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Worry to Win: How to Worry the Right Way

Worry to Win: How to Worry the Right Way

How do you worry? While the emotion can be a formidable foe, we mustn’t forget that every coin has two sides. What do you feel as you worry? Does the worry lead to distress, finally cascading into a perplexed or confused state?

Author Robert Greene paints early humans as a benefactor of this misunderstood emotion in his masterpiece, Mastery. While the Business Insider published an article that plays on the distress our worries can bring, there is a one solution to disheartening worries that will empower you to be decisive. Worry will, as long as you allow it, become a trusted confidant. Unless, of course, you enjoy the emotional roller coaster.

Robert Greene has nearly two decades of brilliant and insightful books on the nature of mankind. If you’ve read The 48 Laws of Power, you’re likely better for it. His masterpiece, Mastery, should be taught in public school. With that being said, consider Mr. Greene’s words on the evolving prehistoric human:

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“These early humans evolved the ability to detach and think, their primary advantage in the struggle to avoid predators and find food. It connected them to a reality other animals could not access. Thinking on this level was the single greatest turning point in all of evolution-the emergence of the conscious, reasoning mind.”

With that reasoning mind, they worried often — about predators, their families, where the next meal was coming from, and many other survival basics. These worries were necessary and decisive. They lacked the luxuries of the 21st century and so worry was advantageous and complacency meant death.

Switching gears for a moment, consider the person you love most. Think of how they have proven to you that they love you. Meanwhile, consider your favorite food and how it tastes. In fact, imagine the person you love has prepared that favorite food perfectly. That imagination wouldn’t have been possible if our ancestors did not harness the negatives they developed while simultaneously forging them into positive assets. With that being said, there are times when a person could be manipulated into worrying the wrong way as well.

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The Washington Post recently referenced a study that supposedly proves that men cheat more often when their ages ended with 9. In fact, 18% of the 8,000,000 men on Ashley Madison were, in fact, 9ers. The person who allows their worries to control them may make a rash assumption here. They fail to realize, because they’re becoming distressed, that only 30% of internet interactions actually end in a meet up.

How to Define and Prioritize Your Worries

In order to overcome counter-productive worrying, you must, through practice and discipline, designate time alone to worry. Throughout your day, write any worries that present themselves in a specific place and leave them there until your set aside time. When that time comes, first and foremost, circle all the challenges that you wield no power over. If it cannot be changed, you cannot worry about it.

Next, prioritize your worries from greatest to least. Once you’ve got that in order, decide which ones must be solved the quickest. Then, begin devising the solution to your worry with the highest priority and the least time to solve. Take your time, relax, and make a game plan. Even if this occupies a whole hour, it will amass to much less time than worrying all day, and it will produce more concise and refined results. Obviously there will be decisions daily that have to be made on the fly, but the worry over those decisions and their repercussions should be isolated.

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Pro Tip: Use the 80-20 rule. Focus 20% on the issue, 80% on the answer.

Make Worrying a Role Player in Your Life

Imagine this: the year is 1997 and the Chicago Bulls are tied 86-86 against the Utah Jazz. There’s only one possession left, so you’d imagine Head Coach Phil Jackson wants to see His Royal Airness Michael Jordan take the final shot. Instead, when Michael caught the pass, he himself also passed the ball. To Scottie Pippen of course, you might think? No, M.J. passed to the now Golden State Warriors Head Coach Steve Kerr. Steve Kerr, without hesitation, drained the deep ball and won the Finals.

Role players are important. Using those role players advantageously is the difference maker. Steve Kerr, a Point Guard who averaged 6.0 points a game and 15 minutes of playing time a game for his career, was a role player.

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Take a moment to compare your life with the ’97 Chicago Bulls. Everyone has a mind that devises up a plan for their lives. This is comparable to Phil Jackson, the Head Coach of the team. We all have key characteristics that we rely on — some speak well, some have great imaginations, etc. Picture your key talents as your Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen of the team. Few people understand who their role players are, and those that do often rely on them very little.

Why don’t you take a pivotal page from our early ancestors and make worry a role player on the team? Understand how to worry to win so well that worrying the right way will lead you to your greatest achievements. Let worry be your Steve Kerr.

Featured photo credit: Kate Williams via unsplash.com

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Last Updated on August 16, 2018

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system”.

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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The power of habit

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being six hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The wonderful thing about triggers (reminders)

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to make a reminder works for you

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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