Anxiety and Control

There are many forms of anxiety.

I don’t claim to fully understand the most severe types that debilitate some and are truly overwhelming. To those reading this that suffer from crippling forms of anxiety, I feel for you and validate you.

For the rest of us who experience some lighter, but no less real, levels of anxiety, this blog is perhaps more for you.

The recent interview with Dr. Madeline Levine, author of Ready or Not, is really present in my psyche. If you’ve not listened to or watched the On Leadership interview, it’s superb for parents, aunts and uncles, or anyone who has some influence over the future of children and young adults in their lives.

I’ve never been diagnosed with anxiety (but then again, I’ve never been formally diagnosed with anything other than acid reflux and plantar fasciitis, so maybe that’s not a super helpful thought…Let’s just say the therapist I saw twice in the past year served more as a coach and less as a mental health counselor, so she didn’t render any formal assessments on me…yet. Perhaps she will in my next encounter with her…), but I suspect she detects some level of anxiety in me—certainly a palpable level of anxiousness. To know me is to know that. But welcome to 2021, where I don’t think I know anyone who isn’t experiencing some level of anxiety or anxiousness. Loss of a job. Potential loss of a job. Reduced income. Housing uncertainty. Real concern for our children and their social, emotional, mental, and physical development. Concern for our parents’ and grandparent’s health. Concern for our own.

These past 10 months have been a non-stop anxiety train I can’t seem to get off. You also holding a first-class seat in my same cabin?

Here’s some non-clinical advice from none other than a previous On Leadership guest, Matthew McConaughey. As the recent author of the blockbuster bestselling book, Greenlights, he delivered a compelling interview that I highly recommend you watch or listen to. It will exceed your expectations, I promise.

There was one takeaway from my time with Matthew that I’ve found especially helpful in my own life. Toward the end of the interview, I asked him to recap one of countless, hilarious stories and key lessons from his life. He chose one featuring his friend’s great-grandfather. In short, Matthew shared that this gentleman, 95 years old, when asked by his grandson for the best advice he had, replied with “I’ve had thousands of crises in my life. Most of them never happened.”

As I reflect on this daily (okay, hourly), I realize that of all of my own fears in life, none of them have actually come true. None of them. Not a single one.

I usually convince myself the reason they haven’t come true is because I am in control. That I work, diligently, obsessively, to ensure that those anxieties don’t materialize. But the fact is, they never were likely to happen in the first place. They were all worst-case scenarios that I played over and over in my mind. It was close to impossible that most of my fears and anxieties were ever going to happen, regardless of how much I thought about, focused on, or tried “successfully” to control them.

So my learning between Matthew and Madeline is to let go a bit. Loosen my grip. Step back and realize that stuff happens. Good and bad. Positive and negative. I’m not controlling it all nearly as much as I think I am. And those thousands of crises?

Most of them will never happen.

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About the Author

Scott Miller

Scott Miller is a 25-year associate of FranklinCovey and serves as Senior Advisor, Thought Leadership. Scott hosts the world’s largest and fastest-growing podcast/newsletter devoted to leadership development, On Leadership. Additionally, Scott is the author of the multi-week Amazon #1 New Releases, Master Mentors: 30 Transformative Insights From Our Greatest Minds, Management Mess to Leadership Success: 30 Challenges to Become the Leader You Would Follow, and the Wall Street Journal bestseller, Everyone Deserves a Great Manager: The 6 Critical Practices for Leading a Team. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with his wife and three sons.

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