There are some great quotes about the futility of worry, but one of my favorites is that 90% of what we worry about will never come to pass. Whatever cute clichés you may have heard and forgotten, you can’t debate this one. It’s true. Worry is the biggest waste of energy and if anything, often a catalyst for things that didn’t need to go wrong to do so. I will stipulate here and once only, that being too relaxed and laid back can also be a mistake – but don’t worry about that for the rest of this article.
Do not anticipate trouble or worry about what may never happen. Keep in the sunlight. ~ Benjamin Franklin
What productive, positive outcome will be actually achieved by worry, or stressing over something? Will it change anything? One of my sons once began crying himself to sleep, all of a sudden, and with no apparent reason. I went in to him, and with a great deal of concern asked him what was troubling him. He had forgotten to prepare for a project that was due the next day in class. He asked if I could help him get it ready there and then, that night. There were two lessons to learn here, and I wasn’t going to teach him the wrong one (that Dad’ll always cover his slack).
Lesson 1: Get yourself organised, or you will certainly have to face the consequences. Leave it to the last minute or do it ASAP, that’s up to your personal style, but after his bedtime was past the last minute, and I was not going to let him ruin the next day at school by not sleeping. Which left me with a predicament, and the need for lesson two, as he was not going to calm down anytime soon. He was very distressed by the impending wrath and disappointment of his teacher, and was working himself up into that tightly clenched ball of stress most of us have mastered by adulthood.
Lesson 2: Once a thing is beyond your control, let go and focus on what you can control. “Son, will crying now help you complete your project?” No. “Will crying now and not sleeping, in any way improve your day or your teacher’s mood tomorrow?” No. “What’s coming is coming. This is the consequence of your choices yesterday and every day since you were given the project, and I’m very disappointed you left it to the last minute and didn’t ask for help days ago. But no choice you can make now will avert what’s coming to you, so let’s focus on what you can control.”
“Are you going to sleep well tonight?”
“No, because I’m worried about this stupid project!”
“So you need to take control of your mind, and teach it to rest. Make a decision that tomorrow you will go to your teacher as soon as you get to school, confess you were lazy and haven’t prepared, and promise to hand it in the next day. She may be very angry, or she may admire your honesty and punish you anyway, but you can only choose whether your night and day will be bad, or just your day. Choose to rest now. Choose to sleep deeply and slow your very intelligent mind down. Deliberately think about something you enjoy and dream about it. Then get up tomorrow and have the best day you possibly can.”
The next night we reviewed his day, and unsurprisingly the teacher was only mildly annoyed and easily granted him the requested extension. Taking the opportunity to reinforce lesson 2 “…focus on what you can control”, I encouraged him, “See! I told you worrying wouldn’t help anything and was probably not going to come to pass anyway.”
Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but it gets you nowhere. ~ Glenn Turner
Live stress free and worry free by choice. It is a learned skill, but available to everyone. If it’s a weakness of yours, I certainly believe you can make a decision to exercise that weakness like a muscle and turn it into a strength, and without being flippant about life, you can decide which thoughts coming into your head are worth giving voice or further energy to.
I was again helping someone recently, someone a little older than me, but this time with technology. I was being paid to fix a problem. This person had so little patience, and was so easily distracted. On the third consecutive night trying to help, and nearing completion of the complete solution, I had observed enough to offer the following advice.
“Do you know what you need, which will make this computer work so much better for you?”
“Valium! You are so worried about how little you know and are so impatient to just let the computer do what you asked it to do that you’re complicating things unnecessarily and making everything more difficult for yourself. Just take a breath, do one thing at a time, and let the computer do its thing. Take a chill pill every time you use this, and most of what you’re trying to do is going to work the way you’re naturally trying to do it – if you just give it a chance.”
My final thought is don’t take other people’s stresses on board. Screen your calls, turn off auto send/receive on your emails, and learn to say no to things that aren’t really important. Yes, I know you want to help and like being needed – we all do – but look at what it’s doing to you. If it can wait till tomorrow, it’s not urgent. If it’s not going to dramatically affect anything of real significance, perhaps even if it is urgent, it’s not actually important. It might be someone else’s perception that their request is both urgent and important, but make that decision for yourself, and set some healthy boundaries around your peace.
Have a peaceful heart, a peaceful home, and a peaceful life – and don’t worry.
25 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? 26Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? ~ Matthew 6:25-26 (New Living Translation)