As a professional eavesdropper, I recently overhead two people discuss everything that is going wrong in the world today (including being late to board our flight). The smart aleck in me held back from whipping around and breaking into Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” tune to end their broken record of doom. We crave control which is why we worry, but more worry only leads to more stress.
First, I must mention something you already know: The world provides plenty of opportunity to feel uncertain, concerned and worried, and there are numbers to back it up. For example:
- There were 136,000 workers at major U.S. companies who were laid off during Q1 of 2023.
- 74,000 employees lost their jobs in January 2023 alone—the most employees cut in a one-month period since Forbes started tracking layoffs last summer.
- A January 2023 Gallup Poll showed that “Americans Largely Pessimistic About U.S. Prospects in 2023,” and in fact about 80-percent of us are worried over the economy and taxes.
- Let’s not forget about “AI,” artificial intelligence software. According to the prestigious Brookings Institute: “White-collar jobs (better-paid professionals with bachelor’s degrees) along with production workers may be most susceptible to AI’s spread into the economy.” Potentially millions of jobs could be affected.
Negativity has invaded our thoughts.
Decades ago, when I worked for prolific author and motivational speaker Brian Tracy, I heard him say, “Never say anything to yourself you do not want to come true.” For we all know that one negative thought can send off a chain reaction; a whole cascade of negativity; a flood of negativity (you get the picture).
Our brains default to worry as a way to protect us, yet our thoughts also shape our neural networks and brain. Negativity leads to more pessimism and positivity leads to more optimism. In fact, I keep a yellow sticky on my computer that says: “Every thought you think, either constructive or destructive, brings you more of what you are affirming.” Yes indeed, it does.
Unfortunately, the more pessimism we embrace in our lives, the less kind we are to others and ultimately to ourselves. After all, it’s challenging to listen with an open heart, be empathetic or simply get to the gym when we’re emotionally exhausted due to endless negativity. When we choose pessimism, we become what we think. In fact, people who are unkind to themselves put themselves lower and lower on their personal priority list. When negativity invades your every waking moment, you undermine growth and success.
Obviously, we all face daily challenges, and I am not suggesting anyone sticks their head in the sand and ignores their unique trials and tests. There are times to be concerned with employment situations, the economy, future security or any number of factors. (In fact, check out last month’s article on 5 Keys to Get Growing In Your Career.) However, it is also important to put significant focus on what is working. No doubt, when you’re kinder and more compassionate to yourself, you’re kinder to everyone around you.
The most economically pessimistic and depressing times have yielded new business ventures, technologies, social advancements and creativity. Why? Because kindness towards self invariably leads to self-improvement, greater self-worth and the elevation of you, your team, your company and society in general.
Control the Controllables.
If you’ve sat through one of my stress and resilience programs, you know my recommendation for dealing with worry, stress and anxiety. If what’s causing you concern is in any way within your control, take control. Take action. It’s not the time to sit or stew, it’s time to do! Ask yourself, “What is the smallest action I can take right now that will have the greatest impact?” And then take it. As soon as you do, your subconscious mind can relax knowing you’re on it. You have taken back control which is the ultimate goal. Doesn’t matter if you need to get a funky mole checked out by the derm or you need to have a critical conversation with a client. Choosing to take action is how you show up for yourself.
How about when the worry is out of your control? Time to let it go! I realize this sounds simpler than it is, but managing our emotional state is way more effective in bringing us peace and positivity than ruminating under the guise of problem solving. I’m not suggesting you avoid or ignore uncomfortable feelings. In fact, just the opposite. Examine and feel your feelings to better understand and/or accept what is happening, but then let them go. When they return, rather than re-examine, why not choose to breathe in love, breathe out worry, meditate, journal, talk to a good friend or therapist, read an engaging book, take a walk, reframe the situation, affirm your worth or be grateful for what is working in that moment?
Remember, your mind can only hold one thought at a time. Every moment of every day you can choose YOU! Why worry when you can take control or let it go?
Feel free to put a sticky note on your desktop, too: Every thought I think, either constructive or destructive, brings me more of the same. Is this thought serving my highest good?