The state of the economy has some workers on the verge of despair, and is distracting them from doing their jobs, according to Daneen Skube. Here are some steps to help you focus on the present and put the future in perspective.

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Q: The national problems in our economy have me freaked out about my job (and the state of the world)! I work in the financial-services industry and feel like I’m on a bus with no driver, headed for a cliff. How can I focus on doing my job when we may be headed for another Great Depression?

A: You realize you cannot solve a problem in the future because you have no access to the future (unless you’ve figured out time travel). The only problems you can solve are the ones in front of you today.

Given the state of our world, it’s easy to become so frightened at the future possibilities that we freeze or panic. When we freeze or panic in a crisis, we make our situation worse by taking no action or taking foolish actions.

Instead of trying to run multiple end-of-the-world scenarios in your head, focus on the problems you have right now. If you have to return calls to nervous clients, dial the numbers, and give them your most current information. If you have a staff meeting, attend and participate. If you haven’t had lunch, get something to eat.

Many of my bright and talented clients can drive themselves crazy inventing multiple doomsday futures. Most of these doomsday futures don’t occur, but my clients have spent years of their lives suffering over events they were experiencing in their vivid imaginations.

Research tells us that there are three things we can all do to help ourselves when we worry:

1. Never worry alone. Talk to people about what scares you.

2. Get information about anything you’re worried about.

3. If you can do things that calm you, comfort you or prepare you for possible problems, by all means do so.

Once you’ve taken these steps, you’ve entered the area most humans can’t stand: the awareness that there are many parts of life we can’t control. The good news about acknowledging our powerlessness is we are also powerless to influence the outcome. We can’t fix certain problems but we can’t make them worse, either.

Except for the Psychic Friends Hotline, none of us can trust we know the future for sure. What we can trust is our ability to respond and adapt to the challenges that are guaranteed to arrive. The more we are in the present moment, solving our present problems, the more available we are to see our best choices no matter what life or work throws at us.

The last word(s)

Q: You often say defending yourself is useless. Aren’t there times when it’s important to point out that the other person is wrong?

A: Not unless you enjoy losing your effectiveness.

Daneen Skube, Ph.D., is an executive coach, trainer, therapist, speaker and author. She can be reached at 1420 N.W. Gilman Blvd., No. 2845, Issaquah, WA 98027-7001; by e-mail at interpersonaledge@comcast.net

; or at www.interpersonaledge.com. Sorry, no personal replies. To read other Daneen Skube columns, go to www.seattletimes.com/daneenskube