I happen to be a very anxious person. So much so that I’ve been on medication for it for a number of years. As someone who tends to worry more than average, I’ve always loved the phrase “worrying never changes the outcome of anything.” While the phrase almost sounds so obvious, it doesn’t change the fact that I am guilty of, and we are guilty of numerous times in our lives where we unconsciously believe that we can “think” our way into a desired result. Taken at face value it seems so ludicrous to believe that our thoughts will change a situation’s outcome, but we engage in this kind of activity all the time. Let me share with you a simple example that you can hopefully relate to.
Have you ever sent what you consider to be an important email and you can’t stop checking to see if a response has come in? Maybe you’re applying for a job. Perhaps you just told someone how you really feel about them and you’re curious to see what their response is. It doesn’t matter what the content is. What matters is that you deem the email important and you care about what the response is going to be.
You find yourself aimlessly checking on your inbox time and time again only to come up blank. The lack of response is killing you. You start coming up with worst case scenarios in your head. “Maybe this potential future employer hates me.” “Did I screw up that email?” “Did I come off too strong?” “What is wrong with this person, why haven’t they gotten back to me?” “I can’t believe I even sent this email.” “I can’t believe I even bothered to care about this person in the first place.”
It’s as if with each passing moment the situation gets worse when it reality it hasn’t gotten worse at all. You’re the one who’s gotten worse. You begin to cling to this email response as if you’re life depended on it. And you think by not checking your inbox every 30 seconds that something horrible is going to happen.
When in reality…..
You begin forming these ridiculous situations in your head that can actually manifest themselves into reality. You might even send a follow up email. You might even go overboard and say something you’ll completely regret simply because someone hasn’t responded to your email. When in reality you have absolutely no clue why the person hasn’t responded to your email. Maybe they’re out of town. Maybe they haven’t checked their email yet. Perhaps your email isn’t high on their priority list. Perhaps they only respond to emails at specific hours of the day. The fact of the matter is you’ll never know why that email hasn’t been returned yet, and you never will. But that doesn’t stop you from freaking out and projecting what the situation is. So much so that it can affect your reality.
I can’t help but to think of this scene in the movie Swingers to illustrate this point.
The Mikey phone call
This scene is one of the most heartbreaking scenes in cinematic history. It completely illustrates my point. While it’s intended to be extreme and dramatic, it goes to show you just how far worrying can take you. It shows you just how far people go in their minds when they don’t see the intended result they desire immediately.
So what do you do?
While it’s easier said than done, here’s what you need to do to the best of your ability when you get into a situation like this: move on after you recognize everything else is out of your control. Instead of sending 18 follow up emails because you haven’t gotten a response, make sure that first email says everything it needs to say and move on. If you recognize and understand that you did everything you could then you’ve got to know that the rest is out of your control. You need to know you are free to move on. We often place ourselves into a pseudo “jail” that doesn’t allow us to move on until we at least get a response (or outcome). That’s a very dangerous place to be.
You’ll never hope or worry your way to a desired result. What you can do is focus on the things you can control.