Quit Awfulizing. 5 Steps to Stop Worrying so Much.

Do you want to procrastinate?  Do you like to procrastinate?  Do want to come to a complete stop?  Start worrying?  Worry about the what ifs? Dwell on all the things that could happen?  Might happen? Could happen?  Should happen?  It sucks the life out of you. Quit awfulizing.

I had a client recently gnashing her teeth because her child was going overseas for a month.  Her biggest issue was the not knowing.  How would they communicate?  What is Skype?  Where would he be living? So my question was, “how is all this worrying working for you?”  Well, it’s not.  It’s paralyzing, sleep depriving…a waste.  Worrying or not worrying will not change the outcome.

stop worryingI’m not saying I don’t understand.  I have two teenage children who have been more than an hours drive away for the last two months (one 11 hours south and one 2 hours west).  They are making their own decisions, their own plans and their own mistakes.  My worrying or lack of worrying won’t change the outcome.  But at least I sleep.   This has not always been my M.O. ( modus operandi).  It’s taken me years to back off the Ledge of Worry.

How to get to worry free in 5 not so easy steps:

1. Decide.  You need to simply get on board or not.  If you really enjoy thinking of endless ways how your child, your parent or your spouse could be in a car accident.  If this is your fuel;  then join the fretters club.  But if you’re ready to do the mental dump and start living in the moment, then you need to make the commitment.  This can’t work unless you do.

2. Optimism. You will need to be optimistic.  This will be difficult for the glass-half-full-people out there.  What if everything is going to be better than expected?  Maybe the plane is getting in early.  Maybe your team will go to the NCAA finals.  Maybe the boss’s office  door is shut because they are working on your raise.  Everything is possible including the windfall, the referral and the next project.  Expect the best.

3. Turn it off.  The news that is.  I was just in Atlanta and my husband had the evening news on.  OMG.  Shootings.  Drownings.  Murder.  Car accidents.  My blood pressure went up.  My mind starts wandering down horrible trails.  What if that was my kid, friend, coworker? Nothing good can come from the news.  98% is sensationalized and depressing.  I’ve taken a clue from my daughter.  She gets caught in rain storms without an umbrella or in freezing temperatures with flip flops on.  She doesn’t watch the news or the weather.  She takes is as it comes. Why ruin the surprise?

4. Moment.  As in, Ya Gotta Live in the Moment.  This is the most difficult.  There is always a certain  amount of reflection and planning in life.  We just need to stop dwelling on embarrassments, back stabbing and finger pointing.  We need to quit anticipating the worst outcome.  So your friend has cancer.  Worrying for them is not going to help them.  Praying for them can.  Assuming they will be cured is a much more positive approach.  Being with them in the moment is a gift.

5. Alert.  Pay attention to your thoughts.  No one else will.  You need to be vigilant.  Pessimism has a way of seeping into our heads.  When you get caught in your fourth red light in a row, chill out.  It’s going to be fine.  Sometimes I fantasize that if I didn’t get caught at the red light I would have been some place three minutes earlier and caused a car accident.  This was meant to be.  Just make sure you’re staying in charge of those fretting thoughts.  You are your own sheriff.  Clean out the riff raff.

So the next time your spouse/partner is late, imagine that they’re picking up your favorite coffee or scoring a new project.  It will send out positive energy and you will sleep so much better.

What would you do?

Hold ’em or fold ’em

One of the most difficult decisions in life can be when to give up and throw in the towel.  Taking the step to cut your losses – whether it’s a relationship, a job or terminating that employee who just isn’t turning around – is a painful arduous decision.  Frequently, it feels like you are the failure.  “If I was just a little more patient…hard working…helpful…compassionate….fill in the blank.”  Some of us carry the burden of someone else’s failure. images 3

It can be a tricky decision to know when to cut the ties.  As Kenny sings, “Know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em.”  Perhaps it is always a gamble.  Maybe the person you are leaving really is “the one”.  Maybe this next job isn’t the dream job.  Maybe that employee can turn a new leaf.  There are no crystal balls.  There is only the decision.

So how to you determine if it’s time to cut your losses?

Here are some ideas:

1. Time.  Put a little time between you and the incident or the, “Why don’t you sleep on that?” syndrome.  Your boss blew up at you.  Your partner embarrassed you in front of some friends.  The employee just pulled a knucklehead move and everyone is talking about it at the water cooler.  This is not the time to make a decision.  Your blood pressure is up, that vein is bulging at the side of your temple and your lizard brain (that isn’t very rational) is in full control of your brain.

Give yourself a time out.

2. Distance.  Put some distance between you and the incident.  I’m not suggesting an impromptu trip to Paris (although it would be fun).  Leave the office and take a walk in a local park.  Leave the spousal argument and go to the movies.  Take a mental health day and go get a pedicure/haircut/facial/whateveryouwant. Stewing in the same house, office or classroom as the object of your ire is not going to help you get perspective.

Get some distance.  Literally.

3. Write.  Dump all your concerns on a page.  Don’t edit.  Just dump.  If you need some ideas, read a great book by Mark Levy called “Accidental Genius“.  He recommends “free writing” to work out problems, coming up with new perspectives and just enhancing creativity.  One of his ideas is to have a conversation (on paper) with someone else.  So explain your situation to Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, or Helen Keller.  Take both perspectives (yours and your historical figure) as you “talk out” the situation.  You might get done and figure out that Helen told you to appreciate what you have and go back to work.  Gandhi might tell you to move on.  You don’t know what you might come up with until you start writing.

So write.

4. Third Party.  Get a third party.  BFF.  Marriage Counselor.  Career Coach.  Your Dad.  Talk to someone outside of the situation.  Find someone unbiased.  Your best friend at work isn’t likely to be unbiased about the boss.  Your Dad won’t be unbiased about your spouse.  But if you switch them up, you might have an un-jaded perspective.  I find that the insights of others can be enlightening.  It’s a great way to test your assumptions and to clarify motives.

Get perspective.

5. Decide.  Are you in or are you out?  Make the decision.   Whatever you decide, make the commitment.  If you are in, then you are All In.  Don’t decide that you hate your job and then stay; retiring but still showing up for work.  Give it your all.  You can’t stay on the fence.  That’s not fair to anyone.  If you decide to stay with your partner, then stay with all your heart.  If you decide to fire the knucklehead; then do it with grace and dignity.

And move onDecide, commit and have not regrets.

This process can be painful.  These are crucial decisions.  Hopefully, these are rare events in your life, they have been in mine.  But hanging out on the fence can be even more painful to everyone involved.  It’s time to decide – hold ‘em, fold ‘em – there is no in between.

Chunky Monkeys

imagesDelegating monkeys is an important part of being a leader, partner or parent.  There is a delicate balance between abdicating and delegating.  Abdicating can happen when a leader chooses to ignore a situation (usually a sticky, messy and uncomfortable monkey) which allows the issue to slide down to the next level of management.  Not good delegation.

As Ken Blanchard said in his book, The One Minute Manager meets the Monkey, “for every monkey there are two parties involved, one to work it and one to supervise it”.  The monkey is the task or project.  You may have given the monkey to your child, co-worker or assistant but that doesn’t mean that you have absolved yourself of any other responsibilities.  You’ll need to make sure that the monkey is getting fed….and not over fed.  You don’t want to have a bunch of chunky monkeys running..er swinging around.

So how do you take care of the monkeys without getting them back?  Here are some ideas:

1. Pick.  Pick the right time and place to delegate.  If you are in the middle of serving twenty people a Thanksgiving meal and your daughter has never made gravy before…maybe you should wait until there is a little more time and (in my case) more patience before you give a gravy clinic.  If you are going to give a monkey to someone, pick the right time to do it.

2. Decide.  Decide if this task or project should be delegated.  If it’s not clear who is caring for a particular monkey, then you have decided.  You have abdicated and the monkey is running loose and no one knows who is in charge.  Like that annoying employee that reports to you but that no one likes and is afraid of.  You aren’t handling the monkey, so everyone else has to.  Decide if the monkey is yours or…not.

3. Select.  Once you have decided it’s the right monkey to delegate, select the right person or group to take care of the monkey.  If the new incentive plan needs an Excel expert, then find one.  Don’t just give the project to the closest person who seems available (especially if you don’t know their Excel abilities).  The monkey needs the right talent to take care of it.  Not just another animal at the zoo.

4. Define.  Define what success looks like.  If you ask your child to mow the lawn, you better be clear with timelines, parameters for what mowing the lawn entails (leaf blowing, edging, bagging of grass, etc.), and if there will be any compensation involved.  There have been plenty of family squabbles over something as minor as what mowing the lawn entails.  Make sure you define how to take care of the monkey.

5. Ask.  Make sure that they are up to the challenge of caring for a new monkey right now.  Maybe their plate is full.  Maybe they already have 50 monkeys and 13 of them are sick and in need of intensive care.  If I ask my daughter to edit a blog post for me (and I frequently do), I better make sure she’s not in the middle of mid-terms.  It’s important to ask if she has time for one more monkey.

6. Delegate.  Once you have completed steps 1-5, then hand off the monkey.  Knowing that it is the right time, place and person will make this much easier.  Instill your confidence in their monkey care-taking abilities and then walk away.  If they think there is any chance that you will be back for the monkey, it will erode their confidence and commitment to care for the monkey.

7. Track.  Track progress after you delegate.  Make sure they’re grooming, training and not over feeding the monkey. Make sure they aren’t taking on too many other monkeys or that the monkey you delegated to them may not get as much care and attention.  Let them know their progress along the way.  Just because you delegated, doesn’t mean you have absolved yourself of all responsibility.  Check in on the care and feeding of the monkey.

People who effectively delegate their monkeys are ultimately better leaders and citizens.  The team around them is more highly skilled and feels more empowered.  Try these steps and see if you can’t be more effective with your monkey management.

How do you delegate your monkeys?