate classmate who is experiencing these same emotions. Our conversation started with the basic, “how are you?” and “how’s the weather?” and before we know it the conversation had divulged into a glorified worry fest. “Should I get a mortgage if I want to consider moving for a promotion in 3 years? How am I supposed to afford rent on my income? Did I make the right move accepting this promotion?” Whether you are in your 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, or into your retirement these are real scenarios we experience. These are the same feelings that your employees are thinking. These are the thoughts that are leading to resistance to the restructuring of your business or starting the journey into entrepreneurship. As mentioned in a previous blog resistance to change is rooted in exaggerated and irrational fear.

Reality Check

A way to mitigate fear is to talk about what you are fearful of and create a contingency plan. First, we have to be realistic about what it is we are fearful of. An example of this from Sacred Cows Make The Best Burgers, is a successful residential building contractor wanted to expand into the commercial sector. Every time she considered expanding the fear of failure deterred her from taking the leap. She was asked to rate her risk of failure on a scale of 1 to 10- if 10 equals certain failure. She rated it a 4 and at the maximum a 5. The contractor laughed at her own fear. Once she realized how irrational her fear of failure was she concluded the worst case scenario she would close up shop and go to work for her competitor. They would certainly hire her because she would bring her skills and contacts. “Fear exaggerates the perceived risk, making it seem much greater than it actually is. Reality testing corrects the distortion” (Kreigal, Brandt, 2011, p.199).


Contingency Plan

The contractor naturally created a contingency plan as part of her self-talk after her reality check. She put into action the “if…then” thought process. Take one of the questions from the conversation with my friend, “Should I get a mortgage if I want to consider moving for a promotion in 3 years?”, now let’s look at this with a contingency plan. “If I get a mortgage and receive an opportunity for a promotion in another state… I can try to sell the house. If for some reason I can’t sell the house and get rid of the mortgage I could turn it into an investment property”. This is what a contingency plan looks like. It is about staying one step ahead of your fear. Not being afraid to confront it and plan for it. Creating that contingency plan can lead to innovation and the realization of your biggest fear can be the catalyst to create change.

What would this look like for a business restructuring?

If fear resistance is a driving force in your employees not supporting the change within the company, have a “creative worrying” session. (Kreigal, Brandt, 2011) During this session, everyone would write down their fears, give their fears a reality check, then develop contingency plans for those fears. As the leaders of the team, your responsibility would be to boost your employees’ confidence in that they have the skills and potential to tackle the contingency plans. “A simple rule in coaching yourself or anyone else is Can-Do’s build confidence; Can’t Do’s increase fear (Kreigal, Brandt, 2011, p. 204). Focus your employee’s attention on the things they are already executing effortlessly in their lives and workplace. For example, remind them how they are meeting their quotas consistently or how they have managed and excelled in training for half marathons. These were skills and activities they had to work for.  If they approach their plans from the perspective of already feeling accomplished their confidence will receive a significant boost.


6 thoughts on “Worrying: American’s Favorite Pastime

  1. I really enjoyed this post, Heather! It’s so important to transform worry into productivity, and I enjoyed reading about the techniques you recommended to do so. In life in general, it’s so easy to succumb to worry, to the point where it becomes paralysis. Many individuals cannot break past this point, and their lack of success stems from their lack of self-confidence and self-awareness. Successful and industrious individuals can transform this worry into disciplined thought and action — it’s about identifying why the problem causes discord, and developing a solution to help minimize dissonance. In many ways, this internal process mirrors the process of innovation, and more effective innovators can harness this anxiety to develop positive change. Great post! Jeanette


    1. What a lovely comment! You have presented your ideas thoughtfully. Developing a contingency plan is something I am in the process of developing in my own life and business. Thank you!


  2. Fear is a great motivator…maybe not the best one, but a great one. Fear can make you do things you may later regret…so having contingencies in place to reduce, or remove, fear as a motivator is a great idea!


    1. Indeed fear can cause us to make rash decisions! Rash decision making is never a good idea and creating contingencies is a great way to mitigate that scenario. Thank you for this comment.


  3. I’ve always found boxer Floyd Mayweather’s approach a good one to overcome worry and “stick to the plan” – in his case it’s a boxing match in front of a lot of spectators. The first step seems to be similar to the what-if scenario you describe, and then in the time leading up to the event make sure every step is complete and you stick to your training. Then when the big day arrives, just realize that you’ve done everything you can and it will either be enough or it won’t. If it isn’t it isn’t and you can just take what you’ve learned for the next attempt. But taking that toss-of-the-coin factor out of it as much as possible is key to lowering the anxiety around it I think.


  4. I loved this segment! I always look for life application in learning a business concept. I was taught in church that fear is false evidence appearing real. So many times we don’t acknowledge fear by putting our head in the sand (life on hold) and wishing it will go ahead. There is no truth in wishing, whereas hope has an expected end. The reality check gives us hope to overcome and accomplish. The contingency plan is the boost for me. In all my planning, I have not always had the alternative solution that yields a sustaining outcome. Thank you for giving me some homework to do!


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