It was an early morning, dark with a glint of frost in the air. John was quietly packing up his briefcase for another week’s trek through the jungle maze of traffic on the way to his downtown office, careful to not wake up his family in the process.
The weekend had been more relaxing than normal. He and the kids had fun, yet the tension remained between John and his wife. The tension seemed like it had been around for years… and it had.
John grabbed a power bar and poured his cup of coffee into his favorite traveler’s coffee mug. He went through the mental checklist in his mind – keys (check), wallet (check), cellphone (got it), briefcase, and computer (check). He had everything he needed. As he stumbled through the dark house he opened the door to the garage and opened the garage door, hoping not to wake any of his family. The fact was that his family was used to the sound.
The morning routine was almost over as he weaved his way through the bikes and normal garage clutter and flung his bag in the car, while carefully placing his coffee in the holder. As he reached for the driver side door handle he realized he had forgotten to take his morning tonic.
As he maneuvered back through the tight garage fixtures and toward the kitchen cabinet, John reached in to pull out his bottle. With a habitual gulp John had taken his morning dose. His tonic didn’t make him feel better, it actually made him feel far worse. Yet it was his routine and it was just what he did.
Not All Routines Are Good
His tonic wasn’t a medicine, however, but rather more like a poison.
As John started up the car for his 56-minute commute he began his normal conversation with himself. Though the tonic didn’t really help him, he used it to rationalize how it helped him navigate the realities of life. Over those 50+ torturous minutes in the car, John would think about everything that was going wrong at work and what he needed to do. He would then shift to his marriage and his kids. He was careful not to miss one issue. His natural process would end with a visit to his dreams and wants, yet the tonic would cause him to think of how he would not be able to reach them. As he pulled into his downtown office parking garage he would think about the litany of expenses that pile up every month, including the daily parking cost, which only led to more frustration.
The crazy part about John’s life is that he continues taking his tonic every morning. In fact he started taking it before he went to bed too. His assistant would often see him take it mid-day as well. Everywhere he went he seemed to take more tonic as if it helped him. It was a coping mechanism, but it was actually killing him on the inside.
Why would John take a tonic that didn’t help him, but actually made him feel worse? Before we pile our judgment on John we need to understand that the majority of us take this same tonic most days of our lives.
We All Struggle To Resist The Tonic
No, we don’t actually take a physical product, but we do consume it faithfully and we do it at almost the same times of the day as John – mornings, evenings, drive times, etc.
On the label of this “tonic” you can see a fuzzy word that seems harmless, but is really a form of poison. That word is called “worry” and it is one of the most dangerous things a leader can consume.
For John, his worry caused him physical problems like heartburn and ulcers. He even suffered cold sores several times a year when his tonic use spiked. His worry hurt his sleep – he rarely got 4-5 hours of pure sleep a night. You can imagine what it did to his emotions. He was a wreck on the inside. He began worrying about everything and that began hurting his relationships, especially the most the most important ones.
John’s “tonic” had horrible side effects that tended to affect those around him such as colleagues, friends, and his boss. His demeanor changed as worry began to make him bitter. altering his world for the worse.
That is what worry does.
To Worry Or Not To Worry, That Is The Question
Are you taking this tonic? Is worry ruining your life like it did John’s?
If so, it’s time to stop. Stop taking what is killing you. Whatever it takes to stop your mind from obsessing or fixating on pain, frustrations, and concerns, do it. Prudent people consider actions, consequences, and challenges, but those who give up control over their life and emotions to worry, ultimately give up the life inside that makes them who they are.
Worry leads to bitterness, indecision, and insecurity. It hinders a leader’s capacity and poisons the well of friendships and relationships.
Instead, try substituting worry with an invitation for the love, advice, and perspective of the friends, family, and colleagues around you. Try being intentional about creating regular time to process challenges, as well as to protect the time and activities you need to recharge. Sometimes keeping a handle on our emotions or nipping worry in the bud comes down to simply staying recharged and maintaining intentional perspective on the things that matter most to us.
In the end, we all struggle with the temptation to worry, despite the fact that it never does us any good. We think it gives us control, when in fact, it causes us to lose it. So bear in mind the side effects of worry and choose to take back control instead of downing the tonic.
This was originally posted by GiANT Worldwide and I wanted to share it here as well. If you’re interested in learning more about how worry affects your leadership, I’m happy to schedule a meeting to discuss. Just click the contact button and let me know!