By Amy Blaschka, Contributor
Aug. 8, 2022
These days, it’s hard not to worry, especially when it comes to your career.
A years-long global pandemic, shifting macroeconomic trends, and prolonged market uncertainty don’t do anything to mitigate the professional anxiety many feel right now.
As a result, you might find yourself in a vicious cycle of pondering negative what-ifs and worrying about things beyond your control. That fear-based thinking messes with your mental health, keeps you stuck in a victim mentality, and fuels procrastination, preventing your progress.
Worse, research shows that all worrying is a huge time suck that yields little return. A study by Penn State University showed that only about 8% of the things people worry about come true. In other words, less than 1 in 10 things you stress about is actually worth it.
That’s a lot of time wasted that could be spent more productively on your career.
The next time you find yourself in a career worry spiral, try doing these three things instead:
1. Focus on what you can control
Rather than ponder why something is or isn’t happening and lament circumstances affecting your career, remember to focus on what you can control: your mindset and how you respond to things.
When you let go of the things beyond your control, you automatically shift from passive victim to proactive and empowered mode. The good news is that the things that prevent your progress aren’t external; they’re internal. And those are the things completely within your ability to work on.
2. Embrace action as the antidote
Worrying about potential problems does nothing to solve them. But the one surefire antidote to combat career anxiety, doubt, and fear? Taking action.
Sad but true: There is no growth in the status quo. And staying in your current state is a recipe for more worry. Newton’s first law of motion states that an object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion. The same is true for your career. Action begets more action, so taking even small steps leads to big progress over time, helping you feel less anxious and more in control.
3. Reframe your perspective
Asking “What if?” tends to bring out extreme anxiety around career-related matters. Horrific nightmares of self-doubt plague nearly everyone at some point, especially when we genuinely care about the outcome. But remember, when answering the “What if?” question, you always have two choices: What if everything goes wrong/falls apart/the worst happens? or What if everything goes right/comes together/the best happens?
Remind yourself that perspective is everything and that you’ve overcome 100% of the challenges you’ve faced so far. You can choose the worst-case scenario and be consumed and paralyzed by fear or shift your mindset to the best-case scenario, allowing yourself to imagine the possibilities and become empowered by the potential.
One of my favorite quotes on the topic comes from Australian poet Erin Hanson, whose words are particularly poignant:
“What if I fail? Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?”
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