The future has never felt more uncertain. How much time do you waste on excessive and unproductive worrying? I define “unproductive worry” as the downward spiral in which we take stock of the unknowns and convert them into worse case scenarios. We then fixate on those worse case scenarios and let them fuel anxiety and fear within us. One client of mine described “unproductive worry” perfectly… “When my family is sound asleep at night, I am staring at the ceiling and mentally constructing new, anxiety-provoking, catastrophes that I know I can’t control.”

But worries are not all bad if we learn how to triage them. To put my worries into proper perspective, I find it helpful to ask four questions. Asking these questions pulls me out of my fight-flight-or freeze brain and into my rational brain. I call this the “PIRI Practice” (not to be confused with piri piri, the spicy chicken recipe from Africa). PIRI is an acronym for: Probability, Impact, Resilience, and Influence.

Probability: What’s the likelihood this worrisome thing is going to happen? Using your (or your organization’s) rational brain, decide upon the percent probability – or simply categorize the likelihood as; high, medium, or low.

Impact: If this worrisome thing does happen, just how badly will it impact me or my organization? Again, using rational thinking, try to formulate a subjective assessment. Simply asking this question may also prompt you to seek information from people who know more about the potential outcomes of the scenario you are considering.

Resilience: If a negative impact occurs, what is my (or my organization’s) capacity to deal with it or bounce back? This is a question we rarely ask or assess in advance. We and our organizations are often more resilient than we know. Giving credit where credit is due can help build confidence in one’s ability to endure setbacks.

Influence: What are the actions I/we could take today (e.g.,mitigating negative impact or building resilience) to influence future outcomes? You and your team can turn worry into agency by asking this question and formulating an advance plan of action. Implementing the final “I” in PIRI, Influence, moves you from the sidelines to the director’s chair when a bad event occurs.

Using the PIRI Practice, I can quickly slash the percentage of REAL worries by 50% just by identifying “low probability” and “low impact”. I can then use rational thinking to further reduce my worries by outlining how to handle a worst case scenario if it happens. The PIRI Practice also provides me with the opportunity to create a thoughtful advance plan – one with which I might even turn lemons into lemonade!

In the face of turbulent times, we all aspire to be leaders who are less anxious, less reactive, and more deliberate about where and how we invest our energy. We want to spend less time staring at the ceiling, and more time sleeping, so we can be alert when it matters most. The PIRI Practice makes this possible.

Image Credit: Aleyna Rentz on Unsplash

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