I had lunch with a colleague earlier this week and one of the topics that we discussed was how much of our energy can go to worrying with very little payoff.

I’ve been thinking about this ever since.

There are so many reasons that we might spend our time and energy worrying about future events, whether we have control over them or not. Sometimes worrying gives us a sense of control because we think about everything related to an event or issue in minute detail. Sometimes we are so paralyzed with fear about how to move forward, all we can do is worry. We might try to think about how we might react or respond to a range of scenarios rather than actually acting or responding.

All of this worrying offers a false sense of preparedness for the unknown, especially when you consider the following:

  • worrying by itself does not impact outcomes
  • worrying by itself does not better prepare you to meet challenges
  • worrying by itself does not increase your confidence in a given situation

Instead, worrying just serves to:

  • increase stress and anxiety
  • impede progress
  • distract from action

Think about the last time that you were worrying about something. To keep it simple, focus on something that you were worried about today. (For me, I spent a few minutes this morning worrying about the long to-do list I’m hoping to make a dent in this weekend.)

How much time did you spend actively worrying about the topic or issue?

What could you have done instead of spending that time worrying?

Where else could that mental energy have been directed that would have been more productive?

The time and energy that we spend worrying about things is time and energy that could be more productively spent doing something to alleviate that worry. This morning, rather than worry about my to-do list, I could have found something on it to complete, crossed it off, and moved on.

Worrying offers us a false sense of productivity. When we think about things, it can feel like we are making progress when, actually, we are just going in circles and creating more stress and anxiety.

Worrying is one of the easiest ways that we make something bigger than it really is.

It’s time to invest your worrying time and energy elsewhere.

To think on:

  • How much time and energy are you spending on worry?
  • What are the methods that you use to pause when you find yourself spiraling into an unproductive cycle of worry and anxiety?