worry verb: to give way to anxiety or unease; allow one’s mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles
In my conversations with business owners, I notice many—especially business owners with ADHD—get hung up with anxiety and worry over business problems. It can take up a lot of our time and prevent us from being productive. Worry can actually keep us from thinking clearly, which makes the chances of solving the thing we’re worried about even smaller.
In my study of worry, I came across these ideas in an old classic by Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, a massive best seller when it was introduced in 1936 and still remains a best seller today. Even though the book I found, called How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, was written in 1944, the ideas are just as relevant today.
Here is one of Carnegie’s brilliant strategies that you can use right away. Carnegie was given this strategy from Willis H. Carrier, pioneer of the air conditioning industry and founder of the Carrier Corporation, who used the strategy every time he found himself overcome with anxiety and worry in business.
THE MAGIC FORMULA FOR SOLVING WORRY
Step 1: Analyze the situation honestly and figure out what is the worst that could possibly happen as a result.
Could you go to jail? Will you lose your business? Could you lose a client? Will you have to pay a fine? Or will you just be embarrassed? You must be totally honest in this step. When you think it through, it is usually not as bad as you think. What is the worst that could possibly happen?
Step 2: After you know what is the worst that can possibly happen, reconcile yourself to accepting it, if it becomes necessary.
If you could really, honestly, lose your business, realize that it could really happen and, even though it’s really bad, know that you can accept it. You can get through it, and it most likely won’t kill you. If you could really lose the client, realize that it could really happen, and you can accept it, especially if it’s really going to happen. If you have to pay a fine, that’s not too bad, and if it can really happen, accept that you’ll have to pay the fine. If you’ll be embarrassed, accept that you’ll be embarrassed for a while. When you truly know you can accept the worst, you will immediately relax and the anxiety should reduce, if only a bit. You will know you can get through it. You probably won’t die. If the worst happens, know that you can accept it.
Step 3: Devote your time and energy to improving the worst situation that you have already accepted mentally.
Now that you know what the worst is, and that you can accept the worst and get through it if it happens, and that it probably won’t kill you, your mind will be clearer, freer from the worry, and you’ll be able to think better. Constant worry destroys our ability to concentrate, so by accepting the situation and freeing some of the worry, you should be able to concentrate on improving the situation now.
Carnegie says, “When we force ourselves to face the worst and accept it mentally, we then eliminate all these vague imaginings and put ourselves in a position in which we are able to concentrate on our problem.”
And remember, just because you have mentally accepted the worst does not mean the worst is going to happen. Every other option will seem better by comparison. And you may be able to concentrate enough that you can think through your challenge and come up with a solution that avoids the worst—and can make things a lot better for you.
Try this strategy the next time you find yourself worrying over a business problem. Your time will be much better spent on this mental exercise than on worrying. If you want to read more of Carnegie’s strategies to stop worrying, you can still find this book on Amazon.