Last week, my wife and I took advantage of the free time created by a lack swim practice since our son was at the Olympic Training Center with his teammates. Not having the tether that is daily trips to and from the pool, we enjoyed a few days of adventure in the North San Francisco Bay area. It was a care-free experience where we reminded ourselves that there is life outside working and parenting. We spoke of many things and reflected on our good fortune. It was the most relaxed I had been in months. As we rolled out of Sebastopol, one of Scandal’s songs came on and I belted out my version of Patty Smyth’s catchy chorus…

Shootin’ at the walls of heartache, bang, bang, I am the WORRIER
Well I am the WORRIER, and heart to heart you’ll win..if you survive

Yes, I know the song is about being a ‘warrior’ and not a ‘worrier’, but my version is more fitting from a biographic standpoint. It was my week of complete relaxation that reminded me of my prolific worrying. I make no apologies about it, as I believe worrying can be a healthy trait, especially as a leader…

  • I worry about letting people down
  • I worry about missing opportunity
  • I worry about falling short of my own expectations

I find that worrying is helpful when…

  • I can turn it off and on at will
  • I use it to plan and prepare
  • I use it to reflect, assess, brainstorm and problem-solve
  • I don’t let it get in the way of my daily activities

The challenge is distinguishing worry from anxiety. Worrying, as described above is a useful tool to keep us on track as we prepare for the future. Though considered synonyms, anxiety is something very different. Anxiety is fretting over things we can’t control. Anxiety is unhealthy. As Seth Godin says, “Anxiety is practicing failure in advance. Anxiety is needless and imaginary. It’s fear about fear, fear that means nothing.”  Being the hypochondriac that I am, I am known to drive myself and my wife crazy with internet-informed self-diagnoses. (Sometimes worry does become anxiety, making it a complete waste of time.) But worrying can be a great self-accountability mechanism. Patty Smyth may be a warrior and at times I like to consider myself the same. But I haven’t a problem proclaiming that “I am the Worrier!” And playing along with her lyrics, being a worrier has helped me win on more than a few occasions. Though I have no anxiety as I prepare myself to contribute to an important engagement tomorrow, I am spending a little bit of time worrying about it, believing the willingness to worry (e.g., rehearse) will help me make tomorrow a bit more successful than it would be otherwise. There is a reason why most of the things we worry about never happen, and it’s not always because things aren’t worth worrying about.

  • Are you able to make beneficial use of worrying?
  • How much time do you waste being anxious?
  • How do you differentiate between the two?