The Tiniest Bits of Information Don’t Come with Words
It was a huge boardroom with recessed lighting and a mahogany table. Beautiful bookshelves surrounded us on three walls. We were called together on serious matter. A huge print run of books was about to be burned. The question at hand was how the unacceptable feature made it into print. I had the luck of being only an observer.
The questions that were asked were designed to fix the process, not affix blame. Because of that, the meeting moved forward in a team fashion with everyone genuinely invested in finding the process flaw. One person, the newest and least experienced in the room, finally spoke when directly asked what she thought. With her words the answer came. “I always thought that was a little off, but I couldn’t say why.”
I learned a lot from that sentence that day. She knew all along, but thought that her viewpoint was naive. She didn’t credit her worry as a valid one.
How to Know When to Act on Your Worries
What I learned from my colleague that day has proved out over the years. Every time a book had a problem, the people who were working on it, always had some “feeling” that something wasn’t right. Just the act of doing something gives us information, not all of which we can express in words.
We gather intuitive detail from every experience. Every move that we make is stored in our bodies and our brains for us to use later. Trainers call the familiarity that our muscles get with certain movements muscle memory. Our unconscious also carries experiential memory of our lives. That information is useful in thinking things through, because it’s a true reflection of what we know and who we are.
Intuitive information can add valuable depth to a decision process. The problem is knowing when we’re working with intuitive information and when we’re working with a simple personal, emotional response.
One of the best ways is to listen while we give ourselves time to think.
- Pay attention to random thoughts when you’re away from the problem or situation. Often our worries when we’re inside a situation don’t seem quite so huge when we’re away from the “maddening crowd” of tasks we have to do. The worries that pop into mind when we’re out walking the beach are the ones we should give our time to.
- Let “high investment” conversations sit for a time. When you find yourself arguing for a point that seems like the only answer, and you know that the person with whom you’re discussing the choice has the opposite view. Decide not to answer for a few hours or a day. If you’re caught up in the argument on a personal level, as time passes the matter will mean less to you. If your argument was purely business, you’ll still feel much the same.
- Sleep on a problem. Choose an idea that you’re working on. Phrase it as a simple sentence right before you close your eyes. Let your brain work on it while you sleep.
- Pay attention to what wakes you up in the middle of the night and your first thought in the morning. Those thoughts are things your brain knows you should be acting upon.
- When you are worried, find a way to act on the situation of concern. If you can do something, thoughtfully choose a an action to change things. If it’s not in your power, go to someone who is able to act and say, “I’m telling you this. It could be important or not. I feel a responsibility to share what little I see. I trust you’ll know whether to do anything.” Once your concern is stated and received, let it go. Trust in that those who can do something will do what they can. More worry will only disable you.
Worrying is not a bad thing. It alerts us to possible problems we might avert. Worrying without acting, however, can cloud our focus, drain our energy, and stifle our ability to think clearly. Channeling the worry into positive action keeps us moving forward with strength and in control.
How do you decide when to act on a worry?
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