Some of us have a problem with worry. It doesn’t matter what we’re worrying about — we can find a way to worry about pretty much anything. If business is bad, we worry how we’ll find new clients. If business is going well, we wonder which current client will end up being a problem, and we begin parsing out each client communication to see if we can identify the potential problem.

In his book The Big Leap, Gay Hendricks gives us a great framework for defeating the limits that worry puts on us. It consists of four questions to ask ourselves when worry crops up its head.

These four questions are designed to be our defense against worry, helping us cast it off and head to bigger levels of success, free of that extra ‘worry’ baggage.

1. Is it a real possibility?

Yesterday I was talking with a friend who was worried about running on some of the local trails because someone three towns over (100km away) was recently attacked by a bear. Is this really a possibility for my friend? No, not really.

Jumping ahead to worry causes us to forget that while something is possible, it’s not probable at all. The missing piece of the bear attack story is the other 10K people who have been in the local mountains recently — where bears live — and made it home without any trouble at all. Most of them didn’t even see a bear, despite the fact there are bears all over in the mountains here. The few people who did come in contact with a bear backed up, and the bear went on its way without bugging them at all.

When you start to worry, step back and give the worry an objective eye. Is it possible your fear could come true? Yes. Is it very probable it will happen? Likely not. If you struggle with that objectivity, get a friend to be your objective eye. I venture to say that 99% of the time, you’re more likely to die on the toilet than to have your pet worry materialize.

2. Is there any action I can take right now to make a positive difference?

If the problem is real, it’s time to decide if you can do anything about. Say you’re in tornado country and it’s tornado season. That’s a real worry, but you clearly can’t prevent tornadoes, therefore you can’t worry about that aspect of the problem (the problem being minimizing your risk of getting harmed by a tornado). You’ve got to learn to live with it. But what can you do?

You can make sure that your family is drilled on the routine to get to shelter. You can make sure the shelter is stocked with the supplies you may need if you end up in there for a few days. You can make sure you identify alternative shelters on your route to work.

If you can’t think of a single action you can take to deal with the worry, then it’s likely an irrational fear.

3. What is the root of my worry?

Much of our worry, according to Hendricks, is our inner thermostat trying to reset us to the level of success we feel we’re worth. Some of us were always told by our parents that we shouldn’t make our sibling feel bad by being better than them at something.

If your business is rocking along and suddenly you’re worried about clients, maybe the real issue is that you’re excelling where your siblings (or others you’re close to) are not and you’re trying to worry yourself into a reset so you don’t outshine them.

To get rid of that worry you need to identify patterns in your life that trained you to worry. Work through those patterns so you can cast them off. This is not an easy thing for most of us and may require the help of a professional to recognize and work through the deep fears we have.

4. What good thing is coming to replace that worry?

Finally, ask yourself: What is the good thing that’s at the root of the worry? If your business is taking off, then the root may be that success. Use this last question to recognize the great things that are happening to you and appreciate them, rather than allowing them to trigger fear.

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Recognize the hard work and the bit of luck that got you where you are now and be thankful for it.

With those four questions in mind, move on with your day and achieve all the awesome things you wanted to achieve without that worry hanging over your head.

photo credit: kwl cc