|Whether you call it “worry” or “concern” or “careful”, we all have a point when we start to think about something not happening when we expect it to, or happening when we expect it not to. The root of this concern is the “worry gene”. It’s that little piece of us that gets activated when we start to suspect that a result might not occur in the time or the way we expect. This can be triggered by an actual result or lack thereof, or a trend that isn’t vectoring to completion in the time it needs to. So we start to “worry”.
One way to appease the worry gene is to ask questions about status and progress. If all is well and moving in the direction and speed you expect, then you’re good. If it’s a project, you could have milestones to review so you don’t have to ask, you just measure progress against those milestones. If all is well, then no worries.
The interesting thing is that we all have different thresholds for our worry gene. Some will start worrying if they don’t have an answer after just a few minutes, while others can wait for a long time before they know the status. An important metric to help cope with the worry gene is to understand your “wait threshold”, i.e. how long is it between status updates before your worry gene kicks in. Knowing and communicating this is extremely important to ensure not only your worry gene is being satisfied, but that it doesn’t make everyone else crazy. If you need to see progress every day, then let people know that you would like to get a quick daily status. If it’s every three days, then let people know so they don’t have to report daily. Knowing your worry gene threshold in a particular situation allows you to think about other things, rather than fester on something you don’t’ need to be worried about.
But sometimes you can’t always get the answer that satisfies the worry gene. You can’t get all the information in order to be completely satisfied that things are going well. That’s when it might be time to use a little Matamonoa thinking.
First a little background; 25 years ago, my wife and I visited Matamanoa, a very small island west of mainland Fiji. At that time, transportation to the island was scare, so we had to take a sea plane from a very small dock near the airport to another island, and then a small boat to Matamanoa. Unfortunately, the sea plane pilot said that he couldn’t take both of us and all of our luggage, so he would take us and come back for the luggage later. Yikes! So we re-packed a little bag with our valuables and a day’s worth of clothing and off we went, leaving our poor luggage on this isolated dock, not knowing if we would ever see it again.
We arrived at the very tiny island resort and I explained that our luggage was sitting on some dock, near the airport, back on mainland Fiji. They said, “no worries”, which of course didn’t sit well with me, as the worry gene is big in my family, and “no worries” was really not a sufficient explanation as to how the dock people, the sea plane people, the boat people and the island people are going to know that this luggage was mine. Except for the island people, nobody even knew our name, and I didn’t see any conversations about my luggage between all the parties.
We ate lunch, hung out at the pool, explored the island, and all the while I’m thinking (worrying) about spending the rest of our vacation without our luggage.
We get back to our little cottage a few hours later, and low and behold our luggage is sitting in our room. It was a life lesson I’ve never forgotten. The folks who arranged the trip, flew the plane, drove the boat, ran the little resort … this is what they did for a living. They knew what they were doing. They had a plan. It was just me who didn’t know what they were doing.
The morale of this little story is that sometimes you can’t know the details, so rather than worry about them, ask yourself if this could be a Matamanoa moment. Just because you don’t have a clue, doesn’t mean that there’s a problem. So instead of looking at the details, look at the bigger picture. Do people who should know, know? Do they have the information they need? Have they done this before? Do you think that if they had the right information and with their experience, they should be able to figure it out?
Lastly … if all else fails, have a backup plan. So if your worries come true, you have a plan B that will help you obtain the result.
The Takeaway; Worry and Concern while legitimate, can consume and waste time. Feed your worry gene by asking questions, looking at progress, setting milestones and expectations, and determining if things are really being accomplished behind the scenes (a Matamanoa moment), but you just don’t know about it. Lastly, have a backup plan so if all goes south, a recovery is possible. Now you don’t have to worry, just get busy getting things done.