Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Why Worry

What good does worry do?  It can't magically bring the future within control.  Worry is the epitome of wasted effort.  Example: prepping for trial involves a huge amount of work.  Documents must be read, clients talked to, strategy formulated, motions submitted, and witnesses prepared.  You have to know the case cold so you can handle whatever may happen.  And generally, when you go to trial, the stakes are high.  Big money invested or, more vitally, freedom on the line.

So the specter of worry hovers nearby.  But it does not one whit of good, and often does positive damage.  If things go well, if you win your motions, your witnesses cover themselves in glory, and the opposition witnesses fumble, and the jury goes your way, your worry will not have contributed to that outcome.  But if it goes awry, if you forget to ask an important question, or make a vital objection, if you sweat and stammer your way through argument, worrying about it beforehand will only have intensified the agony.

Not only that, but worry probably helped nudge things the wrong way.  By preventing you from focusing with a clear mind. By keeping images of failure in your mind.  By sapping your capacity for relaxation and enjoyment.

In my case, I had a trial approaching.  As the date grew nearer, so did my worry.  How will I do?  Will I win?  Will I say the right things?  Will I look foolish?  Will I let my client down?  I prepared, but with a pit of anxiety that I am well familiar with.  And then, today, the trial gets adjourned three weeks.  The worry was for nothing.  But the takeaway is, it also would have been for nothing if we went to trial next week.  It's just easier to see now that the deadline has softened.

All this is obvious to the practiced and observant worrier.  But changing reflexive behaviors like worry is easier desired than achieved.  I think it can be done, though.

Step one is awareness.  You notice, "Oh, the reason I'm reading The Onion instead of working is because my work is making me worry."

Step two is observation.   You realize the distraction you're engaged in isn't actually treating the worry, and that it's still there, just harder to hear.

Step three is acceptance.  So you're worrying.  No big deal. It's just an emotion and it will pass like all emotions.

Step four is to not let it control you.  You remind yourself of all of the above.  That it's not helping.  That fleeing the worry is going to help make your fears come true.  And that, if you can just turn to the task at hand, the worry will almost certainly subside as you bring your whole attention to your task.

Step five is it's okay if it doesn't work.  Keep trying.  Sometimes it will.  And that will give you confidence to continue and redouble your efforts.


Anonymous said...

Some worry, I venture, stems from unreasonable perfectionism, which is a means of self-shaming related to ego. Then there is a fundamental worry that stems from not being sure of one's real destiny. -- s29

vacuous said...

Hey hey hey. I dropped out of the blogosphere, but I am back.