Over the years I’ve met with hundreds of CEOs, successful entrepreneurs, and record-setting salespeople.
They often make lots of money and lead successful, productive lives. Yet many of these high-achieving titans find themselves struggling with thoughts of doubt, anxiety – and even fear.
It manifests itself in the decisions they make, and in the ones they don’t. And it shows in how willing they are to take risks, and their confidence in the future.
Like so many others, I too find myself on the receiving end of these anxious thoughts.
For me, it typically centers around work, business, or money – common themes for those of us responsible for “killing it and dragging it home” – but there are so many areas of life anxiety can creep into…
While anxiety can be good, as a signal to tell us that action is warranted (fight or flight), it can also be all consuming. We can find ourselves worrying about things that might happen, and things that will most likely never happen – but in the moment that doesn’t matter, or make sense to us.
Keeping anxiety from controlling your life is a daily struggle for some, and an occasional challenge for others. Regardless of your particular brand of angst, help can come in the form of three keys:
Key #1: Be aware of clouds on the horizon
Anxiety is like a mountain rainstorm.
Seemingly insignificant thoughts can rush in without warning turning the skies dark and dangerous. Being aware of your thoughts is the first step to taking control. Begin by:
- Actively disputing any negative thoughts before they take root in your mind.
- Become aware of the dialogue going on inside your head. We all have an internal dialogue that takes place within us. Is the tone of yours positive, or negative?
- Write down any consuming thoughts and dispute them (if they are negative, they likely need disputed). Words have power and when you write them down you’re able to take control of them.
- Look at your life as a whole (not just a particular moment in time) and be objective about what you are thinking. Don’t end up drinking your own poisoned Kool-Aid and not realize it until it’s too late.
Key #2: Get in control
During a season where I was struggling with a few anxieties of my own, a good friend pointed out that rather than focus on what I could not control – I should focus on what I could control. It was some of the best advice I ever received.
Identifying what you can control and then taking action on it is very empowering. There is always something you can do – always something you can control – no matter how desperate the situation.
Find those things and take control of them. When anxiety comes around, dispute the negative by focusing on what you can do – and take control back!
Suggested Exercise: If you are currently struggling with something that causes you anxiety, make a list with two columns. On one side write down the things that you can’t control and on the other side write down the things you can. Focus on the things you can control and leave the other things where they are. Even in our most desperate hours we can always find things of which we can take control.
Key #3: Connect with others
Dr. Henry Cloud has said that the brain runs on oxygen, glucose, and relationship. Prolonged exposure to fear and anxiety will turn the brain into a “cesspool of stress” – and with prolonged exposure, paralyze us from acting in our own best interests. The only way to reverse this paralysis is through authentic relationships, or community.
Connecting with others in an authentic way (where we share our struggles, successes, and failures) is essential if we are to conquer our own anxieties.
If you are not already a part of an authentic community, be it a mastermind group, a small group of close friends, or a group that you can be transparent with, consider joining one or finding other like-minded individuals to join you on the journey. The act of simply talking about where you are and what you need help with is incredibly freeing. If you struggle with transparency in groups, start small. Any movement in this direction will be positive.
Anxiety and fear are far more common (and sinister) that most of us realize. The good news is that we can keep anxiety from taking control of our thoughts (and our life) when we become aware of the clouds on the horizon, take control, and stay connected with others who care and want the best for us.
Question: What other things have you found to be helpful when dealing with anxious thoughts? Are there any other tips or strategies that you’d recommend to others facing similar issues?