Anxiety = Uncertainty X Powerlessness

Anxiety is the most prevalent emotion in most organizations in the United States today. 

Anxiety = Uncertainty X Powerlessness

Anxiety is the most prevalent emotion in most organizations in the United States today.  


Anxiety has two component parts.  It’s what you don't know and what you can't control. So anxiety equals uncertainty times powerlessness. 

So the way you could work this equation is the following.  Think of something that makes you anxious and then create four columns.  The first column is what I do know about this thing that's making me anxious.  The second column is what I don't know.  The third column is what is what I can influence.  And the fourth column is what I can't influence.  

Once you’ve spent 15-20 minutes making a list, you may be surprised to find that 75-80 percent of us, when we make our lists, find that we have more things under columns one and three, the assets on this anxiety balance sheet, than we do in two and four, those that are the liabilities.  And once you realize that, that makes you feel like, "Oh, I’ve got some things I do know and that I can control."  

But more importantly, you can look at column two and say "What is that in column two, what I don't know, how could I actually learn that?"  Maybe you think you're going to lose your job, so maybe you could ask your boss. Maybe you think your spouse is cheating, so maybe you could ask them.  The truth is we don't want to do that, because it’s like "I don't want to learn that!"

But there's a fascinating study that was done 20 years ago that showed that when people had the choice between getting an electric shock that's twice as painful as one they might get in the next 24 hours but it will happen without them knowing, sort of randomly, if you had to choose the twice as painful shock now versus half as painful in the next 24 hours but you don't know when it’s coming, most of us would choose the twice as painful shock now.  So it’s a lesson to us, as leaders, that quite often it’s best to actually deliver the bad news rather than to let people stew in their anxiety juices.

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

How New York's largest hospital system is predicting COVID-19 spikes

Northwell Health is using insights from website traffic to forecast COVID-19 hospitalizations two weeks in the future.

Credit: Getty Images
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • The machine-learning algorithm works by analyzing the online behavior of visitors to the Northwell Health website and comparing that data to future COVID-19 hospitalizations.
  • The tool, which uses anonymized data, has so far predicted hospitalizations with an accuracy rate of 80 percent.
  • Machine-learning tools are helping health-care professionals worldwide better constrain and treat COVID-19.
Keep reading Show less

Listen: Scientists re-create voice of 3,000-year-old Egyptian mummy

Scientists used CT scanning and 3D-printing technology to re-create the voice of Nesyamun, an ancient Egyptian priest.

Surprising Science
  • Scientists printed a 3D replica of the vocal tract of Nesyamun, an Egyptian priest whose mummified corpse has been on display in the UK for two centuries.
  • With the help of an electronic device, the reproduced voice is able to "speak" a vowel noise.
  • The team behind the "Voices of the Past" project suggest reproducing ancient voices could make museum experiences more dynamic.
Keep reading Show less

Dark matter axions possibly found near Magnificent 7 neutron stars

A new study proposes mysterious axions may be found in X-rays coming from a cluster of neutron stars.

A rendering of the XMM-Newton (X-ray multi-mirror mission) space telescope.

Credit: D. Ducros; ESA/XMM-Newton, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO
Surprising Science
  • A study led by Berkeley Lab suggests axions may be present near neutron stars known as the Magnificent Seven.
  • The axions, theorized fundamental particles, could be found in the high-energy X-rays emitted from the stars.
  • Axions have yet to be observed directly and may be responsible for the elusive dark matter.
  • Keep reading Show less

    Put on a happy face? “Deep acting” associated with improved work life

    New research suggests you can't fake your emotional state to improve your work life — you have to feel it.

    Credit: Columbia Pictures
    Personal Growth
  • Deep acting is the work strategy of regulating your emotions to match a desired state.
  • New research suggests that deep acting reduces fatigue, improves trust, and advances goal progress over other regulation strategies.
  • Further research suggests learning to attune our emotions for deep acting is a beneficial work-life strategy.
  • Keep reading Show less
    Surprising Science

    World's oldest work of art found in a hidden Indonesian valley

    Archaeologists discover a cave painting of a wild pig that is now the world's oldest dated work of representational art.

    Scroll down to load more…
    Quantcast