“Anticipating problems and figuring out how to solve them
is actually the opposite of worrying:
— Chris Hadfield, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth
We love this quote and the distinction it makes between problem solving and worrying, and they are very different.
Worrying is defined at Dictionary.com as: “to torment oneself with or suffer from disturbing thoughts; to fret.”
We have all been there, feeling truly tormented by disturbing thoughts about our life, our finances, our work, a project we are working on, our health, our family. We fret and stew while almost paralyzed by the feelings the thoughts evoke.
This is quite different from what Chris Hadfield describes. The minute we shift from fretting to anticipating problems and then figuring out how to solve them, we move from paralyzed to taking action on our own behalf.
We can see this shift in an example of our client, Sean. He was paralyzed with worry as he considered a project he’d been assigned at work. He kept going over in his head all the negative consequences of not succeeding on the project. When he came into his coaching session, he said that he was “overwhelmed by thoughts of failure.” He looked exhausted and was clearly up nights worrying about his job.
In the session, we asked him to clearly define the problem and then consider how he could get the information he needed to tackle the project. He immediately said he didn’t know and he wondered if he should just quit his job—you know, get out in front of the failure.
Instead of quitting, we helped him shift from worrying about the project to anticipating that he didn’t know how to start such a project and so needed to find someone who did. He thought of a colleague who could help him get traction on getting the project off the ground. And in that moment, he looked like a different man because he had moved out of fretting and into taking action on his own behalf.
This week, if you find yourself worrying and starting to fret, ask yourself:
- What is the problem that I need to address and work on?
- What are the key elements of the problem?
- What do I need to do to take the initial steps toward solving the problem?
Using these three simple questions can turn your worrying into problem solving.
Let us know how it goes.
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