How to use Anxiety as a Decision-Making Tool
A little anxiety keeps you on your toes. Unease makes you alert and helps you bring your best to challenges and opportunities.
Unanswered anxiety spirals out of control. One fear cascades into another. The list keeps growing until paralysis sets in.
Competence earns new opportunities. New opportunities ignite anxiety.
I recently spoke to a newly promoted plant manager. He earned his promotion because he’s competent. But he’s also filled with anxiety about his new challenge.
Anxiety asks, “What if you aren’t enough?”
Frankly, if you don’t feel at least a bit anxious when your world shifts, you need a wake-up call.
I still don’t sleep well before giving presentations. It’s been years and sometimes my stomach hurts before I walk on stage.
Maybe you have the gift of anxiety. You think of everything that will go wrong, worry about surprises, and struggle to prepare for an unpredictable future.
Anxiety whispers, “This really matters,” and searches for clarity and certainty, but in an unpredictable world, you feel like the lights are out.
Anxiety can be a decision-making tool.
How to use the fear of regret:
I recently spoke with a women who has a choice between keeping her current job or taking one that might present better opportunities. She knows there are no guarantees.
Anxiety thrives when the future is unpredictable.
I asked her to imagine that both options will go badly. Whatever choice she makes, it won’t work as expected. Anxiety loves this way of thinking.
I said, “Assuming both options go badly, which one will you regret not taking?” This question helps people tap into their deeper fear.
Without hesitation she named one of the options. “I’ll most regret not taking the new opportunity.”
The fear of regret helps you find clarity.
Use an anxiety list to make a plan:
Create an anxiety list to clarity decisions and make a plan.
#1. Don’t fight anxiety. Invite it for coffee. Dig deep. What are your concerns. Write them down. Keep writing until you can’t think of anything else that could go wrong.
#2. Look at your list and ask, “What do I really want?”
Write down the things you really want beside each item on your anxiety list. The question, “What do I really want?” helps you shift from fear to values.
#3. Finally ask, “What do I need to do to get what I really want?” Limit yourself to things you can easily accomplish. Choose behaviors that match your strengths.
The newly promoted plant manager is a great planner. He’s afraid of being put on the spot. I encouraged him to plan what he will do when he feels put on the spot, before he’s actually on the spot.
How might leaders get the most from anxiety?
*I relax my 300 word limit on weekends.
Anxiety is the space/delta between want and need …
Discerning one from the other resolves itself.
Spot on! I have done a lot of project management, and my gift of anxiety is indeed useful for spotting risks and upcoming issues…although it doesn’t feel great at the time 🙂
Anxiety can be used to gauge weakness within. It can create an opportunity for growth.
Another way if there are two options, is to ask which is less likely to get you crucified by management if they both go wrong. If your boss can’t answer the question “How far will you bankroll these schemes?” he has no business asking you to gamble with his money.
Ah, the “what if” syndrome? It can drive one crazy as well as prepare you!
Making the list is critical, understanding “what we control” is greater when we engage the project.
Learning to manage comes with life’s experiences, the more we experience the better prepared we become. Soon your weaknesses become strengths, your able to gage the timelines, prepare for handling issues, it does become easier! The “gut pains”, they seem to always be there if you happen to be in that group of people with “anxiety attacks”. If your not dealing with “anxiety” consider yourself lucky.
Great post Dan!
On Sun, Jul 29, 2018 at 7:35 PM Leadership Freak wrote:
> Dan Rockwell posted: “A little anxiety keeps you on your toes. Unease > makes you alert and helps you bring your best to challenges and > opportunities. Unanswered anxiety spirals out of control. One fear cascades > into another. The list keeps growing until paralysis sets in. ” >
As a “professional” anxious person and helper of same, I can endorse this advice. I especially like “Don’t fight anxiety. Invite it for coffee. Keep writing until you can’t think of anything else that could go wrong. Finally ask, ‘What do I need to do to get what I really want?’ Limit yourself to things you can easily accomplish. Choose behaviors that match your strengths.”
If you think your anxiety is off the scale, isn’t tied to upcoming events and decisions, seems to hit out of nowhere, or never lets up, this might not be useful. Know there are knowledgeable, kind people, starting with your family doctor, who can help you and those around you get some relief and stability.
How do you know new opportunities promote anxiety? Actually, the research says the opposite-that tasked based self-efficacy and competence beliefs decrease anxiety.
When your competence opens doors to bigger opportunities … opportunities you haven’t yet attempted, anxiety is normal.
Anyone stepping into new challenges that require new behaviors feels anxious. This anxiety can be helpful. It makes us diligent in preparation.
An anxiety free life is boring.