Anxiety is one of the most prevalent mental health disorders affecting adults. Anxiety thoughts and feelings are all focussed on the future. When our mind transports us to the future, we tend to stop performing at our best, because we are no longer present. We know that as humans we operate at our best when we are in the here and now. If an experience from our past (perhaps an interaction with a colleague) is making us feel worried about seeing them again (future), it means we aren’t in the present. Our mind is busy going backwards in the past or forwards in the future.
Words matter as a leader. For example, “let’s do better”. It might sound relatively harmless, perhaps even motivational, but it pulls staff to the future. Rather, saying something like “I’m asking you to do the best you can” centres the person to the present. When we are present, our mind is usually quieter, and this helps us to function optimally. People who are feeling anxious or are more prone to anxiety, will be cued to pick up on these future-directed phrases.
No matter how hard someone tries, they can’t be better than where they are right now. Focussing on better, for example, adds to the anxiety culture many people experience. This isn’t about a play on words, it is actively keeping language present and supporting your team and employees to know that however tough work might feel, doing their best is the expectation. Establishing this stance as a leader, then helps you to focus on what you can do to help get the best out of your workforce.