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Years ago, when I worked at The Franklin Mint, one of the perks was access to their sand volleyball courts. Aside from the leagues we played in competitively, a few of us also played for fun. During one of the “fun” games, the opposing team did everything they could to throw us off. It worked. They really got in our heads, which caused us to make careless mistakes. We weren’t communicating well and started losing, which in turn made us angry. As you might imagine, it spiraled downhill from there and we lost the game. We even suggested making it a three-game series, but we lost again. Being stubborn, we went to 3 out of 5 with the same result. We were not a horrible volleyball team. The other team just got in our heads and impacted our performance.  

Years later, while working for a consulting firm, my boss told me that we needed to talk without any context. I really hate that. He asked me to find him later because he was running late for a meeting. Anxious to find out what he wanted, I tried to talk to him several times throughout the day. Unfortunately, because of our respective schedules, it took a day or two for the two of us to finally speak. I wasn’t thinking the worst (getting fired), but I certainly wondered what he wanted. Did I miss something with a client? Maybe I accidentally offended someone? I was on pins and needles until our conversation. My boss got in my head and I could not block it out no matter how hard I tried. 

The anticipation of our conversation continued to grow. I tried to remind myself that there was nothing I could do until we talked, and that I was only making myself miserable imagining the worst possible scenarios. Not only that, but it was also impacting my ability to focus on what I actually needed to accomplish. Once I stopped worrying about things outside of my control and focused on what I could change, I felt better and my day improved. Later, when I finally caught up with him, I learned that he wanted to share positive feedback from a client. The client told him that I had gone the extra mile to solve their problem. I worried for nothing, wasted all that time and energy and…it was good news! ? After the conversation, I regretted the time I wasted thinking about it. 

It’s natural to think the worst. We all do it even though everything typically ends up fine. I’ve since been in similar situations, and I work hard to remind myself to focus on what I can control, let go of the “what ifs”, and to be in the moment. To be honest, I’m sometimes unsuccessful, but that is what makes me human. Other times, I am able to place my energy in the right things. The point is that at least I always try. Then, I can deal with the situation once I know what “it” actually is.   

“We’re our own worst enemy and our own best friend.”Donna Goddard 

What gets in your head? What do you do about it? 

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