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Confessions of an anxious person

I can be an anxious person sometimes.

It’s one of those automatic behavior patterns that I still have to learn how to crack.

I suspect many do.

Meditation has been huge for me. I definitely feel much more in control and most times I can catch myself and change my state to one that’s more empowering.

Other times it’s hard to see the difference between worry and anxiety though.

I like how David R. MacIver describes it on his blog:

“You are anxious about something if the emotion attaches to the uncertainty in the situation, you are worried about something if the emotion attaches to the possible outcomes.”

This is useful. When you dig deeper and find that what you’re actually feeling is tied to an outcome, you can plan for it.

But when it comes to uncertainty it’s a whole other game.

MacIver again proposes reframing the situation: “For example, you can be uncertain about the outcome but certain of your ability to handle it. Can you focus on that?”

Stupid simple example:

I’ve been waiting to drive my imported car for 9 months now (the time I paid for it). Still it’s not registered in the UK and I’ve just just been waiting for documentation. There’s a lot of uncertainty and my plan is to drive it to Italy at the end of July.

It’s not worry as I can’t really plan if it’s not in my control.

It’s more of a subtle kind of anxiety (first world problems I know).

Not much I can do about it, but I can reframe it as “all that was in my control is done, and I can always go later whenever it’s ready”.

I find this distinction helpful and a good tool to have, not only because of its many applications in daily life, but also when writing copy.

It’s important to separate your prospects’ anxieties from their worries so you know how to help them overcome them.

For worries it’ll be more about making sure you set expectations, curate your UX and information flow. For anxieties it will likely be more about the emotional and persuasive side, that you address with your copy.

Or more simply:

  • Worry: guide them and overcome an obstacle
  • Anxiety: make the desired state more vivid, resonate with them

Something to ponder on this weekend.

Tomorrow I’m sending out my monthly update newsletter. Slightly different from the Journal, more tool and tactic oriented rather than principle focused.

If you’re not in already (a lot of you are) and want to join, you can sign up here.

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