‘Worrying is like a rocking-chair, it gives you something to do but it gets you nowhere.’ Glenn Turner.
I’ve been worrying a lot lately. Worrying is not something I usually have much time for, literally or philosophically! I am not a fan of worrying, even though I like to think it usually comes from a good place, a kind place of concern. A little bit of worry can be a useful tool. It can be a warning, indicating that there is something we ought to be taking more care of. It can be a call to attention, a reminder that we need to take action.
The trouble with worrying, though is it’s a static activity. Worry doesn’t move us forward but keeps us stuck, often going round and round, over and over the same ground. Whereas action propels us forward, providing momentum to keep moving forward. Action removes the worry from the forefront of our thoughts, clearing space to allow different perspectives and thoughts to surface. This isn’t about denial, about ignoring the situation, the person, the illness or whatever it might be. Taking action is about assuming responsibility, taking charge of how we respond so we move from feeling powerless to, well, at least, feeling a little more powerful. Our thoughts really do influence our reality and so harnessing the power of our thoughts can make a massive difference to how we experience our everyday.
The action we take will depend on the nature of our worry. It doesn’t have to be huge. Even the act of re-framing the worry in our mind, reflecting on how we would like a situation to be resolved shifts our mindset to a more pleasant place.
I once heard it described somewhere* that worries come from three main areas –
- our own business (stuff in our personal lives),
- other people’s business (their personal stuff),
- and the universe’s business (stuff like freak weather and natural disasters).
Many of our worries are concerned with the last two, not really ‘our business’ at all so maybe we should just ignore them? Well, it isn’t quite that simple, not when this is about something we care about. There may still be positive actions we can take. When we worry about someone else, maybe we could focus on strengthening our relationship with them. Chances are that we will see they have it all under control and feel reassured, or maybe we will learn more about what we can actually do that would be truly useful. Worrying can become like a badge of honour, displaying to the world how much we really, really care. The thing is, if you are the one that other people are worrying about, sometimes it can be insulting and hurtful, an insinuation that we can’t manage things on our own.
If we are worrying about ‘the universe’s business’ then there might be practical steps to reduce our level of worry, like having an evacuation plan and taking out appropriate insurance. Often though this is still stuff we have so little control over that we would do well to remember we can trust in others and the universe, and that mostly things will go well. And even when it seems like they don’t, even then, when times are really tough, there is likely to be opportunities that we cannot see at the time, ways we might grow and learn, practical skills we might develop and levels of compassion and understanding that we develop that enable us to grow as people.
Sometimes worrying can become a habit. When we dwell on our worries without taking action then they grow and they can become bigger than we are, taking on a meaning and significance for us that renders us unable to see any way to overcome them. That is why we have to take action sooner rather than later, and that my dear friends is just what I am trying to do. Farewell my little (and large) worries, may you be gone, at least for a while and I shall do my best to concentrate on what needs to be done.
*I wish I could remember where this came from and would love to know so if anyone can help I would love to hear from you. Wishing you a day where your worries may inspire you to take positive action.