Confession: I’m an anxious little stress-monster. While I’m writing this blog post, I’m also thinking about the grant report I have to write, planning for a fundraising class I’m leading, and memorizing my lines for a theater competition, not to mention a to-do list a mile long… Ugh, my stomach is just churning. I know what it’s like to constantly have that worry weight on your brain.
The weight can be even greater as the leader of a nonprofit agency. Too many nonprofits are usually short on resources and long on needs. Board members, staff, volunteers, donors, foundations, vendors, reporters, agency partners, and clients all have demands and needs that should have been filled an hour ago. It’s exhausting, to say the least.
Magic beans do not exist to POOF! make the worry go away. However, a somewhat forgotten book from 1948 comes close. Dale Carnegie’s How to Stop Worrying and Start Living is chock-full of practical skills for managing worry. While his entire book is a worthy read, here are the top four techniques which have changed my life.
1. Live in “Day-tight Compartments”
On ocean liners, the captain can press a button on the bridge that will seal various parts of the ship into watertight compartments—completely shut off from one another. Carnegie asserts that we need to do the same thing in our minds. Shut off the regrets of the past. It’s over and done with, and there’s nothing you can do to change it. Close the doors to the future. While a good plan can reduce a lot of stress, obsessing about “ifs” is just a waste of energy—you can’t do anything until you get there. Live in the “today” compartment. “Today is our most precious possession. It is our only sure possession,” Carnegie says.
2. The Magic Formula for Worry
For stressful situations, Carnegie says to do these three things:
- Ask yourself, “What is the worst that can possibly happen?”
- Prepare to accept it if you have to.
- Then proceed to improve on the worst-case scenario.
Let’s go back to that grant report. What’s the worst that could happen? Well, they won’t consider me for any future grant applications. That would be a loss, but there are plenty of other foundations and opportunities out there, and I’ll learn for next time. Fine. Now, I just need to focus on doing a kick-awesome job on the report.
3. Put a “Stop-Loss” on Your Worries
Carnegie talks about the important principle of “stop-loss” in trading. If you buy a share at $50, you put a stop-loss on it at $45. That means that if the price of the stock dips five points below its cost, the share would be sold immediately, limiting your loss. You need to do the same things with your worries. Carnegie says to ask yourself these questions:
- How much does the thing I’m worrying about really matter to me?
- At what point shall I set a “stop-loss” order on this worry and forget it?
- Exactly how much will I pay for this worry? Have I already paid more than it is worth?
4. Outweigh Your Worry
“About 90% of things in our lives are right and about 10% are wrong,” Carnegie says. If we want to be happy, we need to concentrate on the 90%. Make a list of everything you’re thankful for. Carry it in your pocket, tape it to your wall, upload it as your phone background—just make sure you see it and think about it during the day. As Carnegie so astutely puts it, “Count your blessings—not your troubles!”
These techniques have made me a more effective person. Instead of sinking energy into worrying, I put my energy into action.
You can do the same. With all the daily things you need to do at your organization, you don’t have energy to spare on worry. Take these steps to lose that worry weight!
Are you worrying about your organization’s vibrancy or planning for it? Put a stop-loss on your worries— Dickerson, Bakker & Associates can help YOU today. Contact us to find out how!