The Daily Stoic for February the 3rd: “The source of your anxiety”.
“When I see an anxious person, I ask myself, what do they want? For if a person wasn’t wanting something outside of their own control, why would they be stricken by anxiety?”
—EPICTETUS, DISCOURSES, 2.13.1
When you are an employee, most of the times you enjoy job stability. You know that, if nothing wrong happens, you will have your check waiting for you by the end of the month or week.
Conversely, one of the main trade-offs of quitting your corporate job to become a freelancer or entrepreneur is uncertainty. In my opinion, everything you get in exchange -freedom, being the owner of your life, happiness- is well worth this lack of corporate safety.
However, you have to embrace that uncertainty from that moment on.
Additionally, becoming a digital nomad adds another layer of insecurity on top of that. From how to pay your taxes to getting proper medical attention while traveling, there is a lot more you need to care about.
Sometimes, especially when your business or health is in danger, this uncertainty becomes anxiety.
The Source Of Your Anxiety
I’ve been there. I have spent lots of sleepless nights, eyes wide open, worried about my business, health or how to pay my bills.
That periods not only deprive us of our sleep at night. They also drain our energy and leave us incapable of facing everyday challenges.
I found my silver bullet against anxiety by talking to other entrepreneurs, digital nomads and freelancers.
By getting to know their stories, problems, hard times, and how they overcame them, I’ve been able to put my own fears in perspective. That has allowed me to realize two things:
First, my problems are not that serious. I’ve talked to entrepreneurs that lost everything and had to get back to a job they hated and feed of cans until they were able to start up again. One of the members of the last startup I worked with had a severe infection and was at the hospital for weeks, almost loosing his sight.
Fortunately, I have never faced such problems, and I feel extremely grateful for that.
Secondly, even if the worst happens, you will eventually recover and find a way to move forward. There’s nothing, except death, that can prevent you from continuing your life.
While it’s unavoidable to go through some bad times, this same rule tells us that sooner or later, we’ll get up on our feet again.
Dealing With Anxiety
Thus, as I explain in this previous stoic, a very good question to ask yourself when feeling anxious is:
what’s the worst that could happen?
Try to be honest with yourself, realist but drama-free. You will realize that, most of the times, your situation is not that critical and you can do something to fix it.
Thus, focus your thoughts and energy on what you can change. Point your motivation, decisions, and actions towards solving that situation.
Yes, you may end up having to pick up a temporary job you hate again, going back to your parent’s house, or any other compromise.
However, that’s not the end of your life. It’s just a new stage.
Today’s Daily Stoic deals the source of your anxiety. Specially when you don’t have the commodity of a steady job, uncertainty can lead to anxiety. That’s also true if you travel the world, for many different reasons (healthcare, safety, paying the bills, etc).
In this post, I explain how I learned to embrace uncertainty and deal with anxiety by knowing other people stories. That allowed to put my problems in perspective.