A Framework for Dealing with Worry

I am a skeptic of quick, one-line answers to life’s challenges. I don’t mind checklists since I can pick out what makes sense to me. I prefer thoughtful analysis of potential causes and their effects.

We are all unique because of our varying views, attitudes, ambitions, and fears as we try to live successfully. These differences can complicate our attempts to gain a clear understanding of what‘s going on and what should be done. If you are serious about doing something useful and long-lasting, you have to wrestle with all the ambiguity and uncertainty and develop your own approach.

Worry resides within a complex structure which supports many temperaments, connections and relationships. We are all uniquely different, and so are our experiences and the environment in which they occur. The short, quick solutions from self-help experts may have worked for them and those they counsel, but chances are they won’t work for you “lock, stock, and barrel”. But, don’t discard all the remedies recommended by these experts. Choose the suggestions that make sense to you and adapt them to your circumstances.

My approach to adapting the ideas of others is based on my early days in business. I use a five-step framework for implementing change. The five steps represent stages of progression that result in effective and lasting change for me.

Stage 1: Awareness
What am I sensing? Define the emotion. At best, it’s curiosity. At worst, it’s fear or anger. In between is an extensive range from annoyance to concern.

Stage 2: Knowledge and Understanding
Determine, in detail, what’s causing me to feel the way I do. This is a search for information about me, as the object. Then I research what the “experts” have to say about the subject, in this case “worry”.

Stage 3: Analysis and Liking
How does this new understanding fit in with my values, principles, and rules for living effectively. I hold on to what resonates with me as being right and true or worth considering as an addition or modification to my lifestyle. I ignore the rest.

Stage 4: Preferring and Deciding
Often there is more than one reasonable outcome from the previous stages. To choose the best, I check my purpose in life and priorities. How do the alternatives fit in with what I am trying to do with my life? What changes are implied? What obstacles must be overcome? What is the impact on the “spokes in my wheel of life”?

Stage 5: Committing, Planning, and Acting
How much of this change am I willing to take on? What am I willing to combat?

Now we are into “change” which on it’s own is a discipline with many theories and experts selling their wares. I’ll leave that discussion for future blogs … back to the framework for dealing with worry.

Progression through the stages is not always serial with a phase being completed and then followed by the next. Often I spiral back and forth as I discover a discontinuity or ambiguity which was not dealt with in earlier stage.

Sometimes the progression through theses stages is very quick, especially when the process clearly suggests I should forget about worrying since it is not strategic, effective, productive, or useful.

I welcome your comments on this framework. How would you change it to create one more suited to your needs?.

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