Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Future Pessimism


It's another one of those things we could all just do without. The truth is, worry really only falls into two categories:

  1. Something you don't have control over.
  2. Something you do have control over.

Let's start with the first. Perhaps it's too obvious to point out that there really isn't any point in worrying about something that you have no control over. But I'll say it anyway: worrying about something you have no control over is pointless.

Will a bomb drop out of the sky onto my head? Will I get sick from food poisoning? Will my local sports team win this week? Will I lose my job because my company went bankrupt? What if this plane crashes? These are all speculations about worst case scenarios that are nothing more than a waste of energy and sanity.

Worry is being pessimistic about the future.

If you have some sort of upcoming event or confrontation that is worrying you, the best you can do is to be prepared. Aside from that, all the thinking in the world isn't going to get you anywhere.

But most worry, you can do something about. Why? Because usually, worry is just unresolved conflict building up inside of you. Feeling bad about something you said to a friend recently? Worry is what happens when you don't talk to them about it. Unsure if you and your significant other are on the same page? Worry is what happens when you don't talk to them about it.

I recently had a problem with a friend who had agreed to split the cost of something with me, but then backed out when I tried to collect. It wasn't a ton of money, but it really upset me because the way everything unfolded made me feel like we weren't actually friends at all.

I knew I would have to talk to him about it, and thus I began to worry about the eventual confrontation. But I haven't had a lot of practice worrying, and I'm not very good at it. As a result, I was really anxious. The solution? Get it over with as soon as possible. Have the confrontation. I could either sit around worrying about it, or get things off my chest and out of my worry inbox.

You can probably guess what happened. As soon as we talked it out, and I felt much better. The issue wasn't resolved, but I make my case as strongly as I could, and after that, it was out of my hands. It was something I wasn't justified in worrying about anymore.

Next time you are worrying about something, ask yourself why. Why are you worried? What will worrying accomplish? Is there some way you can turn that worry into something productive? Prepare yourself for the upcoming task? Be honest with a friend?

Motivate yourself into action, if for no other reason than to clear out that stressful worry inbox of yours.

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