Everybody worries about their future. Everybody feels anxiety at one time or another. There isn’t a single person on this earth that doesn’t. In a lot of cases, that worry is perfectly legitimate. However, those worries are often thoughts peering through the lens of your current emotions. Let me explain.
As a business owner, you are rightly worried about the future. The global economy is circling the drain, and here in the UK, our national economy is pretty close to the rim as well. So your concerns and anxieties around the future are completely understandable and, for the most part, 100% Correct and justified.
What-if: the fuel for the fires of anxiety
Anxiety is predicated on what-if statements. What if X happens? What if Y happens? And what if Z doesn’t happen at all? The silly thing with what-ifs is that we don’t know what will happen in the future. Nobody does. The future is beyond our comprehension and control. The only thing we can control is our actions right now.
What’s happened in the past is dead and gone, and what’s going to happen has yet to reveal itself. Right now, all you can do is focus on making the best decision possible with the knowledge and experiences that you have at that moment.
What-ifs: the deception that creates anxiety
Those what-ifs are misleading. Your brain presents them to you in statements of logic and questions, but that is just a facade. What they really are is an emotional response to what’s happening right now and how that affects your future vision. You already know that though, and I’m not here to teach you how to suck eggs.
I’m not a psychologist in any way, shape, or form. I feel it is important that I mention that because anxiety is a real and often crippling mental health issue, and if you are afflicted in any serious way, then you must seek help from a qualified professional.
Putting your anxieties in perspective
When you have a stream of what-if questions, it can be beneficial to write them down. Just write them all down, then give yourself some time away from them. Go for a coffee, get some fresh air, walk the dog, whatever it is that you do. Then go back and look at the list.
Go through the list. Remove anything that is outside of your control, and by outside of your control I mean your direct control or influence. Plenty of stuff just happens around us, and our participation (or lack of) has zero impact on the situation. What you are left with is a much smaller list, a list you can control and influence.
Of all of the remaining items on the list, how many have a tangible solution? There are many things in life where there is no solution; in those instances, accepting the situation and all that comes with it becomes the solution.
Recognise what is in your control
So now you are faced with a list of things that you have a good idea about what a potential solution could look like. As I mentioned just moments ago, acceptance is the solution for many of those items on the list. For everything else, it’s time to make a plan. Plan to find the right solution and to ensure that it cannot happen again. Nobody needs unnecessary recurring problems in their life.
And that’s it, really. What this process does is help you strip away all the emotion to see the situation more objectively. It also creates some space between you and the problem. When you’re feeling anxious, those feelings hold you close to the problem, so much so that the problem becomes a monster. By taking a more objective look at it all, you will be able to make better decisions-decisions that lead you away from panic and overwhelm.
There’s no magic, but there are magical results
It’s not a magic trick. All you are doing is writing it down and then giving yourself some space. This process allows you to look at that list of questions without the distorting lens of your emotions.
Remember all those what-if questions that hit you like a tidal wave? They are forced to the forefront of your mind by what you’re feeling rather than thinking. Writing it down and creating space prevents that wave from engulfing you and leading you to make not-so-great decisions.
It’s a simple technique, but it really does help you organise your thoughts and, more importantly, enables you to articulate those thoughts more precisely—precision of thought matters. Your brain doesn’t like vague; vague scares your brain and causes more of an emotional response than necessary. Your brain craves precision and specificity, which is exactly what this little exercise will help you do.