Stress

Manager peering intently into microscope used as an analogy for micromanagement

How to Manage Being Micromanaged

June 24, 2022

My team and I were invited to a strategic business partner’s corporate headquarters to think about what’s possible and innovate. I viewed the trip as an excellent opportunity to retreat, bond as a team, and shape our future.  

I approached my manager, Kevin, about the opportunity. He hesitated and then said, “Most trips like these are boondoggles. Do you think you’re going to accomplish anything?”

“Yes, I do. I’m confident that we’ll come back with fresh ideas and take our business to the next level,” I replied.

Kevin said, “I have my doubts. I’ll tell you what, put together a plan with specific objectives, and I’ll take a look. If I agree with your proposal, I’ll okay the trip.”

“Great, and thanks. I’ll come back to you shortly,” I said.

Over the next few days, I collaborated with my team and business partner to develop a specific plan and desired outcome. Then, I shared it with Kevin. A chronic micromanager, he asked us to make multiple changes to the plan. Once the topics were aligned with Kevin’s feedback, he begrudgingly agreed to let us go. 

My team jumped into action and made the necessary coverage arrangements to ensure we could break away with limited distractions. We activated our email out-of-office messages notifying internal customers that we were out for a short time, and provided backup contact information.

The next day, we loaded the van and headed to our destination. My team was beaming with excitement and anticipation. They’d been on trips like this before and understood our retreat’s potential. As we drove, we connected on both personal and professional levels. We talked optimistically about how we could advance our vision of being industry leaders and indispensable partners.

When we arrived, we were escorted into our business partner’s innovation lab, where all of the futuristic designs inspired us. Next, we moved into a creative thinking lab to begin formulating ideas and developing plans. 

Then, the first email hit… And another… And another. A series of 10 or more emails from Kevin appeared on our iPhones within 30 minutes. He was following up on projects, providing feedback, and checking in… Just to let us know, he was there.

His last email’s subject line read, “TURN OFF YOUR OUT-OF-OFFICE MESSAGE.”

In the body of the email, Kevin wrote that having our out-of-office message turned on sent the wrong message to leadership and internal customers. It was our job to be accessible regardless of what we were doing or who was covering for us.

I thought to myself, “Ugh. Really? If that isn’t micromanagement, I don’t know what is!”

I looked around the room and saw discouragement, frustration, and anger on my team’s faces. Some became distracted and anxious. Everyone began to mentally disengage from the creative thinking discussion.

During a break, I gathered my team to ask their thoughts about the emails. They told me they went to great lengths to ensure our time away would be productive and distraction-free. Kevin’s micromanagement tendencies surfaced, and the team felt disenfranchised. They wondered if it was a mistake to take the trip.

I understood their concerns. I asked the team to return to the meeting and told them I’d gently respond to Kevin’s emails. I asked them not to make a mountain out of a molehill and turn off the out-of-office messages. Lastly, I asked them to stay focused on the purpose of our meeting and ignore distractions.

The good news is that the team returned to the meeting and developed a visionary plan. Also, I ran interference by answering Kevin’s emails and asking the team to turn off the out-of-office messages. By engaging Kevin on behalf of the team, I was able to assuage his need to feel in control. We didn’t hear from him again during our trip.

Working Successfully with a Boss who Micro-Manages

Controlling bosses can slow you down and undermine your confidence. Maybe your supervisor second-guesses your decisions and expects you to be available 24/7.

Overbearing management styles are all too common and counterproductive. Most employees say they’ve been micro-managed at some point in their career, and studies show that workers perform worse when they feel like they’re being watched. 

If your boss is hovering over your shoulder, encourage them to give you more space. Try these steps to gain more freedom and still get along with your boss.

Steps to Take by Yourself

  1. Evaluate your performance. Start by investigating whether you could be contributing to the situation. Do you show up on time and follow through on your responsibilities? Close supervision could be a rational response when an employee tends to be less than reliable. 
  2. Be proactive. Once you’ve assured yourself that you’re on top of your work, you can focus on how to cope with your boss’s management style. Identify their anxiety triggers and figure out your plan of action in advance.
  3. Coordinate with colleagues. Chances are, your co-workers experience the same issues you do. Coordinate your efforts to show your boss that they can trust you to pull together to overcome challenges even while they’re traveling or focusing on strategy.
  4. Document your activities. Logging your accomplishments creates a paper trail. Having facts straight helps you prove your worth and maintain your peace of mind.
  5. Seek intervention. When appropriate, you may be able to consult others without alienating your boss. If senior management asks for feedback, let them know your supervisor’s good qualities in addition to changes that could help you do a better job. Your HR department or employee assistance program may also offer relevant advice.

Steps to Take with Your Boss

  1. Provide updates. Frequent status reports keep your boss informed without their having to ask. Assure them that things are running smoothly.
  2. Create more opportunities. Is your boss interfering with your work because they don’t have a full plate of their own? Add value by presenting them with public speaking opportunities and sales leads. Helping your boss shine is a smart way to advance your career.
  3. Clarify your role. Listen closely to your boss and observe their behavior. That way, you can understand their preferences and anticipate their needs. Maybe they like booking their travel arrangements. Perhaps they care more about employees following instructions than taking the initiative.
  4. Ask for feedback. Find out what your boss is thinking. Ask questions about what results they’re looking for and how you’re measuring up. Pinpoint strengths you can build on and changes that they would like to see.
  5. Communicate tactfully. Speak about finding solutions rather than criticizing their personality or work habits. If there are conflicts that you want to confront, be direct and gentle.
  6. Give praise for progress. Congratulations if you’re making headway. Reinforce positive interactions by letting your boss know how much you appreciate their efforts when you’re allowed to take charge of a project or take your approach. Tell them that you enjoy working with them and that they’re helping you contribute more.
  7. Create a personal connection. Respect and compassion enhance any working relationship. Remind yourself of what you like about your boss. Make time for small talk and sharing common interests. A strong foundation will make any disagreement easier to handle.

If you’re working to live out your faith in the workplace, here are some other principles I recommend:

  1. Remember Who You’re Working For. If you keep your eyes on God and embrace that you’re ultimately working for him, you’ll maintain a positive attitude regardless of the circumstance. The Bible says, “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” (Colossians 3:23, NLT) 
  2. Submission Is Key. It’s easy to work for a great boss. The hard part is working for and submitting to a bad one… But when you do, God is pleased. The Bible says, “You who are servants, be good servants to your masters—not just to good masters, but also to bad ones. What counts is that you put up with it for God’s sake when you’re maltreated for no good reason. There’s no virtue in accepting punishment that you well deserve. But if you’re maltreated for good behavior and continue despite it to be a good servant, that is what counts with God.” (1 Peter 2:18–20, The Message)
  3. Bite Your Tongue. I disciplined myself to communicate positively and not show irritation if I became frustrated. The Bible says, “A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.” (Proverbs 15:1, NLT)

Despite desperate circumstances, I grew leaps and bounds during the three years I worked with Kevin. I learned to cope with his management style in the short term. Eventually, I realized that Kevin’s style and mine weren’t compatible, the intense micro-management I experienced wasn’t sustainable, and I decided to move into another role. 

I challenge you to apply the above principles; if you do, you’ll be able to manage being micromanaged.

Want to learn more about becoming the best version of yourself? Visit my website, prestonpoore.com, today!

Cheers,

Preston

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The Wolf of Chocolate Avenue

March 17, 2022

Panicked by the rapid footsteps closing in behind me, I began sprinting as fast as I could. My heart was racing, my chest became tight, and I struggled to breathe. A pack of wolves was chasing me. The alpha male-targeted me for some reason, and I was the pack’s prey. Maybe they sensed weakness or vulnerability. The wolf pack chased me for an extended time, and I could feel they were about to catch me. 

I dripped with sweat, fearful of what was about to happen. Exhausted from the chase, I slowed and was attacked by the pack. Amazingly, I found the strength to fight back and somehow escape. I was severely injured. It would take a long time to heal and overcome my fears. I couldn’t shake my experience with the alpha male and his pack. I was always fearful that another pack of wolves was waiting for me wherever I went. I wanted to ensure no one saw any weaknesses or vulnerabilities out of self-protection. I didn’t want to become a target again, someone’s prey.

During my last year at Hershey Chocolate, I was targeted by Mal Boss and his pack of wolves. Mal was the Sales VP and was an intimidating figure. He had wolf-like features. One blue eye and another green. Grey hair and a skin color to match. His ears were always on alert, sensing opportunities to pounce on someone. He’d earned the reputation as a dictator. It was his way or the highway. If you didn’t conform to his methods, he’d devour you… Your career at Hershey would be over.

At first, Mal Boss liked me. I came out of the Sales Development program, a two-year Hershey boot camp for high potentials, and was assigned as the Hershey market key account manager. I excelled in the Sales Development role, and Mal appreciated my get it done aggressive nature.

But I was over-confident and made some political mistakes early on. For example, I was assigned to call on Giant Foods Headquarters in Carlisle, PA, just outside Hershey. Because of the headquarters proximity to the town of Hershey, several Hershey Chocolate executives, including Mal Boss, were involved in the account. Giant Food’s management told me they wanted me to be the only call point; “too many chiefs in the teepee,” they said. I told Mal, and he didn’t like it. But he agreed to withdraw from the account and see what would happen.

I felt empowered to make decisions with Giant Foods management. We implemented vital product selection and promotion changes to improve the business collaboratively with the buyer. 

But Mal disagreed with the decisions. And, he held a grudge against me for his withdrawing from Giant’s business. 

That’s when the chase began.

Mal Boss started scrutinizing every plan I developed and the decisions I made. During meetings, he’d publicly challenge me and demean me in front of my peers. I stopped being invited to crucial Hershey meetings. He pulled all administrative support. And Mal personally reviewed all of my expense reports looking for something wrong.

Then, his pack began to surround me. 

Hershey, PA, is a small town. When my family lived there, the population was 12,000 people, and 5,000 of them worked for Hershey. I was literally under a microscope because of my key account role. Every new product launch or promotion execution was there for everyone to see – the good and the bad. If something were wrong, I’d get the call to fix it. The scrutiny became more intense as Mal Boss encouraged his pack to contact me if something was amiss. And, they did.

I worked even harder, hoping that my performance and results would speak for themselves. But it got to the point where it seemed I couldn’t do anything right. My negative self-talk was deafening, and the stress was overwhelming. I remember I got a twitch in my right eye that wouldn’t stop. I couldn’t sleep and was continuously anxious. I was scared of losing my job, frightened of failure, afraid of letting my young family down, petrified of being stuck in Central PA, and worried I’d be unemployable. I began believing I was a failure, a loser. Mal Boss and my circumstances were crushing me. I was in a doom loop and felt hopeless.

Then, I prayed.

I told God about my circumstances, which he already knew. I pursued him, his protection, and his refuge. I asked God for courage and that he’d help me find a way out, a way to elude the wolves. And, I gradually began replacing the negative self-talk with positive inner conversations.

God strengthened me as I trusted him. He restored my hope. I found the confidence to pull things together and put an exit plan in place. I began working with an executive recruiter and eventually landed my dream job with The Coca-Cola Company. Our family moved back to the Southeast, and my salary increased by 30%! God was good.

Through the interview process, I realized that my experience at Hershey prepared me to secure my new role. But I was still injured from Mal Boss and the wolf pack attacks. For years, I didn’t trust upper management. I was fearful that all managers were like Mal Boss. Out of self-preservation, I wouldn’t say much in front of them. And when I did, I’d stutter and stammer through my comments, just waiting to be challenged or embarrassed. Also, I ran out of fear that something would go wrong and I’d be fired. 

It took a long time to heal these wounds and overcome my fears. It wasn’t easy. God continued working in me and changing me from the inside out. Eventually, I realized that everyone I encountered wasn’t out to get me. It was okay to make mistakes. And that there are some great people leaders out there! 

For the believer, what is the key to overcoming fear?

Overcome Fear with Faith

Fear is a powerful human emotion that impacts everyone, including leaders. Fear is triggered when you anticipate physical harm or a perceived threat. Fear elicits physical responses like sweating, rapid heartbeat, and weakness. Apprehension creates doubts, insecurity, and low self-esteem. Fright also evokes apathy, inaction, and ignorance. Chronic fear can impact your overall well-being. Fear can cripple and render you ineffective. 

Studies show that top fears include failure, success, dying, commitment, public speaking, rejection, making the wrong decision, criticism, taking responsibility, and the unknown. (Aside from dying, which of those don’t leaders face daily?) Other fears include being found out or exposed, not living up to expectations, making people mad, conflict, being honest, and fearing what others think. That’s a pretty exhaustive list.

I learned a long time ago that fear stands for False Evidence Appearing Real, meaning that one’s perceptions drive negative emotions and thinking. For example, everyone engages in a daily conversation with themselves. Studies show that we have “12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day, and as many as 98 percent of them are exactly the same as we had the day before.” [i] This self-talk is often unconstructive and damaging. As a matter of fact, eight out of ten thoughts we have each day are negative.[ii] Do the math. That’s up to 48,000 negative thoughts daily. Don’t believe me? Think about the lies you tell yourself every day. Have you ever found yourself thinking: 

I am unworthy. 

I can’t lead. 

I am a failure. 

I’m not good enough. 

No one loves me or cares for me. 

I don’t belong anywhere. 

I have no purpose. 

I’m weak. 

This will never work. 

I must be perfect. 

It’s too late to pursue my dream. 

The battle against fear begins in your mind. With all of the negative thoughts, where do you turn? How do you overcome fear?

Christian leaders overcome fear through faith. They understand that fear or faith will rule their hearts and minds depending on which one they feed the most. If you feed your fears, they will dominate. If you feed your faith, fear will diminish. Activate your faith and seek God in times of despair, doubt, panic, or terror. Here are a few ways how:

Pursue God. Pray, worship, and read his word. Lean into and earnestly seek him. The Bible says, “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4 ESV). If you pursue God amid fear, he’ll encourage, strengthen, and deliver you.

Take refuge in God. God will provide protection and safety in times of distress. The Bible says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1 ESV). Look to him, and he’ll shelter you.

Stop the negative self-talk. Make the intentional shift toward more Christ-centered and positive thoughts every day. “Take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5 ESV). What if your self-talk sounded more like?

Because of Christ, I am worthy.

I can lead.

I am successful.

I’m good enough.

I’m loved and cared for.

I do belong.

I have a purpose.

I’m strong.

This will work.

I can make mistakes.

It’s never too late to pursue my dream. 

Fear is infectious, and followers won’t support or commit to you if they sense fear within you. On the other hand, courage is just as contagious, and people will follow if they see courage within you.

Are you struggling with fear? I learned to pursue God, take refuge in him, and stop the negative self-talk. Learn from my experience and practice the above principles. You will overcome your fears and become a courageous leader if you do! 

Want to learn more about how to become a courageous leader? Visit my website, prestonpoore.com, today!

Cheers,

Preston


[i]http://www.jenniferhawthorne.com/articles/change_your_thoughts.html

[ii]Ibid.

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How to Cope with Loneliness and Social Isolation in Today’s World

December 14, 2020

Loneliness and social isolation are becoming a behavioral epidemic, resulting in increased depression, anxiety, and suicide rates. I’ve experienced loneliness at times and know how brutal it can be. I’ve also witnessed first-hand how emotionally and mentally destructive it can be to my family, friends, and peers. We need connection, we need community, we need each other.

Today, it’s challenging to have a great social life. This was true even before Covid-19 became an issue.

In the not-so-distant past, it used to be so boring to stay at home during the evenings and the weekends that people always looked for an excuse to get out of the house. But now, between streaming services, the internet, smartphones, and video games, it’s much easier to find an excuse to stay home.

Covid-19 has only made the situation even more challenging. Now, there is a legitimate reason to avoid others.

While a few select people seem to thrive with minimal human contact, most people need to spend time with others to stay emotionally healthy and happy.

Luckily, there are still things you can do to help maintain your emotional health, even when your time with others is reduced. The key is to be intentional.

Learn how to ease the discomfort of loneliness and social isolation with these tips:

  1. Be productive. Just because you might be spending a lot of time alone doesn’t mean you just have to sit there and be miserable. Everyone feels better when they’re being productive. Some productive activities include:
    • Paint the living room.
    • Volunteer to help others.
    • Take a class online.
    • Rearrange the pantry.
    • Take the car in to have the tires rotated.
    • Take the dog for a walk.
    • Read a book.
    • And many more
  1. Safely connect with others. Use your imagination and find a way to connect with people while making your health a priority.
    • Use Skype, Zoom, Facetime, and other options for talking “face-to-face.”
    • Chat online via forums.
    • Sit outside by a fire in the fresh air and have a conversation with a friend.
    • Go to church or attend a sporting event.
    • Join a class and learn something new with others.
    • Play golf or tennis.
    • Volunteer at a local charity. Recently, my wife and I volunteered at a food pantry to take the focus off of ourselves and place it on others.
  1. View beautiful things. What makes something attractive? It makes you feel a certain way when you look at it. With your smartphone or computer, you can view just about anything in the world. Spend some time looking at beautiful things each day, and you’ll feel great.
    • Look at old photographs.
    • Go to a museum.
    • Find the most perfect tree in the park and really look at it. 
  1. Take up a solo hobby. There are plenty of hobbies you can do by yourself. Paint, play chess online, hike, knit, write, ride a bike, or train your dog. A hobby is something you choose to do because it brings you pleasure.
  1. Get a pet. If you don’t have a pet, consider getting one. You can have a more meaningful relationship with the right pet than you can have with 99% of the people in the world. What type of animal interests you? My dog, Bonnie, is a great companion at times when no one else is around.
  1. Maintain a high level of self-care. Loneliness and social isolation often lead to poor self-care. It’s important to continue taking good care of yourself even if you’re spending a lot of time alone. For example, a shower isn’t something that you do just for others. It’s also something that you do for yourself.
  1. Be creative. Most people find they are more creative when they have time to themselves. Now is an ideal time to take advantage of your solitude. Heck, I even wrote a book during the pandemic. Let your creative juices flow!
    • What ideas do you have?
    • What do you want to create?
    • What do you want to experiment with? 

Having a lot of free time alone doesn’t have to be a bad thing. There is a lot you can do to ease the discomfort of loneliness and social isolation. Technology makes it relatively easy to connect with others, even if physical proximity is impossible. Feeling productive can also ease the pain of being alone.

Instead of focusing on this great challenge, try to take advantage of its unique possibilities. You can learn more about yourself and try out a few hobbies. You’re free to explore your interests without interference from others.

Just think – by developing other interests, when the time comes when you can reconnect socially, you’ll have a variety of new things to talk about.

If you are a Christian, I encourage you to trust God’s promise, “Fear not, I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 40:10 ESV) God said that he will never leave you or forsake you. When I was at rock bottom in some of my darkest moments, I trusted God, sensed his presence, and knew that he was with me. I hope you will trust God’s promise.

Lastly, if you are struggling with depression, anxiety, or experiencing suicidal thoughts, talk to someone NOW! You’ve got to tell somebody. You’re not alone. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to get help (available 24 hours): 1-800-273-8255. Website: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org

All my best,

Preston

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6 Mental Errors That Lead to Wrong Decisions

September 25, 2020

We can often trace the most significant challenges in our life to just a couple of wrong decisions. Effective decisions require clear thinking and accurate perceptions of the situation and how the world works. It’s easy to allow mental errors to lead to making the wrong choice.

It’s not always easy to make a wise decision, but there are things we can do to increase our odds.

Consider these mental errors that can degrade your ability to make a wise decision:

  1. Failing to consider the long-term implications. Short-term thinking can lead to long-term challenges. Many of us focus more on the short-term than the long-term when making decisions. We choose the yummiest food to eat or the most enjoyable way to spend the next hour.
    • In most cases, we are better served by considering the long-term implications of our decisions.
  2. Survivorship bias. We often look at the most successful people as a template for success. We assume their way is the best. However, this fails to consider all the people that follow the same strategy but fail. 
    • For example, many successful people failed to graduate from high school, but it would be wrong to assume that education isn’t helpful to success.
    • Many people have put in the same time and effort as LeBron James or Michael Jordan but failed to become professional basketball players. Perhaps there are other reasons for their success that you haven’t considered. A different approach might work better for you.
    • Some of the most successful people in our society have been successful despite their process.  It’s not always easy to identify when this occurs. 
  3. Overemphasizing loss versus gain. Humans are naturally more sensitive to losing something they already have than motivated to gain the same item. For example, most of us are more bothered by the prospect of losing $100 than we are motivated to earn $100.
    • This frequently happens in new businesses. A brand-new business is highly motivated to grow. However, once it reaches a specific size, the owner begins to worry more about protecting what the business has gained than developing further.
  4. Confirmation bias. We have a natural tendency to interpret facts and situations in a way that supports our current beliefs. For example, highly religious people tend to interpret all good fortune as proof of the presence of God.
    • Those that believe that hard work is all that matters will ignore any other factors that contribute to success. They will also ignore the concepts of luck, talent, and mentorship.
    • How are your current beliefs tainting your interpretation of your life and your environment?
  5. Fatigue, stress, and other forms of discomfort. You’ve probably made more than your fair share of ineffective decisions while being tired, overstressed, or physically or psychologically uncomfortable. Discomfort of any kind can negatively affect the decision-making process.
  6. Personalization. Sometimes, we take things too personally. We might believe that we didn’t get a promotion because the boss didn’t like us. But sometimes people make decisions that have nothing to do with us.
    • Everyone has things going on in their life that we don’t know about. It’s a mistake to assume that everything is about you.

Fewer unwise decisions result in greater success and happiness. We create many of the challenges we face in life by making wrong decisions. Try to remove as many bad decisions from your future by understanding what leads to faulty decision-making. Make significant decisions and enjoy a great future!

Advice to Young Professional: Learning to make sound decisions is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make.

Do you want to quickly advance in your career? Make better decisions.

Learn how from my real-life experience and practical tools in the daily devotional21 Days to Sound Decision Making – How to Grow Your Credibility and Influence Through Making Better Decisions

It may be one of the most important decisions you ever make.

Thanks and take care,

Preston Poore

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The Enemy of Anxiety

March 26, 2020

You’re probably reading this because you’re experiencing some level of anxiety and are looking for a solution. Before you read on, take a quick self-assessment and determine your level of anxiety…

Anxiety Self-Assessment Scale 

Instructions: This scale is designed for your personal use. There are no right or wrong answers. Usually, your first response is the best. For each item, decide if it: 

  • NEVER applies to you (mark 0) 
  • SOMETIMES applies to you (mark 1) 
  • HALF THE TIME applies to you (mark 2) 
  • FREQUENTLY applies to you (mark 3) 
  • ALWAYS applies to you (mark 4)

Make sure you base your answers on how you actually behave in your daily life, not on how you would like to be.  

  • I feel tense, nervous, restless, or agitated.
  • I feel afraid for no apparent reason.
  • I worry about bad things that might happen to me or those I care about.
  • I have difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up early.
  • I have difficulty overeating, too little, or digesting my food.
  • I wish I knew a way to make myself more relaxed.
  • I have difficulty with my concentration, memory, or thinking.
  • I would say I am anxious much of the time.
  • From time to time, I have experienced a racing heartbeat, cold hands or feet, dry mouth, sweating, tight muscles, difficulty breathing, numbness, frequent urination, or hot/cold flashes.
  • I wish I could be as relaxed with myself as others seem to be.

SCORING: Add all scores together . . . TOTAL SCORE ___________

  • MINIMAL ANXIETY – 0 to 8 point
  • MILD ANXIETY – 9 to 16 points
  • MODERATE ANXIETY – 17 to 24 points
  • HIGH ANXIETY (Warning Level) – 25 to 32 points
  • EXTREME ANXIETY (Warning Level) – 33 to 40 points 

Source: http://www.sadag.org/images/pdf/anxiety%20self.pdf

How did you rate yourself? Does your anxiety level concern you? How would you like to score yourself in the future? What’s the gap between where you are and where you want to be? Do you want to experience authentic and genuine peace? If so, I encourage you to read on . . .

First, let’s talk about the definition of anxiety and its destructive impact. Anxiety is an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physiological signs (such as sweating, tension, and increased pulse), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it.” [i] Anxiety is a behavioral response to worry. Worry is “to subject to persistent or nagging attention or effort.” [ii] Furthermore, worry “implies an incessant goading or attacking that drives one to desperation.” [iii] When you worry about uncertainties, you become anxious and stressed.  

The anxiety problem is epidemic, and it exhausts mental, physical, and spiritual energy; the health cost can be high. Here are the facts according to the anxietycentre.com website: 

  • Forty million people in the U.S. will experience impairment because of an anxiety condition this year.
  • Only 4 million will receive treatment, and of those, only 400,000 will receive proper treatment.
  • Those who experience anxiety and stress have a high propensity for drug abuse and addiction.
  • 65% of North Americans take prescription medications daily, 43% take mood-altering prescriptions regularly.
  • Paxil and Zoloft (two of the more popular anti-anxiety medications) ranked 7th and 8th in the top ten prescribed medications in the U.S.
  • Recreational drugs are also used to cope with anxiety. 42% of young adults in America regularly use recreational drugs (National Institute on Drug Abuse).
  • Alcohol is commonly used to cope with anxiety. 
  • 25 – 40% of all patients in U.S. hospitals are being treated for complications resulting from alcohol-related problems (The Marin Institute).
  • Alcohol-related car crashes are the number one killer of teens. Alcohol use is also associated with homicides, suicides, and drownings—the next three leading causes of death among youth (Center for Substance Abuse Prevention).

The website goes on to outline anxiety symptoms, including:

  • Often feel out of control of their health and life
  • Experience higher levels of overall stress
  • Often struggle with low self-esteem
  • Feel nervous in many social situations
  • Have difficulty managing pressure
  • Have higher expectations of themselves and others
  • Feel returned love is performance-based
  • Often have unhealthy boundaries
  • Are often workaholics
  • Are more often sick
  • Often have unhealthy relationships
  • Visit the doctor more often
  • Tax the medical system (with frequent trips to their doctor or emergency rooms)
  • Are more likely to take medications
  • They are more likely to have other health problems
  • Are overall more unhappy
  • Experience erratic emotional behaviors
  • Often quick to get angry
  • Regularly feel unsettled
  • Regularly feel overwhelmed
  • Feel disconnected or detached from reality and life
  • Often feel they are just on the edge of losing control
  • Usually aren’t reliable (because their symptoms may prevent them from following through)
  • Become inward-focused and dwell on their health condition and personal problems
  • May jump from relationship to relationship in search of perfection
  • May jump from job to job because of higher levels of stress
  • Live a restricted lifestyle (within their self-imposed “safe zones”)
  • Feel life is passing them by
  • Question their faith and God’s presence in their lives
  • Feel at a distance from God

Do you experience any of the above symptoms? I’m all too familiar with many of them. The challenge is that people are looking to medicate themselves, become numb, and escape the anxiety in their lives. They want peace, rest, and ease. But the great enemy of peace is anxiety[iv]. Apprehension has a significant impact on our lives and our relationship with God. For the general population, anxiety is a complex issue. For the Believer, it is a more straightforward issue and can be handled through trusting in God. People of Faith shouldn’t be filled with anxiety. Instead, they need to bring their problems and needs to the Lord with the confidence that He cares for them and His care is sufficient.[v] The Bible says:

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.[vi] (Philippians 4:6-7-The Message). 

Peace is the enemy of anxiety. God-given peace is the inner tranquility and confidence that He is in control. This does not mean the absence of trials on the outside, but it does mean quiet confidence within, regardless of circumstances, people, or things.[vii] This peace will safeguard your heart and mind through Christ Jesus; it will keep you from sinning under your troubles and from sinking under them; keep you calm and relaxed under pressure.

In Dale Carnegie’s book, “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living,” he provided very practical advice on how to handle worry:

  1. Pray
  2. Ask yourself, “What is the worst that can possibly happen?”
  3. Prepare to accept it if you have to
  4. Then calmly proceed to improve upon the worst

I firmly believe that anxiety, worry, and stress can be overcome by trusting God, turning everything over to Him in prayer, replacing worry with worship, and acting as Dale Carnegie suggests. God’s peace will fill you and enable you to handle any circumstance through these things.

If you are struggling with anxiety right now, pray this prayer with me: Lord, I need you. Please protect me physically, emotionally, and spiritually with your righteous right hand. Calm the waters of my heart even as the vast ocean around me rages. Amid the chaos and panic, please give me a sense of divine inner peace, help me trust you in all things, and know that you are in control. In Jesus’ great and mighty name, I pray, Amen!

My friend, may the Lord bless you, keep you and give you peace. 

Do you want to discover more about overcoming anxiety and becoming a leader others will gladly follow? Visit my website, prestonpoore.com, today!

Cheers,

Preston


[i] Mish, F. C. (2003). Preface. Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary. (Eleventh ed.). Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc.

[ii] Mish, F. C. (2003). Preface. Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary. (Eleventh ed.). Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc.

[iii] Mish, F. C. (2003). Preface. Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary. (Eleventh ed.). Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc.

[iv] Utley, R. J. (1997). Paul Bound, the Gospel Unbound: Letters from Prison (Colossians, Ephesians, and Philemon, then later, Philippians) (Vol. Volume 8). Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International. 

[v] Ellsworth, R. (2004). Opening up Philippians (p. 84). Leominster: Day One Publications.

[vi] Peterson, E. H. (2005). The Message: the Bible in contemporary language (Php 4:6–7). Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.

[vii] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 95). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

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Avoiding Despair: Six Sure-Fire Ways to Remain Hopeful

March 2, 2018

The phone rang. I stared at it with anxious anticipation. The call I’d been waiting for would reveal my future with the company. I’d been through several evaluations and interviews to keep my current job. As my heart began racing and sweat beads formed on my brow, I answered the phone.

“Hello, this is Preston.”

“Hi. This is Ted. I’m calling to let you know…”

You may have received a similar call if you’ve ever worked in a corporate environment. And, you’ve experienced the effects of organizational change – uncertainty, layoffs, or downgraded compensation. I’ve been through 10 restructures in my career. I liken the process to running for Congress – every two years, you’re up for re-election. If you’re elected, you begin your next campaign immediately.

The topsy-turvy corporate world can be exasperating and disheartening. It can bring one to utter despair. The challenge is to remain hopeful. You might say, “But Preston, I hear all the time that hope isn’t a strategy.” If hope isn’t a strategy, what is it?

Hope is a general feeling that some desire will be fulfilled, a promise will be kept, or a better future is on the horizon. Hope provides internal energy, motivation, and courage. I’ve heard it said that someone can live 40 days without food, four days without water, four minutes without air, and only 4 seconds without hope. [1] Why is hope such a crucial part of life and your well-being? It energizes and inspires you to keep going. Without hope, you will begin to think circumstances will only get worse and give up.

How does someone avoid despair and remain hopeful amid challenging circumstances? Here are six surefire ways.

  1. Pray. For the Christian, start with connecting with your source of hope, God. Take your concerns to him and seek his guidance.
  2. Don’t lose heart. In tough times, continue believing that you can succeed. Think about your past achievements and recount your strengths. The circumstance doesn’t define you. Seek God, and he will strengthen you. Jesus’ words provide confidence, “In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.” (John 16:33b – The Message)
  3. Manage Self-Talk. Did you know our thoughts shape our beliefs and actions? Our challenge is that 8 out of 10 thoughts we have are negative. Stop listening to the lies you tell yourself and focus on your strengths. Replace the lies with the truth. What would happen if you increased the number of positive thoughts to 5 or 6? How? When self-doubt creeps in and I’m experiencing despair, I’ve found it helpful to pause and say an affirming phrase ten times to myself. It helps change my mindset from negative to positive. For example, instead of saying to yourself, “I’m a weak and unworthy person,” say “I’m a strong and worthy person.” Or, rather than saying “I can’t do anything,” say “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Change your “I can’t” to “How can I?” Also, set your mind on constructive thoughts. The Bible says, “Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.” (Philippians 4:8 – The Message). If you do these things, you’ll win the battle of the mind.
  4. Keep a long-term perspective. Tough times don’t last, but tough people do. Remind yourself that life is a journey, and challenges are opportunities to grow. The Bible says, “These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever” (2 Corinthians 4:17–18 – The Message). Keep your head up, look to the horizon, and expect a positive outcome in the long run.
  5. Face reality and take responsibility. Accept that life can be backbreaking. Then, objectively evaluate your challenging circumstance and define the problem you face. What’s the worst that can happen? What are all of your options? How can you improve upon the worst? Once you answer these questions, take ownership. Embrace the opportunity to change and intentionally determine to grow through the circumstance. Think, “if it’s to be, it’s up to me.” As a person of faith, I prescribe to the thought, “work like it’s up to me and trust God like it’s up to him.”
  6. Plan, act, and persevere. Once you’ve faced reality, taken responsibility, and determined the best option, be intentional and go for it. Put a plan together. Develop goals and move in the direction you’ve chosen. Look for quick wins and build momentum. Above all else, never give up. If you plan, act, and persevere, you’ll begin to experience success. The road ahead will be different than you expected, harder than you anticipated, and potentially more rewarding than you imagined. One of my mentors, John Maxwell, says, “Everything worthwhile is uphill.”

Back to my story… I picked up the phone and said, “Hello, this is Preston.”

“Hi. This is Ted. I’m calling to let you know you will be retained by the company.”

I’ve gone through the cycle of uncertainty to certainty many times. As you may recall, I wrote earlier that I’ve been through 10 organization restructures. As I write this article, I’m currently in the midst of my 11th org change. Once again, I’m struggling with all of the self-doubt and uncertainty that comes with the unsettling circumstance. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I know that God is faithful, and I’ve placed my hope in him. Whatever does happen, I know that he is good and will lead me to where he wants me.

My friend, when faced with a dire circumstance, my charge to you is to pray, not lose heart, manage self-talk, keep a long-term perspective, face reality and take responsibility, and plan, act, and persevere. If you do, you’ll be filled with hope and succeed in whatever path you choose.

How about you? Where do you place your hope? How do you make it through tough times? I’d love to hear your story. Thanks for reading, and please share this message with someone in need of hope and encouragement.

Want to discover more about becoming a leader others will gladly follow? Visit my website, prestonpoore.com, today!

Cheers,

Preston

[1] Maxwell, John C., Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn, Center Street, Hachette Book Group USA Day One 2013, p. 93.

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Preston Poore

I’m a disciple of Christ and an executive at a Fortune 500 Company. In my blog, The Discipled Leader, I draw on my diverse business experience to help Christians connect their secular and spiritual lives at work.

As a certified coach, speaker, and trainer with the John Maxwell Team, I help others grow their relationship with Christ, develop their leadership skills, and understand how they can make a positive difference in today’s chaotic world.

Let me help you reach your potential.

I draw on my diverse business experience to help Christians connect their secular and spiritual lives at work. I invite you to subscribe to my blog and learn how to develop Christlike character, influence your culture and change your world.

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