To worry is to allow one’s mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles. It is a keen focus on the adverse, instead of an open acceptance of the unknown that makes it so limiting. It evokes emotions that match it’s destructive desires and suppresses our more constructive thoughts.
In his psychology book Emotional Intelligence Daniel Goleman writes, “The mental resources expended on one cognitive task, the worrying, simply detracts from the resources available for processing other information.”
It shifts our attention from figuring out answers to being preoccupied with worries. These worries then become self-fulfilling prophesies, revealing the very reality they predict.
Worrying also removes us from the current moment. A night with friends, family, or just some of Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey ice cream, turns into flagrant anxiety and overwhelming stress. This chaotic tag-team certainly has a knack for taking the funky out of Chunky Monkey.
Knowing that I need not go on talking about the destructive tendencies that surface when we worry, the question that still remains to be answered is, “What can we do?”
Let’s say you want something fantastic to manifest in your life. You sit down and come up with possibilities that would allow this amazing idea to unfold. You may even get a little rambunctious, partly from the Chunky Monkey ice cream, and begin to think of reasons why this could come fast and easy.
Slowly but surely you are developing a list of your character strengths. This is the perfect combatant against that disastrous tag-team of stress and anxiety.
The commonality among every instance of concern, is that it is over a particular something. Projects, meetings, travel, interviews, dates, speeches, indigestion, there is always something we worry about. But instead of focusing in on 100 reasons why that something might go wrong, what if we thought about why it might come easily?
This might seem too simple of a fix, but like anyone who has swung a golf club knows, the slightest adjustment of your grip, can make the most significant difference in the trajectory of your ball.
Thinking about why something might come easily forces us to think about how our strengths will leverage our worries. Now instead of words like incapable or unpolished infiltrating our minds, our focus hones in on the positive aspects of ourselves.
In any and every situation, what can you bring to the table? Each and every one of us hold extraordinary potentials. Don’t worry yourself with daunting incapabilities of events that have yet to transpire.
Instead, focus in on where your greatest aptitudes and passions lie, and discover your unique path for fulfillment. That is what you bring to the table, that is the pathway to positive outcomes, and that is the essence of your potential.
What are some of your worries sneaking their way into your daily life? What do you do to overcome them? Do you think any good can come from worrying?
For example, a New York cab driver is out making his usual fairs. Notoriously known for his can do attitude for getting people to their destination in the quickest possible time, he has a habit of…speeding.
So when that traffic light clicks from green to yellow, you will see no signs of hesitation as he steps on the gas to beat the inevitable downward flash to red.
In Ohio, a daily commuter is driving through town on her way to pick up groceries. Driving down a long, winding road she sees the light turn yellow. Without thinking, she squeezes the break, slowing the car down as it stops comfortably behind the cusp of the intersection.
Now, on a long awaited trip to New York, our Ohioan drives through the city streets admiring the massive buildings and observing the everlasting pulse the city seamlessly emits.
Approaching an intersection she sees a yellow light and begins to push her foot down on the break. Behind her is our fast-paced cab driver on his way to drop off his current fair. Seeing the yellow light he speeds up and…crash!
Accident? Perhaps not.
The behavior they engaged in was so well practiced that it was deep rooted in their unconscious. Without even thinking, automatic responses took over and, well, the rest is history.
Automatic responses are how we can interact with the world so efficiently. They are mental shortcuts our brain takes to save time and energy. They are how we group things together in our mind and how we learn to coordinate our body movements in sports.
Well practiced, these behaviors become natural and skip by our preliminary awareness. But the scope of these automatic thoughts runs much broader than driving through traffic lights and catching a baseball.
We can have automatic thoughts on our own abilities and potentials. A reoccurrence of past experiences could leave us at a certain level of inadequacy. We could have certain ideas of our abilities to accomplish or not accomplish certain things.
We may never think of ourselves as an artist just as the cabbie may never think to slow down at a yellow light, but our thoughts are just a result of the small scope of experiences we have exposed ourself to.
To limit ourself to these preconceived notions that we may not even be aware of might prevent us from going after some extraordinary possibilities.
So what do we do?
Shift our awareness to the idea that every situation is a possibility. We have preexisting thoughts and ideas on everything in our world. But our world is our mind, and the amount of perspectives we can put on each idea is limitless.
Someone may hold money the most crucial asset to happiness. While another person looks at money as an endless, unfulfillable lust. Still, others could live in remote islands where fiscal denominations cease to exist.
The perspectives are limitless – and so we must always be willing to challenge our automatic thoughts. The possibilities are as far as the mind can reach.
How does this happen?
Well let’s say this were a speech about politics, and one person was a democrat while the other a republican. Each person would see facts reaffirming their preexisting views backed by their political positions.
The brain and the eye may have a contractual relationship in which the brain has agreed to believe what the eye sees, but in return the eye has agreed to look for what the brain wants.
Awareness is more of a choice rather than a general knowledge.
It’s like a word search and we are looking for the 10 words listed on the side of the puzzle. Even if there are other words filled in, we tend to only see the ones we look for. We use tactics that hone in on the first letter of our targets or chunk a couple of the letters together as our eyes scan the page.
It’s not that other words aren’t there, it’s that we aren’t looking for them, so in our world, they cease to exist.
Say I took that word search and gave five words to one person and five words to another. Like the politicians who listened to the same speech, both would look at the same thing and come back with two completely different lists. We see what we look for.
Go for a walk around your neighborhood and look at all the different styles of doors and roofing patterns. You probably never would have realized all the different colors, styles, patterns, sizes, and textures. And yet you have lived in this neighborhood for years, you must of looked at them. But there is a difference between looking and seeing.
Looking is like breathing, natural and innate, seeing is whole separate level that requires effort and commitment.
What are we really seeing and what are we just looking at?
If life is a chaotic sequence of ambiguous letters, then our frame of reference would be the word bank sitting at the bottom of the page. But how do we grow that word bank? How do we look for new inputs in life?
Step outside your preexisting scope of life. People often drive the same way to work everyday. You see the same things you saw yesterday. Why not take a new way to work everyday? The latter constantly sees new things while the former constantly sees the same old things.
What if you…
- Listened to a radio station you’ve never heard before.
- Order something at a restaurant without knowing exactly what it is.
- Read a magazine you have never heard of.
- Learn to tie nots, read music, throw a boomerang.
- Escape in nature, and look for plants you have never seen before.
- Take up painting. Jackson Pollock throws paint on a canvas so can you!
- Go to a place you have never visited.
- Rent a movie you have never heard of.
- Read a book on a topic you think you’ll dislike.
- Have a wider variety of experiences. Who knows what new words you’ll add to your bank when you start doing different things.
When you diversify the elements of your life, your awareness grows and you begin to see a world of many viewpoints, and a puzzle that doesn’t just hold words, but sentences, stories, experiences, journeys, and adventures. You’ll see a life that holds the most extraordinary potentials.
Have you ever looked at something a completely different way? How do you expand you inputs and widen your frame of reference? What are some things your do to shake things up? Love to hear what you think!