From time to time, especially when you are faced with a situation unlike any you’ve encountered before, or you are initiating a new project, trying out a new idea, or taking over an unfamiliar responsibility, you realize that the tension level is rising within you. Anxiety is an essential, inescapable part of the process of bringing forth anything new and worthwhile. It can be said that employees who don’t experience tension aren’t doing much of anything. You don’t have to put up with intolerable stress. Psychologists say that the way to equilibrium lies in learning to recognize the source of the tension, knowing when the level of tolerance has been reached and then dealing with the problem at hand.
Ask yourself these questions:
What am I anxious about?
Often the source of tension gets shoved back in the mind. Routine tasks and “fires” divert your attention. You use them to keep your mind off the problem that will require both discipline and a fresh approach if it is going to be solved. The continuing anxiety acts as a spur, goading you to pinpoint what is really bothering you and to focus on it. If you try to ignore it indefinitely, the tension will just get worse.
What do I need to get started?
What tools do you need? Data, the cooperation of others, the skills they can bring to the job? Sometimes what you need is help to get started—amassing information, generating ideas. Others can frequently take over these initial tasks, which makes the problem-solving job that you have to tackle seem less formidable and threatening.
You may also need a schedule and a plan. How long will it take? How will you do it? What resources are required? But be careful that you do not substitute a plan and a timetable for the real thing. Sometimes employees tend to believe that once they have plotted the thing out, the task is over. In fact, you’ve just begun. But what you will discover is that once you have a workable plan and schedule, and have taken the first step or two toward resolving whatever is causing you tension, much of it will dissolve.
What will happen if I do nothing?
If you ask this question, it may be because you’ve delayed facing the problem for too long. The idea of escape bothers you. You realize that you can’t turn your back. So you are going to have to take action to keep your self-respect. In most cases, resolving to confront the problem is the first step in relieving the anxiety it causes. And going on to take action— even if it turns out not to be exactly the right action—is usually a better approach than just doing nothing.