Ever spent any amount of time obsessing over a problem that’s not really even a problem? I’m guilty of this on a personal level (just ask my spouse), and there once was a time when I struggled with making mountains out of molehills at work too.
But the thing to know? More often than not, unless you’re really, truly slacking off and regularly under-delivering at your job, your so-called problems are most likely in your head. Best-selling author, Seth Godin, in fact, calls them make-believe. He explains that by elevating these and moving them to the top of our priority list, we avoid the things we should be paying close attention to.
We turn little things into major ones, causing us to react in a senseless way to situations that are not dire.
While the list of it’s-not-the-end-of-the-world issues is probably infinite, see if you identify with any of the ones below, and if you do, make a plan to stop your negative, overblown thinking so you can focus on the stuff that really matters.
1. You’re Worried About Not Speaking Up in a Meeting
Ever left a meeting annoyed with yourself for not contributing? You literally sat in silence while your teammates interjected with this or offered that. Post-meeting, you can’t help but replay the situation over again and again and again. Why on earth didn’t you say anything? Now you just look like an incompetent idiot.
Sure, you could go on feeling totally lame for staying quiet, or you could do something now. How can you focus on the big picture and take action that shows you were present and not zoning out? Because that’s what really matters here—not how many words you got in compared to everyone else.
If you have a big idea to add, just shoot out a follow-up email. Or, if your idea doesn’t seem email-worthy, make a note to better prepare for your next meeting so you find it easier to weigh in quickly.
You’re Only Allowed to Stress Out If….
You’re rarely contributing to discussions—both in person and over email. While speaking up can feel scary for some of us, it’s important to do if you want to get your voice heard and earn a reputation for being thoughtful, innovative, creative, and a whole host of other positive adjectives.
2. You’re Worried That You Eat Lunch Alone Every Day
At your desk. Every day. It’s your time to unwind and catch up with your personal email, or it’s a few minutes of social media browsing you allow yourself. And yet, as much as you enjoy your routine, you can’t help feeling like people are talking about you. Or not even realizing you exist.
You’re Only Allowed to Stress Out If…
You haven’t made any friends at work! Although you don’t have to be BFFs with your co-workers, it helps to be friendly and open to conversation. Eat at your desk alone if that’s your preference, but don’t avoid getting to know a few of your teammates in other ways.
3. You’re Worried That You Always Leave Work Before Your Boss
Most days you head out after you’ve whittled your to-do list down in a satisfactory way. Your brain doesn’t function too well past 5 PM, so you often find yourself shutting down your computer and packing up your thing before your boss does. You stress a little about it each time, but, frankly, after an hour or more of trying to run out the clock, your eyes begin to glaze over and you feel like the only answer is to get out of there before you go nuts.
You’re Only Allowed to Stress Out If…
You’re leaving early because you’re bored or you’ve been told you’re not working hard enough. If this is the case, then your guilty exit is cause for concern. In the long run, your stagnant position or your reluctance to work diligently is going to creep up on you, and you’re going to wish you’d talked to your boss about getting more assignments or read up on how to be more productive.
I’m not going to pretend otherwise: There’s always going to be an opportunity to make something out of nothing. So, the next time you’re tempted to moan and groan over that little thing, take a moment and ask yourself if you’re stressing out over nothing.
Photo of woman courtesy of Compassionate Eye Foundation/Hiep Vu/Getty Images.
Stacey Lastoe is the Senior Editor/Writer of The Muse. She started writing short stories in the second grade and is immensely grateful to have the opportunity to write and edit professionally. Her work has appeared in YouBeauty, Refinery29, A Practical Wedding, Runner's World online, and The Billfold among other publications. She enjoys running and eating in equal measure and lives with her husband and dog in Brooklyn. All three of them are avid New York Mets fans. Say hello on @stacespeaks.More from this Author