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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Getting Ahead

Being Paranoid Could Make You Better at Your Job (Because it Works for Successful People)

Paranoia gets a bad rap. Whenever you’re scared that next meeting with your boss will result in you getting fired, or that one mistake could cost you a huge account, people most likely tell you to “Calm down” or say, “Don’t worry, it’s not as bad as you think.”

And you probably try to relax for a bit. But the next time, say, you get an indecipherable email from a colleague, you mentally freak out again. What if I get thrown off this project? Is my co-worker trying to one-up me? What does she mean by this?

It might sound crazy to you, or anyone else around you, but the thing is, being cautious and on-guard is actually a trait of some of the most successful people. According to a recent BBC article, high-profile people such as the Chief Product Officer of Shutterstock and Vice Chairman of NASDAQ are constantly sleeping with one eye open (metaphorically, of course) and planning ahead in case of emergency.

It makes sense—the article explains that being paranoid guarantees you’re always competitive and ahead of others in your industry. And no one makes it to the top by getting comfortable, going with the flow, and not confronting all those typical fears. So, maybe it’s OK that you don’t completely trust that co-worker with a big assignment, or that you work extra hard to ensure your boss notices.

But, it’s also an exhausting mindset to have. Yes, it’s important to do your best work, but don’t immediately assume one small mishap will lead to losing your job, or that you have to work overtime to maintain your stellar reputation, or that anyone at the office is out to get you.

Nobody’s perfect, and overthinking every little thing will eventually be more harmful to your self-confidence, productivity, and reputation than good. Like anything else, there’s a time and place for paranoia, and a time to just let it go.

Photo of nervous woman courtesy of Hero Images/Getty Images.