Focus on what you can change, forget the rest.

Many years ago I had a realization while in a frenzy of worry. It was the end of November and the end of the year was looming over me. I had been building and negotiating a huge software deal with one of my clients for the previous 9 months. I hadn’t heard from any of my contacts at the organization since well before Thanksgiving and was getting a bit nervous, to say the least. This deal would mean the difference between me having a mediocre year versus a phenomenal year in my sales role. It would mean tens of thousands of dollars in my pocket, but it wasn’t just important to me. This huge deal was critically important to our region and our company as a whole. We had worked through all the test phases of the software during the pilot project, we had involved our client’s leadership, IT, and end user groups. We had poured over options for how we would structure the payment and the rollout. We submitted everything for approval. Now all I could do was wait…

So I waited and I worried. I need this to close before the end of the year and realistically I only had 10 or so working says left before everyone would be on vacation for the holidays. I would be in my office pacing and thinking about what I could have done differently. I relived all my conversations to make sure I had not been ambiguous with my expectations or requests. I poured over my meeting notes and emails in an effort to gain some clarity of the situation. This waiting was causing debilitating anxiety and it was occupying my entire mind.

There was nothing left I could do. Worrying or pacing wasn’t going to change the anything.

December began and my anxiety was kicked up a notch. It didn’t help that my manger, a regional director, and our CEO felt the need to drop by my desk every other day for an update. The problem was, there was no update! I hadn’t heard from my client in 3 weeks (at least). I had sent the strategic “following up” and “additional questions” emails to elicit a response with no success. So I waited, I worried, and I sat in my office frustrated.

How could I let this situation have such a huge impact on me? Yes, I wanted the deal to come through. No, I did not want to be a failure. However, at this time, everything was out of my control. Short of tracking down my client in a parking lot somewhere, there was absolutely nothing I could do in this moment.

I should have been focusing on the things I could change and forgetting about the things I couldn’t. While it is easy to say that, it’s very difficult to put it into practice. Lets step back for a moment and explore how you could handle a situation like this and not let it run rampant in your imagination.

First, ask yourself, did you do everything within your power to fix this situation?

Second, be patient. Things take time. Especially things of magnitude.

Third, do NOT worry. Worry is a wasted emotion. You’ve already done everything in your power. If you do begin worrying, find a distraction for yourself. Get your mind off any situation you no longer control.

I wish I had known these little tips during that large software deal. I would probably have fewer grey hairs and would have consumed fewer calories.

December 9th: My worry had turned to fear. Maybe they forgot about this deal before they left for vacation? Maybe they decided to wait until the new year?

My management team was already discussing plans for how to mitigate the impact this deal’s loss would have on our bottom line. They were asking if I thought it would close in Q1 of NEXT year. I was a nervous wreck.

Then, as if on queue, I received an email from my client. “Josh, attached you will find the signed/executed contract for the purchase of the software. We look forward to moving forward with implementation. Thanks.”

All that time, worry, frustration for nothing. All those sleepless nights rehashing my communications in my own head. I had done everything in my power. I should have just waited patiently and distracted myself.

As a side note, the signature on the contract was dated November 22. It had been signed for weeks. Someone had just forgot to send it over.

It seems so silly now, but in the moment challenges can seem like huge life altering problems. Don’t get sucked into a cycle of worry. Focus on the things you can change… then forget everything else.

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