Mark Twain once said “I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.” That is a tremendously profound statement. Let us try to think about most of the things we worry about. We think about our future families, our jobs, our health, potential dangers we might face in traffic and other things, while we’re seated at our desks. Some of us even make up things to worry about. If you’ve ever thought about elaborate scenarios where you were being mugged, or situations where a spouse you haven’t even met yet disagreed with you and things got out of control, you aren’t alone.
Worry is like a virus. It takes hold of your thoughts with an innocuous little concern, and before you know it, you are strapped along for a ride you don’t remember getting on. If all of the time and energy you spend worrying could instead be put to productive use, think of how much better your life would be.
Dale Carnegie talked about worrying quite often in his work. He encouraged people to look back at all of the time they spent worrying over the years, and then asked them if their lives would have been different if they did something else with that time instead. We’re all humans, and worrying is a normal human tendency. However, we don’t need to let worry run our lives. Too many of us spend sleepless nights thinking about work, relationships, finances and a dozen other things. Instead of lying in bed, looking up at the wall pondering, what if we just got up and did something about the problem? If you can’t sleep, that’s perfectly fine. Since you’re already awake, why don’t you actually do something that will alleviate the situation?
Let’s talk about some things you can do to stop yourself from worrying incessantly.
1. Define the problem.
Instead of ruminating an intangible fear in your mind, grab a piece of paper and write it down. Write down the exact nature of your fear. Now, divide this paper in half. On one side of the paper, list the things you know are factual about this problem. On the other, list the things that you are making up in your mind. Once you’ve read the exact nature of the problem in detail, you will be less likely to worry about it.
2. Write down your worst-case scenario.
If you’re really worried about something, grab a piece of paper and let your imagination run wild. Write down the absolute worst thing that could happen if every single thing you were worrying about came true.
For example, if you’re worried about your finances, write down a scenario where this problem comes true in the worst possible way. You went broke, and subsequently lost your house. Your friends and family deserted you because you didn’t have any money. You had to find shelter in an alley, and pull a tarp blanket over your head on rainy nights while you tried to sleep. Maybe the odd stray dog nipped at your heels as you lay there. You get the idea – stretch your scenario to its limit.
Now, read your worst case scenario back out loud. You may even be amused at some of the things you came up with. There’s a curious thing that happens when you put your fears in writing. They suddenly aren’t that scary anymore. In the scenario above, even though you are broke, homeless and had nothing to feed yourself, you’ll still have your skills. You still have everything you’ve learned in your life. You can walk into an interview and get hired. Your road back would be slow, but it would be worth it.
That worst-case scenario doesn’t seem too bad now, does it?
3. Forgive yourself for your mistakes.
Unless you’re a superior species descended from an unknown corner of the galaxy, you are allowed to make mistakes. Thinking about what you did or what you said helps no one. The past is gone. All you have is right now – this moment. In this moment, choose to forgive yourself, and move on as a wiser person.
4. Accept that the future is uncertain.
There are very few things in this world that you can be certain are going to happen. Yes, you can predict that the sun will rise in the east tomorrow. But other than that, everything else is pretty much up in the air. Don’t try to worry about a time in the future. It hasn’t happened yet. You can’t engineer the details of your life exactly. None of us can. The element of uncertainty is what makes life fun and exciting.
Do what you can in the present moment to give yourself the best possible odds, and then be content in the knowledge that you have done all you can.
5. Other people’s opinions of you don’t matter.
Too many of us spend our lives trying to mould ourselves according to other people’s expectations of us. This is a colossal waste of time. None of us are perfect. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. Why would you want to shape your personality into something that isn’t a genuine representation of yourself?
Stop worrying about what your boss or your peer group might think of you. You only need your own approval.
6. Make a plan.
Now that you’ve figured out all the bits and pieces of the things you’re worried about, you need to do something to prevent those things from happening. If your financial situation isn’t perfect, and you constantly worry about it, make a plan of action for earning more money. Ask your superiors for a raise, learn a new skill that is more valuable on the market or look for a higher-paying job. If you don’t think you’re going to ever make enough money as a salaried employee, start your own business.
As soon as you map out concrete steps you can begin to take immediately, your worries will subside.
Taking action is a huge tool for conquering your worries.
In summation, worrying is an activity that most of us have become so used to that we are unable to imagine an alternative. But there is a way to live a life where you don’t succumb to your fears. A life where you use any concerns or worries that might pop up as catalysts for positive change. Start implementing these changes into your thinking process, and the results will be life-changing.