So you are worried about something. You are frequently worried about something.  But whatever worries you changes from day to day. Well, here is a post about worrying, worrying as an activity, about what’s good and bad about worrying.

As negative as it sounds, worrying itself is not negative.  Being worried can make us better off.  When we are worried our intellect sharpens, worries make us focus on problems, confront issues, win battles and move on with life. As an entrepreneur who over the course of 25 years founded four startups worth over half a billion and blew up one, I was never worry free.  Indeed my start ups always felt to me as a string of endless worries, of failures, that somehow miraculously one day, were highly valuable.  In all of them I had near death experiences.  In all of them, thanks to worrying, I found ways out of them. Because worrying as in “I have identified a problem” is a positive trait.  Worrying as in “I am deciding on the best strategy to cope with adversity” is a positive trait. But many times we worry about issues in life that truly don’t deserve our focus, that are not real problems we should worry about.  That are not true challenges. That are bogus.

That is why some people are more “worriers” than “warriors”. And indeed there is medical evidence for this, genetic evidence.   Research shows that some genes code for worrying behaviors (worriers) while others for learning from adversity (warriors). Warriors see challenges as learning opportunities.  Worriers on the other hand don’t fight true problems– they lie in the battlefield of their mind, waiting for an enemy who doesn’t show up.  And instead of rejoicing when real evidence shows them that they are trouble free, on they go, to find something else to worry about. They are the hypochondriacs of life.  And they exist.  On a good day they become lawyers and turn their handicap into income, billing others by the hour for their worries. But most are not that lucky, and worry in vain. And we understand them because even the most optimistic among us has something in common with those “worriers”. We have all worried about issues that just did not deserve our attention. The key question is how frequently does this happen to us.

So how can we distinguish the worrier in us from the warrior in us? Here’s an idea.  Start a diary of your worries.  Every day write a note to self in some type of social media, about “the worry of the day”.  Write it in a circle with only one member: yourself. Tell yourself what upsets you that day. Something like: today I am worried about… blank.  And build a collection of worries. A timeline of worries.

And then, at some point in the future, go back to these worries.  And see what you were worried about last month, or last year.  By then you will be able to judge if worrying made sense. If it helped you.  If you worried about something worthy of your angst. If you had a fear or a phobia.  If you were a warrior, or a worrier. And if you were a worrier, use this diary to learn to fine tune your worries to their likelihood of true damage to your life in the future. Learn to pick opponents who deserve your anxiety.

I know, I fight ghosts sometimes, we all do. And we will go on worrying about some harmless issues. Still, it would be good to have a “worries tag cloud” after a year.  To be able to study what made us lose sleep, and use that cloud to avoid sleepless nights in the future.

This article was also published in LinkedIn. You can follow Martin by clicking below

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