Tyler’s Note: This is a Riskologist Field Report by Joel Zaslofsky of Enlightened Resource Management. Field Reports are written by readers just like you, so be nice, enjoy the story, and take action on the lesson. To contribute your own Field Report, go here.
What values does society teach you to have if you want to be successful?
Things like discipline, self-confidence, motivation and flexibility, right?
No doubt about it, these are important things to master. But you and I experience a lot of negative values and undesirable traits too.
Things like fear, self-loathing, paralysis and rigidness.
What if you could turn one of your most common negative emotions into something powerful? Something you could intentionally nurture and convert from hating to loving?
Your mission today is to cultivate worry and learn to leverage it to make prosperity blossom in your life.
Worry Is a Gateway
Worry can be a gateway to many things.
It can make you feel weak and powerless… or strong and commanding. It can open the door to stress or be the catalyst for achieving what you otherwise wouldn’t attempt. It can force you into a state of panic or motivate you to work your best to accomplish big goals in life.
I’ve never been a big worrier—I leave that to my dad—but I’m human, so I do worry from time to time. When I experience it, I harness worry to make positive changes in my life that would normally be impossible.
I admit, I worried in the run up to quitting my corporate job recently. I knew quitting was a necessary risk so I could bring direct value to people but that still couldn’t convince my brain not to feel anxiety.
But I didn’t resign because my career wasn’t advancing in my ten years there. I almost tripled my starting salary from the day I was hired as a result of four promotions and a number of high profile awards.
My secret to getting ahead? The cultivation of worry.
While other people let their worries become self-destructive I used them as a catalyst to do the scary—and necessary—tasks to move forward. Maybe you experience the same worries I had:
- Building a financial cushion for retirement
- Developing transferable skills for my inevitable change of jobs
- My qualifications for future promotions
Without harnessing these worries I couldn’t have motivated myself to get strategic about time spent at work.
Nurturing this worry pushed me beyond superficial networking to creating real connections with co-workers. They ignited the spark to get smarter about using my analytical side. It wasn’t enough to understand how systems and processes worked. I needed to communicate practically how obscure stuff worked, often to people at the top of the corporate food chain.
I worried about my ability to connect and communicate constantly. But it was my driver to grow allies for meetings with executives and be able to tell a story that would resonate.
I let worry deeply infiltrate my personal life as well.
Stopping my addiction to video games was based mostly on the worry of what would happen if I didn’t. I was nervous I would end up in a broken marriage, become a neglectful father and force my friends and family to write me off as a lost cause.
And guess what? That worry pushed me harder than anything else to stop my addiction so life could blossom once more.
Is This Really a Good Idea?
Most experts will recommend you to reduce or eliminate worry with a number of techniques and solutions. I don’t buy into that (literally or figuratively).
But I’m also not the first to claim that worrying can be a powerful force for good.
Writing up what I always suspected, Professor Robert Frank at Cornell University wrote about why worry is good for you. This is increasingly relevant with a growing number of people validating his thoughts, explaining the reasons why we worry and helping you know what to do about it.
Frank claims: “The brain has evolved not to make us happy, but to motivate actions that help push our DNA into the next round. Much of the time, in fact, the brain accomplishes that by making us unhappy. Anxiety, hunger, fatigue, loneliness, thirst, anger and fear spur action to meet the competitive challenges we face.”
For Frank and others the worry deep inside us is our natural wiring motivating us to succeed. To paraphrase this thought, if you remained permanently thrilled about your first kiss or first promotion you would struggle to summon the motivation for the next one.
This natural wiring can be seen in historical figures like Alexander the Great as well. In his case, he worried his father would conquer the lands he wanted to claim and rob him of his own chance for glory. And so Alexander let his worry guide his preparation in becoming king to achieve more than anyone before him. But he isn’t you and didn’t have to deal with the realities of your life.
In the past, present and future, the main problem with worry is the alternatives to converting it into a force for positive action are brutal.
When you ignore your worries they can eat you up inside. When you act negatively on them you create a toxic environment for yourself and others. I’m sure you can come up with your own examples of horrible alternatives too.
Unless you can be like the Dalai Lama and be free from worry, you’ll need to learn to calmly unleash it for your benefit. If you don’t know how to unleash the beast, I have some simple and potent steps to teach you.
After all, your legacy is at risk if you can’t leverage worry to be a force of good.
How to Gainfully Nurture Worry
Once you realize that worry exists as a survival skill, you can use it for the tool that it is.
Warning: Embracing worry will leave you temporarily vulnerable and exposed. You’ll have to come to terms with that.
You need more than just general advice that “all worry is not bad” or to moderate it by getting more sleep, reducing consumption of media, exercising more and eating healthy.
Follow these easy steps and experiment with which ones work best for you.
Avoid anticipating false danger.
Worry is normally irrational, right? Identify your unexplainable worries and compare them to the worries you want to be thinking about. Which ones have the greatest chance of actually becoming reality? Switching from emotional thought to analytical thought will help you assess which ones are legitimate and which you should be acting on. If it helps, plot your worries on a simple graph and act on the biggest ones with the greatest chance of happening (according to your rational thoughts). Label the axes “Chance of Worry Actually Happening” and “Size of Worry”.
- Visualize and plan for the best case scenario. Instead of projecting and dwelling on the worst case scenario, visualize and plan for the best one. First, you need to see the best case and imagine what it feels, looks, sounds, smells and tastes like. After you create this vivid picture the more important part comes from planning to make it happen. Everyone has their own techniques for planning and executing, so use whichever work best for you. Do not skip the planning stage or your brain won’t be convinced the best case scenario is possible.
- Discuss your worries with someone you trust. Some research states discussing your worries with another person heightens negative emotions. If verbalizing them is too difficult, then type them up and give them to someone you trust. The point is to have a comfortable relationship with this person so they can call B.S, explain why your worries are ridiculous, or help you find ways to battle the legitimate ones.
- Deep breathing and/or prayer. This one might seem obvious but people have success with it. Hopefully you already know how to do deep breathing and I’m sure you know how to pray (to who or what is up to you). Focus on only one or the other at first. The goal is not to relax or pray the worry away but to remove the negative emotion that comes along with it. Now that the negative parts have been neutralized you can do something constructive with it.
Start slowly with these steps and learn what works best for embracing your worry. Realize you’re planting a seed to cultivate and don’t try to plant a 100-foot tree right away.
When Your Brain Gives You Lemons…
Either you’re a worrier, know the king of worriers, or know someone who is dealing with the queen of worriers. This applies to everyone regardless of how much you see the dark side of worrying and how often you feel it.
Remember your first kiss? The build up. The agonizing and rapturous anticipation. You were worried you would “do it wrong” or that he/she would turn away, leaving you with a scorned peck on the cheek. You got past that just like you’ll get past the worries of today and tomorrow.
The only choice left is deciding if you want worry to be a gateway to fear and stress or confidence and positive motivation. Paulo Coelho wrote, “If we don’t face our fears, our fears will chase us forever”. If you agree, then honor these words every day.
Embrace worry. Hug it tight, and make it a welcome friend.
And don’t fret about leveraging worry too much or too far. After all, “Only those willing to risk going too far can find out how far they can go.” – T.S. Eliot
You now have tools to nurture worry and unlock prosperity in your life. How will you use them today?
What worries do you have right now that you can turn into a spark for positive action? Leave a comment and tell us.
Joel Zaslofsky is the architect of The Personal User Guide which allows you to celebrate and share what makes you tick. When he’s not enjoying nature, chasing his son around the house, or reading Advanced Riskology, he’s creating actionable content at Enlightened Resource Management about the effective use of resources important to you.