Why anxiety is killing your career and what to do about it

Anxiety-and-Pain2Sometimes, I think I mistakenly got the “mom gene”.

Left to my own devices, I tend to worry, worry, and then worry some more.

I worry about myself, my life, my friends, my family and that’s just the beginning.

For a mother of a family, I get how worry is a useful (even necessary) instinct. But I am a 30-Something dude with no kids, who spends most of his time in the business world!

I am supposed to be out on the prowl, not in the den worrying.

There are indeed some unexpected upsides to a “motherly nature” that one can use in the workplace, but excessive worry is NOT one of them.

Here’s why…

Mental Bandwidth (I hate myself for using that term)

Ever heard the term bandwidth?

If not, be grateful.

It’s a played out Silicon Valley word that people use to describe how much of something they have – usually mental capacity.

Corny as it is, it’s useful here because it highlights the reality that we have a LIMITED amount of time, mental energy, and therefore mental activity.

And for most of us, winning at work is all about using our brains better than the next guy.

Worry, then, is most often a waste of a precious and finite resource:

Your thoughts.

You only have so many thoughts to think. Don’t waste them on worry. – Click to Tweet

3 Steps to quit worrying and start ballin’

While you, like me, may be a natural born worrier, you don’t have to die a worrier too.

You can change your fate and, in the process, free up your mental energy to focus on doing creative work that matters.

(I know it’s possible because though I am not worry free, I worry less by the day).

Here’s how in 3 Steps:

  1. Create Rituals that slow you down. Sometimes speed is the enemy of progress, especially for the anxious professional. Design rituals into your day and week that force you to slow down. As you slow down, you’ll naturally be able to focus on what matters and discard the rest.

    Try starting with a morning ritual. Mine is some meditation, light reading, and a cup of coffee. This quiets my mind and stills my heart before worry can jump in.

  2. Lower your expectations. When you expect too much from others, you will be constantly dissapointed. When you expect too much from yourself, you’ll inevitably try to shove too much progress into too short of a time frame and set yourself back.

    Expect that others will be imperfect and will act in ways that seem to foil your plans. Expect that in the near term your growth will be slow.

    Ironically, others will seem more cooperative and you’ll start to notice yourself making unexpected progress.

  3. Act small. It’s great to set your heart on big dreams and big achievements. Let that vision inspire you. However, let those big thoughts be long-term thoughts (think years, not days).

    In the near term, focus on taking small, concrete actions that bring you a step or two closer to acheiving a promotion or starting your own business or whatever excites you in the long term.

    Here’s why: Over time, consistent small actions result in compound benefits and large returns.

    So instead of trying to accomplish everything now or posing as a big shot now, humbly take small actions and enjoy the small steps. With some consistency, big rewards will be here sooner than you expected.

    Question: Are you a worrier? If so, what is it that makes you most anxious about your professional life? Leave a comment.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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6 thoughts on “Why anxiety is killing your career and what to do about it

  1. Great advice, Ryan! I’ve been developing these steps, although I do #2 slightly different (the end results and goal sounds the same). I’ve been fostering compassion for myself and others. For myself it helps me celebrate smaller steps, and recognize better that frustration is often a part of the process, and can be a good thing. For others it helps me connect with the needs of other people, why they might appear to be working at odds, and find better ways to work together both by changing my behavior when necessary, and offering up suggestions when that’s not going to solve the issue.

  2. I started this thing where I am trying to give to God first, and that includes my time. I roll out of bed, thank God for everything, and check the weather channel. I started doing this on January 1st and my anxiety has gone down dramatically. I look at the people I work with differently, and during my last performance evaluation (yesterday) my supervisor commended my productivity. I think its amazing how just a little change in your thought process can change your whole outlook on any situation. This was a great article!

    • Wow, Sheralene! So cool that what’s happening on the inside (more peace) is effecting what’s happening on the outside (more productivity). Way to put first things first and win from the inside-out!

  3. This was a timely post! I have been watching my worry-levels slowly increase as I begin to build my business. This three-point plan will be glued to my wall. This: consistent small actions result in compound benefits and large returns – is exactly what I need to focus on. Thank you.