Recently I saw a survey showing that 40 percent of the things we worry about never happen, 30 percent are in the past and can’t be helped, 12 percent concern the affairs of others that aren’t our business, 10 percent are about sickness–real or imagines–and 8 percent are worth worrying about. I would submit that even those 8 percent aren’t usually worth the energy of worry.
Did you know that the english word “worry” is derived from an Old English word that means to strangle or to choke? That’s easy to believe. People do literally worry themselves to death…or to heart disease, high blood pressure, ulcers, nervous disorders and all sorts of other nasty conditions. Is it worth it?
Some folks seem to think this is a recent phenomenon, but I’ve got news for you: Advice about worry goes back as far as the Bible. We didn’t invent it. We just need to find a way to keep it from ruling our lives. I have a couple of favorite books to recommend
First, an oldie. Dale Carnegie’s “How To Stop Worrying and Start Living.” It was first published in 1948, but the advice is just as fresh and valuable as it was then and is right-on for the new millennium. Being a chronic list maker, I found two sections that really knocked my socks off. Both were about business people trying to solve problems without the added burden of worrying. Carnegie credits Willis H. Carrier, whose name appears on most of our air conditioners, with these silver bullets:
- Analyze the situation honestly and figure out what is the worst possible thing that could happen.
- Prepare yourself mentally to accept the worst, if necessary.
- Then calmly try to improve upon the worst, which you have already agreed mentally to accept.
Bingo! You can handle anything now. You know what you have to do; it’s just a matter of doing it. Without worrying.
Another approach I like is a system put into practice at a large publishing company by an executive, named Leon. He was sick and tired of boring and unproductive meetings marked by excessive hand-wringing. He enforced a rule that everyone who wished to present a problem to him first had to submit a memo answering these four questions:
- What’s the problem?
- What’s the cause of the problem?
- What are all possible solutions to the problem?
- Which solution do you suggest?
People get so busy worrying about yesterday or tomorrow that they forget about today. And today is what you have to work with.
Take the story of the fighter who, after taking the full count in a late round of a brawl, finally came to in the dressing room. As his head cleared and he realized what had happened, he said to his manager, “Boy, did I have him worried. He thought he killed me.”
Now that’s putting the worry where it belongs.
Mackay’s Moral: Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.
Read more tips for success in business and in life in my most recent book The Mackay MBA of Selling in the Real World