Are You A Pre-Worrier?


A colleague of mine recently unveiled the mystery behind the word FEAR – Future Events Aren’t Real. How true is that. I’ve come to notice many of my clients, colleagues and friends suffer from pre-worrying. Pre-worrying is the incessant focus on events, situations or conversations that may or may not happen in the future. How much time do you spend fixated on future events? I’m amazed at how creative we can be when we’re immersed in pre-worrying mode. We will play out situations and dialog that we imagine taking place. In fairness, these situations usually revolve around something that is important to us. However, pre-worrying takes us out of the present and puts us into the future. Thereby, we’re losing precious time and opportunity to impact what we can, which is the here and now.

I was working with a client who was ready to embark on an incredible journey that meant they would be faced with increased challenges, demands on their time and a new partnership. This created an incredible amount of consternation. They were feeling very weighed down by the pressure. Their brain was in hyper-drive playing out all the different scenarios and discussions that may or may not take place. In particular, they were concerned that with the increased demands they would not be able to deliver the highest quality product that they are known for and expect from themselves. They were becoming paralyzed by future events that weren’t real – the what if’s – so much so, they were neglecting the here and now. And the here and now is where they can have the greatest impact. So we talked about their concerns. We looked at the future projects and corresponding demands. We assessed which ones were most important and required the greatest amount of attention and effort and which ones didn’t. We also discussed some of the impending conversations and what they want out of them. In the end, we had a plan with desired outcomes.

When dealing with other people, it is important to focus on your desired outcome and not so much on the what if’s. This is critical because you have no control over the other person and how they may respond. But you do have control over what you want and how you want to handle the situation. We created a key visual for the client to reference.  Instead of feeling very weighed down by the pressure of the future, they now imagined themselves riding atop a chariot where they have a view that is up high and expansive. They were no longer feeling dragged down. They had firm control of the reigns and feel confident in how they are going to manage their new-found responsibilities and partnership.

The biggest impact, however, was that it brought them back to the present. They were able to more forward with a focused game plan. To this day, they still reference riding high atop the chariot. Oh, yeah, all the situations they were pre-worrying about never materialized in the way they had envisioned. The outcomes are being achieved without the anticipated angst and drama.

What future events are you worried about? Put your attention on the desired outcome. Shift your focus to the present. Be open to what transpires.


  1. Konstantine Haralampopoulos

    Nice summation article Peter on the potentially paralyzing effects of pre-worrying. It is a natural defense mechanism which some of us deal better than others. Personally, I have learned to adapt and detach myself from the negative “what-ifs” as life must go on. The key is to examine the situation beforehand and be prepared to effectively deal with low likelihood of possible undesirable consequences. Then just go forward and do your best.

  2. Cass Young

    Peter – I loved this blog as I can totally related. One more thing about pre-worriers, we go to the n-th degree and worry that the worst possible thing is going to happen. I mean total disaster will ensue. Glad you talked me off the ledge. Miss you! Cass

  3. Wendy Chen

    A pre-worrier, that is EXACTLY what I am. Great post.

  4. Michelle Thomas

    I learned at a leadership conference that the true definition of risk = what is the worst thing that could happen + what is the PROBABILITY that it will actually happen. So often we only focus on worst possible outcomes vs thinking through how likely those “worst evers” are to even happen! The probability of “worst evers” is typically quite low, yet we become so fixated on it that we become distracted from the high probability of GREAT outcomes. What a tragedy! A balanced focus on the TRUE definition of risk has saved me quite a bit of pre-worrying over the years!
    Nice post!