Anxiety is the compass pointing us toward personal growth; harness it, and you’ll find clarity and purpose in life’s journey. In this episode, join hosts Kofi Nartey and Mimi Nartey as they dive deep into the often-misunderstood world of anxiety and how to effectively manage it. Together, they explore the diverse sources of anxiety, from overly rigid definitions of success to the challenges of negative self-talk and the perils of procrastination. The discussion then takes an uplifting turn as they stress the importance of serving others and the rewarding feeling it brings. Throughout the episode, Kofi and Mimi provide helpful strategies for reducing anxiety and offer encouragement to those who may be struggling. If you’re looking to gain a fresh perspective on managing anxiety and want to take away practical tools for leading a more balanced and purposeful life, then don’t miss this episode. Tune in and learn how to find clarity and purpose in the midst of life’s challenges.
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The Anxiety Challenge: How To Find Clarity And Purpose Despite Life’s Challenges
Tools for Dealing With Anxiety
Mogul Nation, hopefully, you guys have been enjoying the journey. You’re staying close to the journey and focused on the journey. In this episode, we’re going to talk about something that deals with so many parts of the journey and life, and that’s the word anxiety and how we deal with anxiety. Now, this is something that we could do ten episodes on, so please keep in mind that we’ve got a limited amount of time here, but we definitely want to touch on this for Mogul Nation because we know that this is something that a lot of people struggle with. I am joined by my favorite co-host, my wife, Dr. Mimi Nartey.
Did I get a promotion to co-host? Look at that.
I did say that out loud and it’s recorded. I didn’t even interview you first, but I thought it’d be important to start with a dictionary definition of anxiety. I guess I’m a little anxious. Let me give the dictionary definition of anxiety. It’s a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or an uncertain outcome. What I thought was interesting about this was it’s a challenge because it’s about something you know is going to happen or something you don’t know is going to happen and either one can create high levels of anxiety.
What’s interesting about this is that anxiety is a natural phenomenon because on a daily basis, all of us are experiencing things where we don’t know the outcome or that’s a part of life. I do think that there is a point at which this anxious feeling becomes clinical, so it’s something that I have a deep level of compassion for. My doctor was in public health, so over the past decade or two decades, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the social medicalization of anxiety. Anxiety is transforming from maybe a part of a natural life experience and people finding healthy coping mechanisms there to something that is beyond what people feel they have the capability to cope with.
Mentoring a lot of young people, I know that it is important to have a moment to talk through. How are we going to deal with anxiety? In whatever you pursue, there’s going to be a level of uncertainty. Even in the things that you are enthusiastic about, there’s still a level of uncertainty. If you fall in love and you get married, you don’t know how it’s going to turn out. If you want to start a business, you don’t know what the outcome is going to be. Thinking through what are the causes of anxiety and how we can manage it is going to be important.
Even before we jump into some of the causes, it’s important for our audience to know that it’s okay. Experiencing anxiety is okay. It’s sometimes even expected. The goal here and the goal in general is not necessarily to eliminate it altogether. You can’t always eliminate the worry, nervousness, or unease. The goal is to manage it and not let it overwhelm you.
I definitely think especially because so many of us have had particular life traumas or life experiences early Adverse Childhood Experiences. ACEs as they call them. It’s things that were beyond your control that become triggers in your life that create these moments of anxiety for all of us. It’s about what are some strategies that we can employ to minimize the impact of this anxiety on our ability to function.
Let’s jump into some of our notes. Tell me a little bit about how you approach this topic.
I was thinking through what are some of the sources of anxiety, some of the ones that I’ve personally experienced or talked to other people, friends, people that I mentor, and what is causing them anxiety. As I bring it up, maybe you have ideas on how they can be addressed because I know one thing that I’ve observed, even in myself, is that lack of routine produces anxiety.
A lack of routine definitely produces anxiety. I 100% agree. We’ve said before on other episodes that activity is the antidote for anxiety, but routine and planning are part of the activity because you have to know what the activity is going to be. If you have a routine or something that isn’t an anchoring process, it allows you to come back to that anchoring process, creating some stability that eliminates the lack of or the uncertainty regarding the outcome so you have an idea of what your process is going to be. The next step you have to take is to plan because you put this plan together. What it also allows you to do is not just plan and not align with your goals but be able to realign with your goals.
One of my Kofism is alignment theory because I feel like in life, we seek alignment and our emotions seek alignment with whatever we’re experiencing, going through, or feeling, both good and bad. On your days that you’re excited or you’ve got a big thing, a big event, a big talk, or whatever it is, you’re going to put on your best outfit and your hair is going to be done. On the days when you’re feeling depressed, anxious, or nervous, you’re not going to get out of bed. You’re not going to want to, at least. You’re not going to get dressed in the same way. You might throw on some sweats, but having a routine allows you to quickly and better realign with the desired outcome you’re working towards.In life, we seek alignment and our emotions seek alignment with whatever we’re experiencing, going through, or feeling, both good and bad. Click To Tweet
That’s fantastic because, basically, you’re never untethered. Even as a mom, when our kids were very small and even now to a large extent, there’s a lot of keeping them on a schedule. That is for their emotional stability so that there’s some expectation or a cadence to the day that gives them that grounding. Another source of anxiety is related, but it’s lack of preparation.
An unknown outcome or uncertain outcome is it’s exaggerated and exacerbated by knowing that you’re not ready. If you know you are not ready for something, you are going to feel a certain level of anxiety and sometimes overwhelming level of anxiety. It’s part of the preparation and a part of practicing. You have to practice and prepare for whatever it is you’re stepping into. We talked about it in sports and in life that practice not only makes perfect but practice makes it permanent.
We practice until we can’t get it wrong and that will increase your feeling of competence. When you’ve increased your feeling of competence, it increases your level of confidence because there’s no lack of confidence in the things you know how to do. The more you prepare and practice and get yourself ready, that increases that feeling of, “I can do this,” which is the definition of competence and leads to that confidence to go ahead and do it.
Another thing that I have in this has been coaching people. Something that leads to a lot of anxiety is procrastination. I’m hearing them talk and talk through what their goals are, but they’re not taking those steps that they need to take. What can people do about procrastination?
The evil P word is procrastination. It reminds me of a couple of things because I talk about why I even wear two watches. One of the reasons I wear two watches is the time is now. It’s like life is not promising. We want to get out for our goals now, but as it relates to even the daily things that we do and our focus, finish our daily to-do list and things you’re working on. You’ve heard the term eat the frog. If you procrastinate and you put things off like do the hard thing first, not only are you waiting, challenged, and fighting mentally like, “I have to do this later,” but then you still have to do it when that time comes so you’re fighting two battles. It reminds me of a saying.If you procrastinate and you put things off like do the hard thing first, not only are you waiting, challenged, and fighting mentally like, “I have to do this later,” but then you still have to do it when that time comes so you're fighting two battles. Click To Tweet
Our dads are from Ghana and there’s a saying in Ghana, “Esiwo fa wu na esiwo sesẽ,” which is the soft for the hard or the hard for the soft. You want to do the hard thing before you get to the easy thing and it’s better to do that hard thing first and get it out of the way. I talk about it as it relates to real estate and delivering challenging news to our clients, like maybe a deal is falling apart or their offer didn’t get accepted. I always say, “Deliver bad news quickly but with the solution.” If you’re sitting on that news all day, it weighs on you mentally or it’s stressful to you. If you can deliver it quickly, it gets out of your mind and your plate.
The only amount of time I give myself to sit on it is enough time to come up with the solution so I can deliver that news and say, “Here’s the bad news, but guess what? Here’s the solution to that bad news.” Don’t procrastinate. You have to go ahead and take that first step, and a lot of times, that first step leads to the second step, which leads to the third step, which is what we define as momentum. When you have momentum, it allows you to push past the other moments that would create anxiety because you’re already in motion and moving. You’re already doing the thing that you thought you couldn’t do.
That was powerful. Great job on that. That’s an amazing way to deal with procrastination. Another thing that leads to anxiety is too rigidly defining success. This is what I’ve seen a lot. I’ll take a super oversimplified example. It’s like you think about something like a wedding day or you’re planning your wedding. If you are too rigid in what you think your wedding day should be like, you’re going to have a lot of anxiety. Now, there are some elements, beats, or notes that have to be hit. If you can have a little bit more flexibility or a broad perspective on what a successful wedding day would be like, it’s going to lower anxiety levels. That’s one example, but I don’t know if you have some ways of thinking about that.
That’s an interesting one and a very good one. We’re married. We have kids. I see it with our son. Sometimes, most on the good days, we are, but you can think about our son, Lincoln. He is a soccer prodigy. He’s a very smart kid academically. Sometimes, he holds a very rigid definition of what success is. If he goes into a game, he sets Mamba mentality type of goals like, “I’m going to do this. I’m going to do that. I’m going to score two goals.” If he doesn’t, if he sets that rigid goal of two goals in this way, sometimes it’s hard for him to experience and appreciate all that he’s done well in that game.
Sometimes, even for him, he’ll score a goal, but it may not have been the way he wanted to score it. He’s still a little bit disappointed. We’ve had to help him redefine what success is. Coming back to things that we’ve talked about before. Success is in the journey. If you know what your overall journey is or what your big picture goal is, then you can recognize that the things that you’re doing, the way you’re experiencing them, even if they’re not specifically within the definition that you set out, it’s still contributing to the journey.Success is in the journey. If you know what your overall journey is or what your big picture goal is, then you can recognize the things that you're doing, the way you're experiencing them. Click To Tweet
If you appreciate how it contributes to the journey, it becomes either 1) Something to celebrate or 2) Something to even learn from that is still going to get you to where you want to be faster. It’s because now you’re improving on something that you could be doing better or it’s a moment to sit back and say, “I’m doing a good job. I did this well. I had the success. It’s not the exact thing, but I’m moving in the right direction.”
Another thing that’s related to that source of anxiety is having a gratification time frame that’s too short for your process. That’s something that I also notice when it comes down to coaching people and talking with them about their business, their goals, and how they’re trying to develop themselves either professionally or personally. I’m talking and realizing from my perspective that this isn’t quite adding up. The things that you’re trying to achieve in this time frame, you’re biting off a little bit too much and that is why you’re feeling anxious.
I’m guilty, so I’ve had to institute my own strategies around this and I’m happy to share. One, you have to reframe your timelines instead of looking at what you can do in a day or in a week. Think about what I can do in 3 months, 6 months, or a year, and then what are the steps that I need to take daily, weekly, or monthly to get to that year 2, 3, or 4. I heard a huge investor master. His name is Masayoshi Son. He is part of SoftBank and his investment strategy is not what a company can do this year or next year or as part of an exit. It’s what’s your 100-year plan?
Literally, he looks at companies and says, “What’s your 100-year plan?” Hopefully, I got his name right. Forgive me if I didn’t, but that concept, I did get right. It’s beyond your lifetime. If we apply that level of thinking instead of what we can do right now. What can we do that’s going to impact their lives over the next year, our business over the next year, 2 or 3 years because that time is going to pass anyway. The other challenge that we have as it relates to this is there’s an expectation of a direct correlation between the things we’re doing right now and the outcome we think it’s going to deliver.
That’s exactly it. That is a huge source of anxiety and a little bit of a problem in our thought patterns. It’s expecting there to be a direct correlation when, to be honest, the magic of the process is not usually that direct. Sometimes, it seems like the disappointment of the process, but it’s also the magic of the process that is not a direct correlation.
It is not a direct correlation. We talk about it all the time in sales. You’re doing your lead generation and calls and then all of a sudden, you get a new client out of the blue, but it’s the energy that you’re putting out there. It’s the momentum that you’re creating and the universe or God. All of it will come back to you in different ways. The important part is recognizing that it’s okay if it comes from a different direction or a different place. Also, you’re staying committed to your process and you’re staying committed to your journey, so you don’t have to feel anxious. You don’t have to feel the anxiety or the nervousness because that one step or one foot in front of the other is going to lead you in the right direction. Whether it’s slow, fast, or whatever it is, you have that plan or process in place.
Everything is snowballing here. Another source of anxiety related to that is not having a growth mindset. Understanding that it is going to be a process, there aren’t direct correlations, and not being able to appreciate that and sit in that comfortably.
The growth mindset part of it is coming back to not the feeling of anxiety but even that feeling of disappointment when things don’t work out or that unrealistic expectation that the direct correlation between what you’re doing and what you’re expecting. It doesn’t always come that way and that creates disappointment. Instead of looking at the things that slow you down or the things that seem like failures as disappointments, we look at them as opportunities for growth.
I tell our agents all the time and I even ask my clients who think we did a good job, you still ask them, “How could I have done it even better?” You have a growth mindset, not even from failure but also from success. We succeeded, but we could have done it even better. Let’s figure out how we do it even better. If it is a “failure,” we employ the acronym for FAIL. I’ve got two of them that I love. One is Find All Important Lessons because if you use this, then you’ll figure out what you need to take away. What do you need to change? What do you need to tweak to do it better next time?
The other important part of it as it relates to the broader pursuit of life and your goals is FAIL, Fastest Access to an Impactful Life. The people who are willing to go for it and willing to fail are the ones who will get to their desired outcomes or that exponentially better level of life faster. We think about the highest, the biggest, and most successful people out there. If you read their biographies or autobiographies, they have failed hugely, but they found all the important lessons and it was the fastest access to an impactful life.
I love that. As you know, I’m a soccer player and a soccer coach. I’m talking to our daughter and a couple of her teammates that play forward. I was sharing something like that with them because it’s very interesting you take shots and you miss a lot of shots. I was explaining to these girls into their parents that they should not feel anxiety or frustration as they are learning to become excellent goal scorers because there are 100,000 ways to score goals. At 14 or 15 years old, you might have only experienced maybe 4,000 of those 100,000 goals but the more shots you take, the quicker you’re in your process of experimentation and data collection.
All of those opportunities that you take, you shoot, or you miss, they’re all the learnings that you need. You’re trying to expose yourself to all of those different 100,000 ways to score so that you can become a master at that task. I love that Find All Important Lessons and Fastest Access to an Impactful Life. Another important source of anxiety is negative self-talk. I am floored by the ways that we speak to ourselves sometimes.
Again, this does come back to a lot of early childhood traumas or different kinds of life experiences where people have had people in their lives who have spoken negatively about them. It’s amazing that we have the habit of adopting that narrative and that voice even within ourselves. We criticize ourselves and we’re down on ourselves when we fail or we doubt ourselves or our capacity to do things. That’s an important source of anxiety and I’m hoping that you have some ideas on how people can deal with that.
The first thing to remember is that you are not your challenges. You are not your failures. You are not the hiccups that happen in life. You are the vision that you hold yourself to be. You are what you’ve accomplished to this point that you’re building on and the future self that you’re working towards. In those moments that something doesn’t go right, you have to be able to hold the vision on the other side of that thing or that moment. The negative self-talk happens to the best of us. It happens to all of us. It happens to me and the goal is to ideally get to almost no negative self-talk, but you have to fill your mind, heart, and spirit with enough ammunition to combat the negative self-talk.
Negative thought comes in on one side. You have all these ammunitions, different ways of framing it, different ways of looking at it, or some better ways to think about it and combating it inside your head. The only way to do that is by filling your mind with all of that ammunition. What do we do? We read books. We listen to podcasts. There’s a lot of different things that you can do. You lean into your faith because you’ve got to have 4, 5, 6, 7, or 8 different ways to combat every negative thought that creeps into your head. The more ammunition you have, the better chance you have to squash that negative thought because two things can’t occupy the same space at the same time.
That’s fantastic. What comes to mind for me is James Allen’s As a Man Thinketh. It’s in that book where he talks about the garden of your subconscious mind. There are two sides to that. What you’re saying is you control what you plant. If you’re planting healthy plants and good things in your subconscious mind, that’s what’s going to be occupying the space predominantly and then trying to eliminate or minimize, that’s going through and weeding. You’re making sure that you’re weeding that garden and tending to the garden of your subconscious mind because that is the picture of how you are perceiving yourself.
The other side takeaway or ancillary benefit of reading books around other people who’ve gone through different things or succeeded at different levels or listening to podcasts is that you’re reminded that other people are dealing with the same thing or similar things because we’re all human. That’s part of the challenge, too. Sometimes, we think we’re dealing with something in isolation. We’re the only one experiencing it or we’re the only one experiencing it this way. No. A lot of other people have gone through a similar human experience.
There’s more or less one kind of human experience. It’s the one with ups and downs. It’s the roller coaster ride. Another source of anxiety is a lack of focus. I also see that when people are not committed to a certain goal or outcome with a high enough level of intensity, they are experiencing anxiety in the form of doubt and distraction. It’s interesting. Focus could be something to consider if you’re dealing with anxiety.
I hope I have some notes on focus because I literally have a focus and finish bracelet on my wrist. Focus and finish is one of my mantras. Focusing on the small steps will lead to your big goals. Realizing the importance of completing each task that you initiate and staying focused until you reach that level of completion. The key part of focus is holding that vision and then setting the plan to get to that vision so that you can lean into that instead of having to reinvent yourself all the time. If you’re constantly thinking, “How am I going to do this? What am I doing? What am I focused on?” That creates anxiety and uncertainty because you don’t know the desired outcome that you’re working towards.
When you know the desired outcome, the new kind of anxiety is, “I know the outcome, but I don’t know how to get there.” That’s what the planning comes in to alleviate that feeling of not knowing how to get there and then having some flexibility along the way that the steps that you’re taking may not lead directly there, but it’s going to get you in the right direction. Sometimes, it leads directly there and then sometimes, recognizing that the results you’re looking for are going to come from a different place. However, the other gift of focus is the ability to refocus. It comes back to my alignment theory because if you have the focus and you start to lose focus, knowing what you’re working towards will allow you to realign, refocus, and revisit the plan to get there.
That’s powerful because, again, going through moments of ebbs and flows, doubts, disruptions in life, and being able to refocus is what’s going to minimize anxiety. The final thought that I had now was there is so much content around self-care. I am definitely a proponent of taking care of yourself, establishing a healthy lifestyle and routine, making time for rest, and all of these different kinds of things in personal development. I do think that a source of anxiety for people is maybe being a little too inwardly focused and not realizing that the key to real joy, happiness, and meaning in life is in serving others. That hasn’t changed.
The first thing I want to share in response to that is one of my Kofisms. One of my life philosophies is we have a responsibility during our lifetime to realize all of our God-giving gifts and share them with the world. When you are sharing your gift to the benefit or towards the benefit of other people and helping other people, it’s one of the most rewarding feelings you’ll ever experience. One of the quick hacks, I’ve told people and utilized it myself, is if I’m worried or concerned about something, I quickly shift and think, “What can I do for somebody else?”
It’s a distraction away from my own challenge, anxiety, or problem. 2) There’s that reward of giving or helping somebody else in their journey. It’s important. You brought up such a good point because we think about ourselves, our position on the planet, and our own happiness and joy, but we don’t exist in a vacuum. Part of the human contract is to realize that we are in this together. There are things that you should be doing to keep yourself going, healthy, and alive, but your focus should be on, “How am I contributing to the big picture? How am I sharing my gifts with the world?” If you’re sharing your gifts, you don’t run out and the world will ultimately reward you for that.Part of the human contract is to realize that we are in this together. Click To Tweet
It’s important to even touch on a couple of quick real-time things because anxiety can hit you in a moment and can hit you for a season. I was thinking about what you’re saying about doing things for others. I remember the last big talk I gave. There were probably about 4,000 or 5,000 people in the audience and people always ask, “Do you get nervous when you speak?” I love speaking and sharing, but I still get nervous right before I go on stage. I remember the last time the guy who was putting my microphone on my lapel. I took his hand and put it on my heart so he could feel it.
I was like, “Nobody believes how hard my heart beats right before I go on stage.” He was like, “Are you that nervous?” I’m like, “It happens every time, but I’ll be fine within 30 seconds.” I also quickly shifted to, “I’m about to change somebody’s life out there.” That’s my goal. If I step on stage, I want to do and say something or give one little gem or nugget that’s going to change somebody’s life. That brings a lot more ease to me. It brings a lot more calm to me and allows me to start speaking, going, and sharing. If you are feeling that anxiety in a season or it’s bigger than that, it’s not about sleeping well, physical activity, reducing your caffeine intake, or taking some deep breaths before you go into whatever it is you’re going to go, seek help.
That’s the last thing I want to make sure we leave everybody with. Ask for help. Raise your hands and say, “I need help.” Reach out to somebody, medical, guidance, psychology, or psychiatrist. Find that help. I did an episode for my fellas because, a lot of times, men try to internalize and deal with things. Women, too. We think that we’re in it alone, but you’d be surprised how many people are out there willing to help and even listen.
I agree with you and I hope that this is useful to people out there that understanding anxiety is something that we’re all dealing with. If it does rise to a level beyond what’s manageable, please, there’s no embarrassment. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to be able to say, “I need support.” I’m definitely encouraging everybody to do that.
One last piece is sometimes we seek support, but we seek it in the wrong places. Recognizing that you might have to go to different sources to get the support that you need because sometimes you engage with somebody who’s actually not equipped to help you like a friend who’s never been through it who doesn’t quite understand. They even call it a second opinion in the medical profession for a reason. Sometimes, you go to a doctor and a psychiatrist and they tell you one thing. Sometimes, you still need to get a second opinion and sometimes, there’s somebody who’s dealt with what you are going through specifically who can help you even better. Don’t be afraid to raise your hand.
Don’t be afraid to raise it twice to get the help that you need and to be able to realign and get back on track with who’s inside of you or who you know yourself to be. That’s the real self-care. Mogul Nation, I hope this was helpful. There’s so much to unpack with anxiety, but we tackled a lot of great things. You had a lot of great topics that you brought up, Mimi, and some great questions. Hopefully, I was able to give some of the tools and resources that have been helpful for me in the journey. Get that help if you need it, take those deep breaths, and get that rest. Know that staying focused and committed to who you are and not what you’re experiencing at the moment is the key. Mogul Nation, on with your days.