Tom Ferry is CEO of YourCoach and the bestselling author of Life By Design.
Are You Addicted to Worry?
Today, you can't escape it. People are freaked out. Consumed by the fear of the future and constantly stopped by two simple words: "What If..."
In my work, I challenge people to overcome their addictions -- addictions to the the opinions of others, drama, the past and of course, the motherload of them all... WORRY!
I describe them as addictions that will kill your ability to perform at the level required to achieve your goals and live By Design. I have found and always believed the number one addiction that kills more hopes, dreams, ambitions, plans, relationships and action is the addiction to worry!
If you believe I'm not talking to you, then read my sure signs of the addiction to worry.
1. You're Depressed, Concerned and Fearful about Everything!
2. You Spend Time with Other Worriers.
3. You Turn to TV and Movies as a Way to Escape the Thoughts in Your Head.
4. You Continuously Wake Up at Night From Your Mind Chatter.
5. You Continuously Go to the Worst Case Scenario First.
6. You Use Food, Alcohol or Drugs to Control Your Moods.
So, are you guilty? Or perhaps does this sound like someone you know? If the answer is "yes," let's look at why and what to do about it!
Think about it this way: The human mind has tens of thousands of thoughts a day. Experts estimate that the range is somewhere between 50,000 to 70,000! Worse yet, most of them are full of doubt, negativity, fear, anxiety and stress! We spend the bulk of our days with thoughts of doubt, lack, limitation, worry, fear and death just to name a few. We've been conditioned to survive by fear, worry, cynicism and skepticism.
From the earliest age we're told "Don't talk to strangers," "Look both ways before you cross the street," "Be afraid of barking dogs," "You'll get hurt" and "Don't go into the park at night." We interpret things based upon our experiences, values and habits. We've been pushed down a path to believe that most things in life are a little scary. Our reaction is on autopilot. It's absolutely habitual and we are totally unaware of it until it's too late. This response shapes our emotions and how we encounter that particular moment. During my live seminars, I ask participants to look at the person to their right and say, "Your head is a scary place to be." Everyone always laughs, but it's so true.
Have you ever wondered what your life would be like without worry?
How much bigger would your life and experiences be if you had no worry of failure?
How would you respond to things if you couldn't worry about the outcome?
Imagine walking down a dark alley with zero fear or meeting the person of your dreams and having no hesitation or apprehension of being rejected or hurt. That's a powerful possibility, isn't it?
I will often talk to my clients about worst-case scenarios to help them understand that everything challenging we go through in life is temporary. Circumstances do not define us. How we handle them does.
I have a client who was on the verge of losing his job. He was panicked at the thought of being unemployed. I took him through a series of questions so he could play out all of his worst-case scenarios prior to anything actually happening. When I asked why he was so upset about being fired, his first response was that he would definitely lose his house. He was already on the brink of financial disaster and was a banana peel slip away from bankruptcy. If he lost his job, he'd never be able to make his mortgage payments.
"And if that happens, what else will happen?" I asked.
"The house will go into foreclosure. The bank will come and take everything."
"And if that happens?" I asked.
"I'll lose my wife. She'll divorce me and take what little I have left in this world."
I kept going because I didn't think we'd hit the worst case yet. "What would happen if your wife divorced you?"
"I'd lose my kids too."
"And if that happened?"
"I would die. I wouldn't want to live."
I looked at my client with a straight face and said, "So, let me get this right. If you lose your job you will die? Like six feet under, die?"
My abrupt approach startled him at first. But then he realized how absurd he sounded. He wouldn't kill himself over losing his job. I explained to him that his worry had blown his possible job loss way out of proportion. Unfortunately, my client did end up losing his job, but only a couple of weeks later, he was offered an even better job for significantly more money. In the end, his worry was all for naught.
Here's an exercise for you to try. Write out a list of everything that worries you. Take every thought in your head that is negative, makes you feel emotional, that you're afraid of and write it down. Secondly, take your list and ask yourself using a scale of 1-10, "What is the likelihood of that ever happening?"
People get overwhelmed because they cannot control the thoughts going on inside their head. I tell my clients that when this happens, they are actually under-planned. You haven't taken the time to get all your thoughts out of your head and onto a piece of paper. Once you can visually see what you're up against, you can appropriately plan your attack.
Most people get stuck "What if-ing" themselves to death and spend all their time avoiding the issue by creating scenarios that may or may not exist.
"What if this happens?"
"What if I leave my relationship?"
"What if I quit my job?"
"What if I lose my job?"
You could play the "what if" game for the rest of your life--and you'd still be in the same place as when you started! I call going down this worry route, OMGWI -- Oh My God What If?
OMGWI is what stops us from living an extraordinary life. It kills people's dreams. When I find myself saying, OMGWI, I'll actually say STOP out loud, even if I am by myself. The effect of doing this cancels out that negative thought and brings me back to neutral.
Being consumed with worry means you miss out on having to do meaningful and important things in your life. Why should you go to the gym, work out and still feel awful about the way you look when you can just sit around and cry about it! Here's a what if...what if everything suddenly worked out for you? What would you do with all of that empty space in your head that used to be filled with doubt, fear and worry?
Knowing what you now know about worry, how is it impacting your life? What else could you be doing with your time you now spend worrying? And finally, what will you commit to right now to break the cycle of worry?
Here are three actions to take to begin breaking the cycle of worry!
1. Carry a 3x5 card with the following questions on it. And answer them out loud.
a. What's the worst case scenario?
b. What's the most likely scenario?
c. What's the best case scenario?
These questions will naturally take you to the worse place first. The second brings you back to reality or a place of nutrality. The third and final question shows you what's is possible and redirects the mind to be in positive action.
2. Realize that to "worry" is something you have to do. Like a pattern or a formula made up of three ingredients. They way you move your body, what you say to yourself and what you focus on. So, to break the cycle, break the formula. Move your body with confidence and it's hard to be worried. Focus on the solution and it's hard to be worried. Talk yourself up with affirmations and "I can" language... and it's impossible to worry. Change the formula and you'll change your results!
3. Stop all the intake of information that makes you worry. It could be a person, it could be your television or certain websites. I'm not saying "ignorance is bliss"... but if you know you're prone to "spinning out of control" when you get exposed to certain information... HELLO! Stop it!
My challenge to you is to do the work. Use these three simple tools to break the cycle and get back into the right actions... so YOU can live your life, By Design!