This Study Claims Worry is a Powerful Motivator


The upside to fretting.

Sad young woman sitting on a bed.

“Don’t worry” is our culture’s ultimate calming phrase. Hell, there’s even a song that reminds us that worry is the polar opposite of happiness. But have you ever used your worry powers for good, not suffering? One psychology professor says it’s possible.

Here’s why: a recent study from 2017’s Social and Personality Psychology Compass, by University of California psychology professor Kate Sweeny, and co-written by Michael Dooley, showed that worry can be a pretty great motivator. For example, Kate explains, if you’re someone who worries about getting cancer, you’re more likely to book a check-up. If you’re worried about the financial health of your business, you’re more likely to take a closer look at how things are going, in order to avoid a potential negative outcome. If you’re worried about not reaching enough customers, you’ll worry yourself into finding an alternative. In these instances, Kate argues, worry provides an opportunity to pre-plan and avoid future difficulties, which, ironically, is exactly what you’re worrying about (presumably).

Read More: How To Stop Yourself Falling Into A Worry Spiral

“It also triggers efforts to mitigate the consequences of bad news, motivates productive behaviour that, in turn, reduces worry, and enhances the effectiveness of goal-directed action by prompting people to focus on obstacles that might derail best laid plans,” Kate writes.

In this way, worrying keeps you alert to potential roadblocks and motivates you to find solutions. So next time someone chides you for fretting, tell them you’re not worrying – you’re problem-solving.


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