Right now, are you feeling worried or anxious? What was the trigger? A message from your boss saying, “Give me a call?” An email from a colleague saying, “I need to talk right away?” A note from your child’s teacher’s asking for a conference, immediately? A message from your doctor saying, “Please call my office.”
While such situations can cause your mind to run amuck with concerns about “what if,” I can just about guarantee that your worst fears will not become your reality. Dale Carnegie, the developer of one of the most widely-used self-improvement programs and author of “How to Stop Worrying And Start Living,” recommended preparing for the worse. Whatever waits is almost always less dramatic than the worse thing that your imagination conjures up. But preparing for the worse puts the situation in perspective and sets you up to feel a great sense of relief in the end.
Overcoming worry takes conscious choice. In addition to Carnegie’s approach, you can try this. The next time your imagination races down the self-defeating path of fantasy-based fear, pause. Notice how bad worry feels. Then, disrupt your pattern by saying, “I want to feel good.” Then, intentionally shift your focus to something that makes you feel good. Hold your attention there until worry abates and your mood improves.
Each time you find yourself spiraling downward into a worrisome thought pattern, use it as an opportunity to train your brain to respond in a positive manner rather than react with fear and unanswerable what-ifs. Over time, your automatic reactions will shift and the emotionally intelligent you will take charge.
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