By Chic Hollis – Philosophical Musings
So, how can we go about reducing our propensity to worry? Obviously, we can avoid taking any risks when that is possible. Then, we can train our bodies and minds to gradually accept the challenges which would be very risky for us as novice skiers, race-car drivers, and bungee jumpers.
For example: we can learn how to drive our own cars more cautiously, how to react at the steering wheel when driving on dangerous, slippery roads, and how to “check out” the condition of our vehicle before going anywhere. All these actions prepare us to leave home without much concern about returning safely. With proper training and adequate experience behind the wheel, we aren’t going to worry about driving to the supermarket to buy groceries or taking a long, cross-country vacation trip.
Then, we can examine what is causing us to worry in the first place. What generates the fears that suddenly come to our minds warning us not to proceed? How can we reduce the level of our preoccupation with the danger we anticipate? We all have different thresholds of pain and disgust. Being exposed to these two tyrants helps us to tolerate them by making us aware that they truly aren’t as frightening as we thought.
We can withstand some pain knowing that it won’t last long, and we can put up temporarily with disgusting conditions when we have to if we are living downwind from a dairy farm. Both of these situations we can endure for a short period of time when we know that the conditions will change. We may not want to accept them, but we don’t have to worry about them all the time.
If we could rid ourselves of fear, our time spent worrying would be greatly reduced. The trouble with banishing fear is that it never goes away completely. It hangs around somewhere. It may not linger in the conscious part of your mind, but it is nearby, ready to present itself just when you think you have conquered it.
Disgust cannot be completely tamed either. We can become accustomed to seeing disgusting things like ragged people living in abject poverty, emaciated bodies ravaged with some terrible sicknesses, and the victims of the horrors of war. Still, we cannot erase these pictures from our minds, nor change our criteria of what’s disgusting. We may end up grateful that we do not have to suffer these fates. This lessens our worrying about what actually causes these abominable conditions, but we cannot completely suppress our latent dread of having to suffer them one day ourselves.
For those issues that can worry us but are not inevitable, I have found three approaches successful in helping reduce worry. The first is to “know the truth.” This means that instead of worrying and losing sleep, you try to uncover as much as you can about the circumstances that are confronting you. When a business is losing money, you can determine which products are unprofitable and which are profitable.
Then, to avoid negative impacts to the bottom line that cause investor nightmares, you can concentrate on selling the more profitable products. You could also study if the cost of the unprofitable products could be reduced, or if their prices could be increased without affecting sales volume. Or you could develop a new product that would be cheaper to produce than the unprofitable one.
All this investigation would help in allaying fears of business failure. Realizing the truth about a company’s profitability and sales potential would eliminate concerns and force the owners or managers to make plans to avoid the company’s demise. Here death (of the company) is not inevitable. It just takes implementation of new solutions based on an intelligent evaluation of the facts to avoid the cause of shareholder anxiety.
Another approach is to “challenge the threat.” This means that you shouldn’t accept the visual indications or rumored consequences that are presented to you. Again using a business example, I have seen a “certain” move by a competitor never materialize. I have also observed astute competitors try short term maneuvers that compromised their future. Both of these threats could have induced our company to become inordinately pre-occupied with defending our products with costly non-productive and unprofitable solutions.
Bluffing is a practice used to cause a competitor to worry, but it should always be challenged for genuine seriousness. “Calling a bluff” takes guts, but that was precisely what was necessary to preclude excessive worry by my company’s management team. Worry can easily lead to making blunders far worse than accepting the feints of competitors like failing to respond to what they actually decide to do.
The third approach I have used is “denying the power” of a threat. This means weighing the true consequences or risks of a future action. In business negotiations a clever negotiator needs to correctly determine how likely his opponent is to walk away from the table over a certain issue. He gives “power” to the obstinacy exhibited by his opponent. If he thinks that his opponent “will walk” easily, then he may worry about when is the right time to “give in” and accept his opponent’s seemingly unreasonable proposal. By refusing to fear or to over-evaluate his opponent’s strength, the negotiator challenges his opponent’s will-power to pursue the sticky issue.
Denying the power of a threat works also for you in withstanding the pressure from your side of the table in a negotiation. Perhaps refusing to yield to an opponent on an issue may seem unacceptable from the point of view of your boss, but he may be wrong. In accepting your resistance he may gain a future advantage he has not properly evaluated. You must “back him down” by denying power to his arguments or his position. Of course to do this requires that you “look for the truth” and “challenge his threat.”
If your future troubles you, my best advice is to quit worrying and let it happen. The three results of trying to avoid what’s likely to occur are: the consequences will be less drastic than you imagine, or they will be different than you feared, or they will provide you with a unique opportunity or advantage that you didn’t see beforehand.
If the “results” are of the first kind, you are worrying excessively. If they are of the second kind, you are worrying about the wrong thing. And if they are of the third kind, you are wasting your time worrying because you should be planning how to exploit the opportunity that’s coming your way. None of the worrying is beneficial to you. Cut it out and live a more peaceful, tranquil life.
Please understand that I’m not suggesting putting off planning until “manana.” All of us will worry some today about tomorrow. However, I am recommending that we live in the present and let most of what’s going to happen “manana” bless that coming day.
What, me worry? Certainly not when what’s in store for me may be inevitable and pleasurable! Americans don’t believe in predestination, do we? We’re not supposed to accept that preposterous theory, are we? We’re supposed to worry!