People who worry sometimes confuse worry for problem solving. They think that because an issue is going round and round in their mind something productive must be happening. In fact what really happens is either the problem gets pushed away or a snap decision is made without proper consideration for the outcomes. Neither approach is effective and can cause real problems at work. There is a fix:
- First select a problem that depends on you finding the solution and preferably one where you can see the results quickly. It’s best if you stick with fairly modest problems rather than something huge and life changing.
- Write down or describe in your mind the nature of the problem.
- Now break it into smaller steps as if you are describing to a complete novice what needs to be done in what order.
- Look at the first of the steps.
- Consider the various options open to you to complete the first step.
- Select the option that seems most practical in terms of ease, cost, effort, or whatever the factors are hinging on completing this step.
- Get on with the task.
- When you’ve done, think back over it, was the outcome in the ‘okay’ category? If it wasn’t go to the second step you’d considered and try that.
- Act on this and carry on with each of the smaller steps until you’ve finished.
- Now evaluate everything. What happened to your worry while you were following the steps in the task? It may not have disappeared entirely but was it at least more manageable?
People who worry a lot have just as many skills at their disposal as anyone else. What’s different about the worrier is their attitude to problem solving. However, understanding that worrying is not problem solving is the first big step in moving forward. Once you’ve achieved this you can the start to consider how you’re actually tackling problems and what, if anything, needs to change.
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Jerry Kennard, Ph.D., is a chartered psychologist and associate fellow of the British Psychological Society. Jerry’s clinical background is in mental health and, most recently, higher education. He is the author of various self-help books and is co-founder of positivityguides.net.