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Worry Is a Vicious Murderer

Worry Is a Vicious Murderer

I’m beginning to hate blogging.

Not because I don’t like writing or talking to people. But because every time I sit down to write something, I have to make a choice—I have to decide who I want to present myself as. With each word I write, I have to decide if I should be my “real” self, or if there’s some enhanced internet Daniel that I should be more like. And if there is, I have have to figure out what the hell that guy would say. On top of all the other decisions I have to make every day, that’s just tiring. Who is reading this? How do I sound to them? How do I want to sound? What will they think of me, and if they don’t like what they read… will they stop reading?

And honestly, I get worried. A lot.

I get worried that people will read what I write and think I’m some prick, fake-phony bastard snake oil salesman internet skeezebag. Or I get worried that people will genuinely start to like me, but then I’ll let them down somehow.

I’m sick of worrying. I don’t want to worry anymore.

The downside of having figured some things out, made some money, done some cool business things and made some small achievements… is when you tell people the two or three things you’ve figured out, they expect you to have answers to other problems too.

I don’t have any answers. That also worries me. Am I supposed to have answers?

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Oh God, if I am supposed to have answers at 25, I’m drastically behind. If someone were to ask me “are you a worrier” though, I’d probably say no. But I’d be lying. I worry about a million little things every day. Don’t you?

Sometimes we don’t even realize what’s going on while it’s happening.

Today, I was at the gym working on my vertical jumps off those little teal and purple stackable step blocks and there were two guys working out in the aerobics room on the heavy bags. As I kept stacking the blocks higher and higher, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to make the jump. I had this terrifying, completely vivid blu-ray quality mental image that my clumsy toe was going to catch on the blocks, and send them all crashing down, and I’d land in a horrifically twisted pile, writhing in agony.

Then the guys would turn around and laugh at me. Or maybe they would just look in the mirror without turning around, shaking their heads and laughing at me. Or worst of all, maybe they would come and try to help me up. That would be completely emasculating. I don’t fucking want help. Then, from that day forward, all of us would know, if only non-verbally, that they were the alpha males and I was just a tiny beta male peon. And every time I passed them in the gym, I would feel inferior.

All those scenarios, their outcomes, and the potential accompanying emotional states flew through my head in about 3 seconds before I attempted to make the jump, stacked 19 blocks high.

And I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t do it, man.

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I felt slow. I felt like there was a glassy haze over my senses. My brain was just too cluttered. I stood there frozen. All the spring was sapped from by calves. All my energy was drained. I was literally paralyzed. I made a couple feeble attempts to get my spring back, but I just felt like my grandma trying to get out of her chair.

Have you ever felt utterly paralyzed by worry?

If there was some version of me that could have made that jump, some doppelgänger out there in a parallel reality that had the athleticism, another doppelgänger might as well have put a gun to the first guy’s head and blew his beautiful little brains all over the linoleum.

I killed myself in three seconds with worry.

Sometimes I wake up at 3am worried. Will my business keep going well? What if all my clients dry up, and nobody wants to work with me? What if I can’t feed myself? What if I make a stupid mistake and everything I’ve built gets torn down? One time I got in a fight with my girlfriend and she said that I “wasn’t even her type anyway”. Was she saying that just to hurt me? What if I’m really not her type? Is she going to cheat on me? Is she already cheating on me? I think she likes dark guys. Should I start going to a tanning booth?

Worries, worries, worries.

Compound worries for the future with over-analysis of the past and it leaves precisely zero percent of your mental capacity to seek opportunities and enhance your creative muscles in the present. Zero. Why are we even worrying so much anyway? What’s there really to worry about? I don’t know about you, but when I’m worried, I’m not at my best. I think when I’m worried, I actually get dumber.

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I haven’t run any statistical tests to back this up, but I think if you were to take two IQ tests, one when I was fraught with worry and one when I was at…I dunno, say…Disney World or something…you’d find that I am much smarter on Space Mountain. When I’m happy, when I’m not agonizing over the past or obsessing about the future, I actually make smarter, more insightful, more creative decisions. When I’m not worried about anything, I’m actually pretty brilliant.

As entrepreneurs or aspiring entrepreneurs, we can’t afford to get any dumber because we are worrying about things we can’t control. To have the clarity to make smarter decisions, we have to stop worrying so much about things that are outside of our locus of control and instead, only focus on the things that we can control. Period. We have to mentally clean house. Our brains are computers,and when a computer has too many programs running in the background, it crashes. Let’s sort things into 3 buckets:

  1. Things I can’t control.
  2. Things I can control, but I’m choosing to let go of.
  3. Things I can control and I’m going to act on immediately.

Notice how there’s no fourth category that says: “Things I can’t control but I’m still going to think about incessantly until I can find a way to control them, or if I really can’t find a way to control them, spend energy being worried about the potential outcome.”

Most of us love this phantom fourth choice. Fuck that bastard. Banish him to Siberia. He’s no longer an option. And while you’re at it, banish the options in buckets 1 and 2 as well. Anything you can’t control in bucket 1 gets the mental DELETE button. 99% of everything in the entire world falls into this bucket. What people think of you. The actions others take. The way people feel about things you say or do. Events that happen as a result of things you can’t control. DELETE, DELETE, DELETE.

This isn’t to say you should be a thoughtless prick. Be kind to others and do your best, but if that’s still not good enough, throw your hands up and be done with it. Some things you can control, but you should choose not to engage them. Just because you CAN make a choice, doesn’t mean you should. Sometimes the tradeoff just isn’t worth it. You could choose to continue a business or personal relationship that causes you worry and anxiety. You could push through. But why? DELETE.

You could choose to continue a fruitless argument, but in the end, it won’t make a difference whether you “win” or not. The damage is in the arguing, not the outcome. Just DELETE.

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I only want to deal with things in bucket 3: things I can immediately engage and have an impact on. If there’s something I can do that will resolve the situation, or at least make the situation better, I want to do it immediately. Otherwise, I’m not going to let worry and clutter simmer in my subconscious and take up precious mental energy. This isn’t the same as saying that I don’t care about outcomes. I do. I’ve just come to realize that I rarely have the power to change the path of people or events in my life. So I do my best, then I just stop worrying about it. Because worry has never helped me solve any of my toughest problems. And I’m only interested in being alive if I’m solving tough problems.

Worry is a doppelgänger that’s come to murder our creative selves. So I’m just going to stop worrying. I’m done with it.

What do you think?

You should leave a comment. That’d be cool. If not, that’s ok too. I’m not going to worry about it.

 

– Daniel

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Last Updated on August 12, 2020

When Should You Trust Your Gut and How?

When Should You Trust Your Gut and How?

Learning how to trust your gut, otherwise known as your intuition, can keep you safe. Your gut can guide you and help you build your confidence and resilience. My own gut instinct has saved me on more than one occasion. It has also guided me into making sound career choices and other exciting, big decisions. I’m also aware of the times when I’ve gone against my instincts and really regretted it later, wondering why I didn’t tune in to that valuable internal voice that we all have within us.

In this article, we’re going to explore why and how you should listen to your gut, as well as some concrete tips on how to make sure you’re making the most out of your gut instincts.

How to Listen to Your Gut

The key when making any big decision is to always take a minute to listen well to yourself and your inner compass. If you hear your actual voice saying yes while inside you’re silently screaming no, my advice is to ask for some time to think, or simply take a breath and pause before the yes or no escapes your mouth.

Use that moment to breathe, check in with yourself, and give the answer that feels congruent with who you are and what you want, not the one that always involves following the herd. Trusting your gut means having the courage to not simply go with the majority. It can be about holding your own. Here’s how to hone that skill for yourself and reap the rewards.

1. Tune Into Your Body

Your body gives you clues when you’re faced with a big decision. There are many visible and obvious symptoms that we feel in uncomfortable situations. Our body’s reaction is often something that we might try to hide, for example, blushing, being lost for words, or shaking. There are things we might do to try and hide that physical reaction, whether it’s wearing makeup, having a glass of wine or coffee to perk us up a bit, or learning to control our nerves.

However, paying attention to your body when you experience these feelings of anxiety can teach you so much and help you to make sound choices. Some people will experience an actual “gut” feeling of stomach ache or indigestion in an uncomfortable situation.

Ask yourself what’s really going on here, and explore what is happening behind your body’s response to the situation. What can your reaction or instinct teach you? Understanding that can be a clue and can help you either learn something about yourself, the situation, or other people. The answers are often within us.

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Sometimes we’ll get this “something’s not right here” feeling and cannot quite put our finger on it or explain it. That can still be incredibly useful and really guide us away from danger, even if we don’t know the reason.

In his book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell also argues this, making the point that sometimes our subconscious is better at processing the answer we need, and that we don’t necessarily need to take time to collect hours and hours of information to come to a reliable conclusion[1].

2. Ensure Your Head Is Clear Before Making a Decision

Energy, sleep, and good nutrition are so vital to nourishing our minds, as well as our bodies. There are times when your instinct could lead you astray, and one of these is when you are hungry, “hangry” (angry because you’re hungry!), tired, or anxious. If this is the case–and it may sound obvious–do consider sleeping or eating on it before making an important choice.

There is, in fact, a connection between our gut and our brain[2], which is where terms like “butterflies in the stomach” and “gut-wrenching” originate from. Stress and emotions can cause physical feelings, and ignoring them might do more harm than good.

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Say What You Think and Feel

Listening to your gut and really paying attention to it might involve standing up and being counted, calling something out, or taking a stand. As someone who works for myself, I’ve become used to following the less-travelled road, and that’s given me the chance to strike out on my own in other ways, too.

As they tell you in the planes, “put your own oxygen mask on first,” and part of that self-reliance is knowing what you really want and like and what is safe and good for you, including what resonates with your personal and business values. Making good decisions with this in mind means making choices that do not go against your own beliefs, even when it may mean taking a stand. This is part of trusting yourself and trusting your instincts.

This does not always mean taking the “safe” option, although keeping ourselves safe is an important part of the process. This is how we learn and grow, by following our own inner compass. When you do take risks, go outside of your comfort zone, or choose the less popular option, spending some time researching the facts can stand us in good stead, too.

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4. Do Your Research If Something Feels Off

As well as listening to our instincts, we can also back up the evidence for our chosen course of action before taking the leap. I had a gut feeling about the need for a learning and development network when I noticed my clients getting stuck with the same problems. I set up and now run such a network, but instead of simply going for it, without evidence, I followed up on my instinct with research.

Having confidence in your gut instinct through these kinds of tests can help to minimize your risks, as well as spur you on. It will encourage you to trust your gut again in the future and trust that you are an expert with foresight and experience. You are!

5. Challenge Your Assumptions

When you look at the assumptions your making, this could be the clue to mistakes you are making.

In order to check that our instincts are wise, we need to ask ourselves what blanks we might be filling in, either consciously or unconsciously. This is true not just when it comes to our own decision-making. It’s also true when we are listening to someone explain a problem or situation, and we’re about to jump in and give some advice. If we can learn to be aware of our own assumptions, we can become better listeners and better decision makers, too.

A useful tool to become more aware of your assumptions before making a final decision is simply to ask yourself, “What assumptions am I making about this situation or person?”

6. Educate Yourself on Unconscious Bias

Unconscious bias is something we all have, and it can trip us up big time!

There is a vital caveat to bear in mind when wondering about whether you can trust your gut and the feelings your body gives you, and that’s having an awareness of your unconscious bias. Understanding your own bias–which is hard to do because it literally does happen in our subconscious–can help you to make stronger, better, decisions instead of re-confirming your view of the world over and over again.

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Bias exists, and it’s part of the human condition. All of us have it, and it colors our decisions and can impact on our performance without us realizing.

Unconscious bias happens at a subconscious level in our brains. Our subconscious brain processes information so much faster than our conscious brain. Quick decisions we make in our subconscious are based on both our societal conditioning and how our families raised us.

Our brains process hundreds of thousands of pieces of information daily. We unconsciously categorize and format that information into patterns that feel familiar to us. Aspects such as gender, disability, class, sexuality, body shape and size, ethnicity, and what someone does for a job can all quickly influence decisions we make about people and the relationships we choose to form. Our unconscious bias can be very subtle and go unnoticed..

We naturally tend to gravitate towards people similar to ourselves, favoring people who we see as belonging to the same “group” as us. Being able to make a quick decision about whether someone is part of your group and distinguish friend from foe was what helped early humans to survive. Conversely, we don’t automatically favor people who we don’t immediately relate to or easily connect with.

The downside of that human instinct to seek out similar people is the potential for prejudice, which seems to be hard-wired into human cognition, no matter how open-minded we believe ourselves to be. And these stereotypes we create can be wrong. If we only spend our time with and employ people similar to ourselves, it can create prejudices, as well as stifle fresh thinking and innovation.

We may feel more natural or comfortable working with other people who share our own background and/or opinions than collaborating with people who don’t look, talk, or think like us. However, diversity is not just morally right; having a mix of different people and perspectives that can be genuinely heard is also a valuable way to counter groupthink. Diversity stretches us to think more critically and creatively.

7. Trust Yourself

It is possible to learn how to truly trust yourself[3]. Like any talent or skill, practicing trusting your gut is the best way to get really good at it. When people talk about having great intuition or being good decision-makers, it’s because they’ve worked at honing those skills, made mistakes, learned from them, and tried again.

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Looking back at decisions you’ve made, what you did, what the outcome was, and what you’ve learned can help you become a stronger decision maker and develop solid self-trust and resilience. Making a mistake does not mean you are not great at decision-making; it’s a chance to grow and learn, and the only mistake is to ignore the lesson in that experience.

If you are in the habit of asking others for their input, then the trick here is to choose your inner circle wisely. Having a sounding board of people who have your best interests at heart is a valuable asset, and, combined with your own excellent instincts, can make you a champion decision maker.

The Bottom Line

The above tips are all actionable and easy to start immediately. It’s simply about switching your thinking around, slowing down, and taking great care of this amazing machine that is your body and mind!

Learning how to trust your gut is one of the most fundamental ways to make decisions that will help you lead the life you want and need. Tune into what your body is telling you and start making good decisions today.

More Tips on How to Trust Your Gut

Featured photo credit: Acy Varlan via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Science of People: Learn to Trust Your Gut Instincts: The Science Behind Thin-slicing
[2] Harvard Health Publishing: The gut-brain connection
[3] Psych Central: 3 Ways to Develop Self-Trust

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