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Embrace Possibility How to Worry in a Good Way
/How to Worry in a Good Way

How to Worry in a Good Way

Worried"Don't worry. Be happy."

Just four words with two simple suggestions.

Yet we find it so hard to apply.

Why is that?

Think about it for a few seconds before reading on.

"Don't worry. Be happy."

Did you come up with anything?

If not, don't worry. Many people struggle with this question.

One of the main reasons we find it hard to apply this simple phrase is because we are not really sure how to do it. How do we stop worrying? What does it mean to be happy? Should I smile?

If it is so hard, why do we nod our head in understanding and agreement when people tell us not to worry? Instead, we should look our well-intentioned friend (or stranger) in the eye and ask "how do I stop worrying?".

To save you the trouble of confusing them or creating an awkward situation, I've decided to share with you my method to stop worrying.

Before I do that, let's look at what worrying really is.

Scenario: You've got a big presentation tomorrow and you are worried that you will make a mistake and embarrass yourself.

When you worry, you're basically doing three things:

  1. You mentally create a negative scenario of the future - you vividly imagine making a mistake on the presentation and getting laughed at.
  2. You convince yourself that this situation is possible - you truly believe that the mental image you just created can really happen.
  3. You feel all the negative emotions associated with anticipation of a negative outcome - you feel anxiety and fear over what you believe you will experience in the future even though it hasn't happened.

Test this idea by thinking of a situation when you were worried. If you found one that doesn't follow this formula, please share it for discussion in the comments section. All my worries have so far fit this model.

The reason worrying affects us so strongly is because

Our mind cannot distinguish between something that is vividly imagine and a real experience.

It responds to made up mental images just as it would to real memories so when you imagine in detail a negative outcome, you feel the emotions associated with that experience.

One effective way to deal with worrying is to ignore it all together. Recognize it for what it is - a made up belief in the possibility that a negative scenario will come true and replaying that scenario enough times to bring out negative emotions associated with it. Realize that nothing has happened so there is no reason to respond and put yourself in a state of anxiety.

Having understood the components of worry, it is possible to take it one step further and harness the power of worry for good. Just change the formula by ...

Exchanging the negative future scenario for a positive future scenario.

So let's review what that means in terms of our scenario and the three steps:

  1. You mentally create a POSITIVE scenario of the future - you vividly imagine performing exceptionally well on the presentation and getting both recognition and appreciation from your boss and peers.
  2. You convince yourself that this situation is possible - you truly believe that the mental image you just created can really happen.
  3. You feel all the positive emotions associated with anticipation of a positive outcome - you feel confidence and faith over what you believe you will experience in the future even though it hasn't happened.

It is not a bad thing to consider possible risks in a future situation because this allows us to be proactive and create contingency plans that can save us from danger. What is not helpful is to spend your time and energy worrying and feeling the negative emotions associated with believing that the negative future will occur.

The next time you find yourself worrying:

  • Recognize immediately that the negative outcome has not happened and it is not more likely to happen than a positive outcome.
  • Think of the best possible future outcome.
  • Mentally rehearse the future outcome vividly.
  • Allow yourself to feel the positive emotions associated with truly believing the positive future outcome is possible.

Here is an example of using this method if you are single and worried about finding someone:

  1. Recognize that being alone for the rest of your life is just as likely to happen as finding "the one".
  2. Imagine finding the perfect partner and vividly rehearse this future outcome as if it was going to happen. What do you see? What do you hear? How do you feel?
  3. Know that this positive future outcome is very possible and allow yourself to feel confidence and any other positive emotions you may experience.
  4. Bonus: If you want to make the positive outcome come true, take your positive emotions and do something productive towards achieving your outcome. I would start with setting a proper goal to find the perfect partner.

So that is how to handle the "Don't worry" part.

How about "Be happy"?

That's a little easier. Smiling is a great start. Following your passion will keep it going.

If you enjoyed this article, share it with your friends and family. Let me know in the comment section if you were able to successfully worry in a good way.

 

Photo by pedrosimoes7

Robert Chen

Robert Chen is the founder of Embrace Possibility and author of The Dreams to Reality Fieldbook. He helps people who feel stuck move forward by guiding them to see other possibilities for their lives. He specializes in working with high performers get to the next level. If you're going through a tough time right now, check out Robert's article on How to Feel Better Right Away and if you're having trouble getting what you want out of life, check out How to Always Achieve Your Goals.

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14 Comments

  1. Abhijit May 10, 2012 at 8:35 am - Reply

    Hi Robert,

    Your words ooze empathy, I liked your approach, but I am an Individual who has been a suffering underdog for a while(2+ years), before this I was a great achiever and i am in a dilemma, and want to come out of this abyss called negativity.Thanks a ton for your insightful blog.

    • Robert Chen May 11, 2012 at 12:47 am - Reply

      Hi Abhijit,

      I’m glad you enjoy my blog. I have some questions that might be interesting for you:

      How did you become an underdog? What makes you call your environment an “abyss”? Do you believe you have the power to climb out? If so, how come you are still in the abyss?

      • Abhijit May 11, 2012 at 2:25 am - Reply

        Some reckless decisions, ended up jobless for 2 years,Initially I thought that it was a well deserved break(1 year) and then when I went back job hunting no one considered me,… Skipping what went on for the next 1 year… I landed up in a job, but the rejection had taken a toll on my confidence and I performed badly(I am in sales and you can understand the pressure) and had to put down my papers! This was the beginning of the “Downward Spiral in to the never ending Abyss”. I have tried out all the options to save myself from this free fall none seems to work…

        • Robert Chen May 12, 2012 at 9:52 am - Reply

          Your situation is very common. People naturally become discouraged when faced with repeated “failures” to achieve what they want. There are a few things to think about to help you in this situation:

          1. The “failure” is just feedback that your actions need to be adjusted
          2. You are not your behavior or your outcome. Your sense of self-worth and confidence did not change just because other people did not recognize it or you did not achieve your goal. Refer to point 1.
          3. If you think you have fallen in a never ending abyss, then that is how you will feel. There is really no basis for you to think that way. The fact is that you are having trouble landing a job that you want and performing badly at a job you currently have. Thats it. You are not in any downward spiral. What you need to focus on is the solution. How are you going to perform better at your job. Did you talk with successful sales people (at your company and outside your company) and ask how they do it? Are you doing what they do? Also, what is the job you want? Why do you want it?

          The questions can go on and on but the important thing is to ask the right ones where you are expending your energy on moving forward rather than looking backward.

          Just start thinking positively right now and if you don’t know how, act confident physically and the feelings will follow. Let me know how it goes.

  2. Shawn May 11, 2012 at 9:11 pm - Reply

    I like to use a less standard version of worry, helps me to keep my mind on the positive aspects of that word.

    • Robert Chen May 12, 2012 at 9:19 am - Reply

      Hi Shawn, that’s interesting. Can you elaborate on what you mean by a less standard version? Do you use another word altogether?

  3. Abhijit May 13, 2012 at 11:56 pm - Reply

    Thanks, Robert, I was also a Ego maniac, resistant to change, I am now opening up to changing myself as you said, I am observing performers and making a note of the pros and cons in their attitude.Its helping.. Will keep posting on the developments,Thanks a lot for being there:)

    Regards
    Abhijit

    • Robert Chen May 14, 2012 at 11:29 pm - Reply

      Good luck Abhijit! Keep up the positive attitude and I know you’ll be able to make it. Modeling success is the way to go and the key point in modeling is to act on it. Just knowing what to do is not enough.

      • Abhijit May 15, 2012 at 12:29 am - Reply

        Sure Will Keep trying for the best, Robert. I have forgetfulness or absent mindedness, which hinders my productivity, I have tried reminders, planners, but not able to get the best out of me, I have to reach 10 new clients through cold calling and my forgetful nature always affects me while reaching out, and I easily lose focus…I have read your article on meditation and have tried it but not able to practice it regularly, and even when I do meditate, there a small bursts of -ve thoughts from past or what may happen in future which breaks my concentration.. Do you think I am really troubled and need some medication instead of meditation? Cheers

        • Robert Chen May 15, 2012 at 9:13 pm - Reply

          Hi Abhijit,

          Have you modeled people who were great at remember things? How do they process information? Perhaps you are focusing on something different which makes it more difficult to retain or recall information? I would start with really being curious about how people who never forget do what they do. I have a feeling it is a combination of focus, instilling meaning and good old fashion listening and curiosity. I’ve never tried medication so I can’t give an opinion on that. Meditation has helped me to focus and be more self aware especially when my mind wants to wanders.

  4. Abhijit May 16, 2012 at 7:29 am - Reply

    I am not organised and let my mind divert easily, that may be because of a long tenure on not doing anything, I havent modeled on any people as of now and will consider your suggestion. Personally I am “against” medication and will stick to meditation.

    • Robert Chen May 17, 2012 at 1:09 am - Reply

      I thought of one more thing that you can try immediately on your own. You can act as if you already possess the quality that you want. What would your world be like if you could remember the things you wanted to remember? What feelings would you have? How would the movie play out differently than it has been playing?

      • Abhijit May 22, 2012 at 12:33 am - Reply

        Hi Robert, Thanks been busy for the last week, I appreciate your words of wisdom and will implement some of them for better improvement.

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