Practical Tools for Leaders: Breaking the Patterns of Worry

Anxiety is one of the top nemesis to a leader (and all humans for that matter). This issue can paralyze the progress of any organization. After years of working with CEO’s and business owners I have noticed that we all have a pattern for dealing with worry and that pattern needs to be broken.

Here is how it usually works… First, worry sets in around pressure (usually financial or unmet expectations). Second, it begins to fester and take on more influence than it deserves in our minds. Third, we begin to change the way we behave. For most men I have noticed that we internalize it and clam up. We become more quiet in general and short in our conversations. Fourth, worry begins to affect the way we think. Pressure mounts and we begin to be very short term in our strategy and thinking. Finally, if unchecked worry usually leads us to the very place we didn’t want to go – it leads to a semblance of failure.

In reality, worry becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The very things we didn’t want to happen happen because we obsess about them and thus it turns people away from us because of irrational, inconsistent behavior.

Let me give you an example from personal experience. There was a time in my early business dealings where our revenues where much lower than I desired or expected. I began to worry – a lot. I started to obsess over money and the revenues we needed. It began affecting my weekends, my wife and our communication, and my time with my kids. I was short, panicky and frustrated constantly. This led to me putting pressure on relationships (which everyone can feel) to buy my services. That, in turn, led to some distancing, which ultimately led to less business from the people I was working on helping.

Worry had gained control. It then started affecting my personality. I became unattractive in business because I was perceived as needy. That behavior led back to my fears and once again became a self-fulfilling prophecy – worry led me to reality.

What is the solution? I could easily say, “Don’t worry.” While that is ultimately the answer, the process to do that is what is most helpful. Here is how you start – change your patterns.

The above scenario shared a pattern that I have observed hundreds of people, including myself, going through. By changing your patterns you change the outcome. You may have heard the phrase “turn the other cheek.” That is in reference to taking a slap on the cheek and turning to offer the other. The secret here is not to just “be nice” and take a hit. The secret is that you change the pattern. The natural pattern is to trade a hit for a hit. When you take a hit and don’t hit back, you have just changed the pattern and most likely the fight. The other person feels bad for hitting you and you know that you have controlled your anger.

In the case of worry, if everytime you worry about something you, instead, do something nice for someone else, you have just changed a pattern. Or, if you find that you worry more on the weekends, do something to distract you from it. Other helpful ways to change patterns are to avoid the worry thoughts, pray, change what you listen to in drive time (no talk radio, only inspiration), change who you talk with, etc.

The following PDF will help you analyze your worry and help you create a plan to change your pattern.
.:: Changing Patterns: Worry
Is this true with you? What are the main things you worry about?

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