The Fear: Doing the Wrong Thing Right Now

It’s probably one of the first things you feel after you step out of the shower: the pressure to start doing the right thing on the daily agenda. You take a look at your calendar, your to-do list and open up your email and there is a bunch of new chores waiting for your attention. But where do you start? You start with one task but then you feel the urge to engage in another one that may be more important. Before you realize it, you already switched to another one. This process repeats itself several times during the day and each time you start doing one thing, the hundrets of other things on your mind are popping into your head and remind you of their (perceived) urgency and importance. In the worst case you end up lost and dissatisfied.

Is there ever any certainty that you’re doing the right thing right now?

And Does the worry that you’re doing the wrong thing ever go away?

This question bothers me for years now and I know that it will probably never go away completely, but I’ve found a good way to deal with it. When looking back at my past week, month, year, I realize that I get the important things done (usually) no matter how much I procrastinate or drive myself crazy. Realizing this was my first cure.

But before I tell you about the technique I find very helpful to escape the vicious circle, I want to know – where does this worry come from?

Main Cause of the Worry

The older we get, the more resposibility and choice we have. When we were young, most of us had someone to tell us what to do. Parents would give us an assignment, and we knew what to do. Brain off, action on. Of course, it wasn’t always what we wanted to be doing but there wasn’t doubt about what we should be doing, because it was laid out by an authority.

Then we grew up and things became more fun. Now we have to take resposability for ourselves – we have the ability to choose between a bunch of tasks and projects. We are making choices all day long, with no one to tell us that these choices are correct. It’s in the human nature to compare ourselves with others, and oftentimes we imagine others to be annoyingly confident in their choices, always sure they are doing the right task – the grass is always greener on the other side!

Of course this is an illusion. No one is always sure, no one is free from the worry.

The solution

Fearing failure is normal. We can beat it by increasing our awareness of it, and being OK with it being there in the first place. After I realized that this is a worry that may stick forever, I started to care less about it. This is how I proceed today when facing the worry:

1. Pick only one task to do now, choose something that feels important to your life and work. There might be many of them, so just choose quickly. Always keep in mind, it doesn’t have to be the “perfect task”. Notice the worry coming along with you and embrace it.

2. Before you actually start the task, promis yourself that you’re going to stick with this task for at least 5 minutes, without switching or following the urge to check other things. 5 minutes are a small comittment but they bring you at least 5 minutes of guilt free working…you start to develop a habit that will expand for a longer period of time than only 5 minutes.


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