“Real difficulties can be overcome, it is only the imaginary ones that are unconquerable.”
Theodore Newton Vail (July 16, 1845 – April 16, 1920), U.S. telephone industrialist
Worrying is a waste of time and energy if it doesn’t lead to practical solutions. Why fret so much about worst-case scenarios if it doesn’t prepare you to deal with them? Before getting wrenched-up with worry, ask yourself if you can actually solve the problem.
Worrying and problem solving are two very different things. Problem solving involves evaluating a situation, coming up with concrete steps for dealing with it, and then putting the plan into action. Solvable worries are those you can act on right away. For example, if you are worried about your increasing debt, you could cut back on some non-essential purchases.
How do you know if you can solve the problem that’s worrying you? There are many questions that can help you figure it out.
How real is it?
Do a reality check. Is the problem an issue you are currently facing, or is it an imaginary what-if? You can’t predict the future, but good planning requires that you look ahead.
What’s the evidence?
“Sure as night will follow day, most things I worry about never happen anyway.”
Tom Petty (October 20, 1950 – ), American singer-songwriter
How likely it is that what you are worrying about will ever happen? How do you know? What is your track record? How often have you been right in the past when predicting the outcomes you have worried about?
If you can’t find statistics, a source, or person that you trust, develop your own guidelines and apply them.
What other outcomes are possible?
Along with probability, severity and timing are significant factors to question. You have probably already identified the worst outcome. Determine at least two more – the most likely outcome, and the best outcome. Analyze each possible outcome.
How likely is it to occur?
What is the real potential impact?
The spectrum extends from minor inconvenience (she’ll be annoyed) to major tragedy (I am likely to die within months).
Is it important enough or strategic enough to worry about?
“A person must try to worry about things that aren’t important so he won’t worry too much about things that are.”
Focus on the things you have the power to change, rather than the circumstances or realities beyond your control. The concept of individual control or influence generates many questions that may require repeating the cycle or framework (awareness, knowledge & understanding, analysis, preferring, commitment, and action). This will be elaborated on when we get to Stage 4, Preferring and Deciding.
Can you deal with it?
What would you do if it did happen? Can you live with it? How would you cope?. If you can’t, how will you learn to deal with it?
How can the passage of time change each outcome?
Will “Time heals all wounds.“? How might things be different one month from now? Six months later? Can there be major changes, for example in your ability to cope.
Are the effects long term? If so, looking at six month intervals over the next few years may reveal new opportunities to change attitudes and skills.
Brainstorm all the possible solutions.
Make a list of all the solutions you can think of. Try not to get too hung up on finding the perfect solution. What advice would you give a friend who has this worry?
At this stage you are coming up with alternatives that indicate your problems are solvable. These alternatives will be sorted out by preference in the next stage.
But what about unsolvable worries and problems? Let’s look at them in the next post.