The world is being overtaken with worry. Well…that’s not exactly right, it would be more accurate to say the world has been overtaken with worry. We have more to worry about than ever before.
Or do we?
I think it’s good to keep “things” in perspective so let’s look at a few numbers. 40% of the things most people worry about never happen. 30% of the things people worry about are completely out of their control. They couldn’t change them if they tried. 20% of our worries come straight out of someone else’s opinion and have nothing to do with fact.
If I’m counting my fingers and toes correctly that adds up to 90%! 90% of our worrying is a complete waste of time and energy. 90% of our worrying does nothing but pummel our joy and enthusiasm. We receive no return on that investment of time and energy so stop investing in worry.
So what about the other 10%?
In Dale Carnegie’s book “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living” (the greatest book every written on the subject of controlling worry) he provides a set of principles that are life changing. One of them has served me particularly well. It’s one of the first principles in the book and it says to “live in day-tight compartments.”
That principle simply says don’t worry about what happened yesterday or what might happen tomorrow. It says to focus all your energy on what is happening right now because that’s what you have the greatest chance of controlling.
Take the pandemic for instance. I have no idea (does anybody?) how this ends. I have no idea what happens tomorrow or next week. I just know what I can do today to give myself and my family the best chance of staying healthy…so that’s where I’m focusing my energy.
I have a bunch of big presentations coming up in the next few weeks. If I tried to focus on all of them I’d probably go crazy. So I’m only focused on my next one. That’s the presentation that has to be the best. Once I’m done with that one then it’s the next one that must be the best. The fact that some of these are on the same day or consecutive days makes no difference, they are all in their own “tight compartments” and they will happen one at a time. So why worry about one a couple weeks away?
I know the first thought of many people when they hear “don’t worry” is “easier said than done.” Well EVERYTHING worth doing is easier said than done. But here’s another bit of advice from Mr. Carnegie’s book that might help.
He says when facing trouble to do these three things:
- Ask yourself what the worst possible outcome is if you can’t solve your problem.
- Mentally prepare to accept the worst if necessary.
- Then calmly work to improve upon the worst possible outcome.
I’ve found very few antidotes to worry that are more effective than using your time and energy to solve the issue that’s causing the worry. Even if you’re unsuccessful you’ll have eliminated a great deal of worry from your life.
So worry if you must but don’t worry about yesterday, that’s now completely out of your control. And don’t borrow worry from tomorrow, just deal with it as it comes. There is at least a 40% chance that it never does.