“I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”
~Mark Twain

I was on the phone with a coaching client, when he got an unexpected text from his boss that his boss needed to talk with him that day. Pretty much immediately.

My client, who like many of us, can easily imagine the worse, especially with his boss, flipped out.

“What do you think it’s about?” he asked me.

“I have no idea,” I answered.

“What do you think I should do?” he asked me.

“Again,” I answered, “I really have no idea. Especially since we really don’t know what this is about.”

I reminded my client that he didn’t know if this was something awful. I reminded him to breathe and to ground himself in the present moment. I reminded him that even if it was something awful, he probably (most likely certainly) would be okay. And I sent him on his way.

He texted me later that day. “It was all fine.”

How often do we worry about something and imagine the worst, with pretty much no evidence to support that worry. We plan our exit strategy or immediate response, without knowing what we’re actually responding to.

When these things happen, it can be difficult to remember how not to get hijacked, but there are things we can do so that we can respond differently. Here are a few:

  • Remember the 90-second rule – I first read this in Jill Bolte Taylor’s My Stroke of Insight. When something happens that we react to, there are 90 seconds in which that reaction is chemical and biological, and we can’t really do anything about it. But after those 90 seconds, we have a choice as to how we respond.
  • Ground and calm ourselves – Perhaps during those 90 seconds, and definitely after them, practice intentional breathing or a mindfulness exercise. This can help us find more calmness in our body and remember that we don’t yet have reasons to worry.
  • Use the past to help you – There probably are many times in the past when you’ve worried, and probably very few of those worries actually came true. Remember that to help yourself calm down.
  • Focus on ‘what is’ rather than ‘what if’ – Paying attention to your surroundings – noticing what you see and hear and smell, etc. – can bring you back to what is actually happening versus what you’re afraid might happen.
  • Reach out for help – Help finding calmness in the midst of an emotional reaction is what good friends, close family, trusted colleagues, and an Executive Coach are for. Just as I was able to help my client ground and calm in this situation, there is probably someone near by on whom you can lean a bit to get through your reaction.

As I heard someone say many decades ago, “Do not trouble trouble, ‘til trouble troubles us.” Many, if not most, of our worries don’t come true, and many, if not all, of our worries are an opportunity for more mindfulness.

How have you learned to worry less?
Comment to let us know.

If you enjoyed this post, you can read more like it in our book, The Power of Thoughtful Leadership: 101 Minutes To Being the Leader You Want To Be, available on Amazon.

For support in not troubling trouble, contact Lisa at lkohn@chatsworthconsulting.com.

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