Why do we worry? This is, undoubtedly, the favorite human pastime. It is the mental sport that we most indulge in. But, what didoes our grandmother say? “Worry is like a rocking chair, it passes the time, but gets you nowhere.” This old proverb is true. Worry is pointless, but we still do it, don’t we? What is worry? Essentially, it is a concern for what has already passed or fear of events in the future. What links the two tentacles of worry is that neither can truly be controlled. In the case of the past, this is relatively easy because time has slipped away. It is retained in our memory and worked and reworked — mentally masticated and suffered. But, it cannot be changed no matter how much one would like to see a different outcome.
This is also true with worry about the future, as well. I prepare for a lecture, for example. Everything that has to be done is done. The PowerPoint is ready, the handouts are printed and at hand, and my notes are safely tucked into my satchel where they are easily accessible. I am anxious but ready. Then the night before the presentation, some catastrophe arrives — a sudden typhoon, a crisis at the venue, or some other reason for a postponement. My worries about doing a good job fade away. They have all been for naught. This has actually happened to me on more than one occasion, as has happened to most of us.
A small story: when I was in grade 11, I played in a rock and roll band. (1) I was the piano player and a backup singer. With hindsight, I was not that good but youthful emotions pushed me forward, devoid of artistic analysis. The main musician, Hume Eyford, was very talented, however. He had the voice and the look of a superstar. One day he said to us that we were going to quit school and “go on the road.” Visions of screaming groupies (2) and celebrity interviews filled my thoughts. I would be finished with this horrible schooling. There was one small problem, I had to express to my mother that I was embarking on my life adventure.
I went home and with great gusto explained that I was quitting school. My mother listened intently and then said nothing. She was obviously pondering what it would be like to have a famous son. But no, she exploded with great intensity, delineating in very clear language that she was displeased with my decision and I wasn’t going to be quitting school — such effrontery! But alas, I heeded her words, I didn’t quit school. My friend did, nonetheless. I always worried that I had missed out on my great opportunity. Quite accidentally, I ran into him some 10 years later. He had not been blessed with success. Quite the opposite – the music business had consumed and badly damaged him. He never recovered and died at an early age. My worry had been pointless.
The ultimate solution to all this fear and stress that can devour you is to realize that the self creates the worry, the fear, and the frustration. Aristotle tells us that our actions should always be excellent. (3) This is true, our efforts should be 100%, but this does not mean that the world will judge me in the same way. I must be the ultimate adjudicator of my efforts. Therefore, whatever has happened or will happen, I must always do my best. This will go a long way in mitigating my fears because I cannot control the past nor truly dictate to the future. I must simply do my utmost in any circumstance and not pointlessly worry. The writer and philosopher, William James, (4) leaves us with a thought: It is only by risking our persons from one hour to another that we live at all.
A closing thought: If we did not have free will, we would not have to worry. Our lives would be predetermined. Nevertheless, this is not the case. If we take risks in our existence, we will be anxious and psychologically ache about the past or the future of our actions. The alternative is to simply do nothing and live a good-enough life. This is, undoubtedly, why there are so many sad and pained elderly people.
To sum up: This week we spoke about the pointlessness of worry and how to overcome these fears.
To be noted: From Pablo Picasso (5) — I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.
Just for fun:
This week, on your thoughtful walk, please reflect on how you personally control your worry.
Every day look for something magical and beautiful.
Quote: I must realize and reflect on two fundamental truths: I create my world and I can change it into what I desire.