Anxiety= Uncertainty x Powerlessness

This is the formula taken from Chip Conley’s book, Emotional Equations.

Unless you are a superhuman, we all suffer from anxiety at times. As an entrepreneur anxiety can be anything from low grade to full blown. The stress of success, making pay roll, getting the sale, knowing what the hell to do next…

Anxiety is a classic state which can have us see lions where there is only a domestic cat. Therefore a rigorous examination of the terrain is useful.

Let’s start with uncertainty.

What do you know? Look at everything, even the things you know that you discount. Especially the things you know that you discount. The obvious is often the gold.

What don’t you know? Tell yourself the truth about what you don’t know.

What assumptions are you making? Assumptions are sneaky little things…we usually don’t know we are making assumptions until we start to look at what we know and do not know for sure. Is there anyway to either turn assumptions into something you know, or something you do not know….try not to keep them in the no-man’s land of assumptions.

Now…what do you really know? And what can you find out?

What is constant, even when everything else is uncertain. The stuff that you can rely on….this is very important as it provides anchor points. And when we are gripped by anxiety we need anchor points.


…..big topic….has to do with our relinquishing our authority. We assume we are more powerless than in fact we are. The reason Nelson Mandela and others like Hurricane Carter and Viktor Frankl have left such a big mark in history is because they knew that even when everything was stripped away from them in the material world, no one could ever take away their own personal power without them granting permission. We may have a literal or figurative gun to our head, but we still get to choose who we are and how we respond. Always.

Now that we have established that…where are you powerless in the material/exterior world? Name these places exactly.

And where are you feeling powerless in your interior world, knowing that you have the choice to regain power in this space by your own decision? (And maybe with some support, which is vital.)

What can you control, and what can’t you control? We cannot control the weather, but we can control our response to the weather. Always.

Now that we have identified all of these elements, register how anxious you feel. If the feeling is still there, rather than try to ignore it, or shove it somewhere, really feel it. Feel where it is in your body. Note its colour, texture, shape. Change the colour, change the shape. Move it around to another part of your body. Play with it.

Is the anxiety yours, or have you taken on board the anxiety of others. For example, when there is a large downturn in the markets, anxiety spreads like a virus, not because it is based on future truth, but because we respond to anothers anxiety by becoming anxious. Let it go if it doesn’t belong to you. The world has enough anxiety without adding yours to the system.

Breath. Repeat. Do some hard physical exercise. Move. Go play a game. Watch a funny movie. These activities all work to shift the energy of anxiety.

Begin a practice of mindfulness and present time consciousness. Anxiety is always future based. If you stay in the present you cannot be anxious.

There is much you can do to work with the energy of anxiety. It is not a weakness, rather see it as a sign post indicating that something in your life and work needs attention.

If you cannot shift it following these processes, seek professional help.

Life is too short to suffer under the grips of long term anxiety.

Photo credit:  Luca Rossato via Compfight