How To Stop Worrying
By Leo Gura - January 28, 2014 | 28 Comments
The tricky ways that worry has you locked into a negative self-fulfilling prophecy, and how to break free.
Hey, this is Leo for actualized.org and in this video we’re going to talk about how to stop worrying. This is a big one, this is a deep topic, that I can barely cover in this little quick self-help segment but let’s crack into it. I’m going to give you some practical tips and also help you understand what is at the cause of your worrying.
Why are you worrying so much?
First thing to understand: we all worry. This is just how the human mind works. We’re natural worriers. We’re worrying all the time. Why? Because your lower self and your reptilian brain is always on the lookout for problems. It’s always looking for something that is on the horizon that you’ve got to watch out for. There’s always a fear lurking somewhere. There’s always a worst-case scenario. It’s really good at catastrophizing situations. So that is why you’re worrying.
You probably think that this is a good thing. If you are like me, and you have a problem with worrying, I had a problem with worrying. I still do, but at least now I have an understanding, after doing years of personal development work, that worry is a big mind game. It’s a trap, it’s like a sand pit.
Worrying Is Useless
If you do not understand this idea that worry is useless, then you are really sucked into the worry. Here’s the problem: your mind is always going to worry about something. It’s always going to have fears and those fears are always going to be projected. So what you’ve got to do is tame that. That is called “taming your gremlin”.
You have a gremlin in your mind, this little devil’s advocate that is criticizing all the time. It’s judging all the time. It’s always casting blame at you. So this gremlin is in your mind, running around in there, and it’s causing havoc and chaos. When you’re worrying this much, you’re not able to get good results in your life. Not to mention feel good. You definitely don’t feel good. You’re always frantic and anxious. You’re probably not getting the results you want in your life from fitness to business to relationships because this worry is creating self-sabotage for you, quite simply.
You keep telling yourself that something is going to happen. You focus on it so much, that you actually end up attracting it to you. Maybe you’re so worried the relationship you’re in is going to break up and that you’re going to end up alone, that you become so needy in that relationship you actually end up alienating the person who really loved you. Then you actually do end up alone and create a self-fulfilling prophesy effect. Then you say, “Well, look, I should’ve been worrying about that because that actually happened. It was a real problem!” When in fact, that was created by your negative thinking.
How about business? Let’s say you’re starting a business. You’re worried that the economy is bad and starting a new business nowadays is not really possible. It’s too hard, it’s going to require a lot of work. It’s probably going to fail. If you have that kind of thought and you go in and start that business, what do you think is going to happen? Your mind is going to focus on all the challenges that are before you. It’s going to start pointing fingers. It’s going to say, “Look that technique for starting a business didn’t work because, like I said, the economy is bad and nobody wants to buy anything. This process here doesn’t work either because…” And you just keep going, “No, no. I told you so. I know it’s going to fail, I just know it’s going to fail.” What do you think happens to your motivation? What do you think happens to your resourcefulness and your perseverance in making that business work?
Creating a business is something that requires a lot of resourcefulness, a lot of creativity, and a lot of perseverance. If you’re lacking those, you can get a pretty good idea what’s going to happen. But your mind, in its infinite trickiness, will say, “But that’s how it is. That’s how reality is. That’s how the market is, it just is that way. Businesses are hard to start. And I knew that was going to happen so this worry was completely justified. And the fact that it failed now, is not because of the worry, it’s because it’s the reality of the situation.”
So those are two examples of how you could be creating self-sabotage with your worry. What do we do about this? Is it always the case that worry does have a purpose or doesn’t have a purpose? I don’t know how it really is. But I think for practical purposes, to run your life as effectively as possible, from everything that I researched and everything that I’ve experimented with myself, here’s what you want to believe.
You want to hold the belief that worry is entirely useless. There is no point, nothing empowering about the process of worrying, ever.Ever! You never want to worry. Now of course it doesn’t mean that you’re not going to worry anymore. It’s deeply engrained in you. You cannot beat that out of yourself even if you tried. What you can do, is reduce that and you can reduce the number of episodes of worry that you have.
Just from the simple fact that you start, from now on, to believe that worry is useless, is going to eliminate some episodes of worry or reduce the severity of them. So let’s say you’re going to work next week and you’ve got a big presentation in front of your boss. You need to really impress the boss, the boss is there, and you’ve got to make a really good presentation. Otherwise….., your mind fills in the blanks. Maybe you’ll get fired.
You might think it’s good to worry about the presentation. You think, “It charges me up. I’m worried but that worry creates some sort of action in me. It’s actually going to help me overcome my procrastination to work on that project and get it done. That’s how I’ve done it in the past. In the past when I worried about something it’s gotten me to take action, it’s lit a fire under my ass.”
Okay, I hear what you’re saying. I’ve had that experience myself.
But, if you didn’t worry, if that worry wasn’t there, I would argue that you would do equally as well as if you did worry or better. In many cases you will do better, and better by a lot! What’s happening is that worry is creating self-fulfillment. It’s creating a self-sabotaging effect because it’s draining your energy. It’s literally draining your psychic energy, your mental resources, your willpower. Your focus is being drained on this worry. This worry is not productive in and of itself. It might light a fire under your ass for a time, but it’s not going to actually take the action. It’s not going to create the presentation for yourself. It’s not.
So you’ve got to say, “Okay, wait a minute.” Catch yourself in the middle of the worrying process. You’re probably going to be somewhere in the middle of it, and you’re going to say, “Wait a minute. I thought I believed that worry is no longer empowering. It doesn’t serve any function so I’m going to try to just cut it out. This worrying, even though I think that it’s going to help, it’s actually not helping. It would be better if I just focus my attention on the things that I could control, on the things that I could do. How about I just focus on what I could do for this presentation, rather than worrying on all the worst-case scenarios that will happen if I don’t do what I need to do. Why don’t I just do them? Why don’t I just think about all the cool stuff that’s going to happen if I do it well? How about that for a change?”
For all you pessimists out there, your jaw probably just dropped. I know for me sometimes, that that is the case. I’m so caught up in the worrying, sometimes I’ll just stop myself and I’ll realize what’s happening. I’ll be in that worry spiral and I’ll realize that it’s happening. And I’ll be like, “Whoa, what if I was just thinking about the flip side of all that?”
Instead of thinking about how my business is going to fail and nothing’s going to work out, what if I think about the fact that it’s going to succeed and things are going to work out better than I thought they did? It’s like a 180 degree shift, this, “Whoa, when I start thinking about that, that’s really cool. If that’s the case, what if I then do this? Then if I use that strategy maybe this other strategy will work and maybe I can get some more money. Maybe I can do some more advertising. Maybe I can get some more clients. When I get more clients then I can get some more money. I can use that money to create a better product and then it will just build on itself.”
You get excited, you get a vision of how you want to go out there and take action. So this is positive motivation rather than negative motivation that you get with worry. Even though worry can create motivation, it’s not a very good, high-quality motivation. Besides, you’re going to feel awful. Why would you want to motivate yourself with pain? When you can motivate yourself with pleasure and ambition and desire? They’re much more powerful.
So, other ways of stopping worrying. I think that the biggest one is start to have more awareness around the fact that you are worrying. Be honest with yourself. If you’re a constant worrier, all you do is think negative thoughts all the time. You’re always catastrophizing situations, and especially if you worry about stuff that is out of your control and there’s nothing you can do about. Especially if you worry about things and you look back in your past and you see that most of the stuff you worry about doesn’t actually pan out for you. It never becomes an issue in the first place, then you’ve really got to admit that you’ve got a negative thinking problem. You’re a pessimist and a constant worrier. If that’s the case, then that’s where you’re at. That’s a valuable insight to have.
Now what you’ve got to do, is start the gradual process of bringing more awareness to your worry. Start noticing when you’re thinking negatively. Stop periodically throughout your day, and notice how you are feeling. Are you feeling anxious, frustrated? Anything negative? Then notice, what are you thinking? Because your thoughts are creating the feelings.
If you’re always anxious, there’s only one reason why. You’re only anxious because you are visualizing, very vividly, negative things to yourself. That means:
You’re visualizing yourself bombing the presentation.
You’re visualizing yourself bombing the final exam.
You’re visualizing yourself poor and destitute on the street in rags.
You’re visualizing yourself being rejected by your boyfriend or girlfriend.
You’re visualizing your marriage crumbling.
You’re visualizing your kids dying.
You’re visualizing these very catastrophic things. That is, of course, creating frustration and negative feelings inside you. How could it not? You’ve got to start to shift out of that. Basically, do the flip of it, the opposite.
Seven Days of Positive Worry
What’s the opposite of worry? It’s what I call, positive worry. Other books talk about it too.. Why don’t you adopt a habit for the next seven days of positive worrying. That means you do the same thing as you would if you were worrying about the situation, but everything you worry about is the positive of it.
So that means you’re going to think about that presentation, and you’re going to think about it a lot. But, you’re going to think about all the amazing stuff. You’re going to think about how you’ll do better than expected. You will think how maybe you can get a raise.
You’re going to consider hypotheticals. That’s kind of what worrying is, a consideration of hypotheticals. But improper worrying is negative hypotheticals. Here you’re going to consider positive hypotheticals. Like, “What if I really ace that presentation and then I get a raise from that? What if the people on my team get really inspired by that presentation? What if I actually learn something about myself in the process? What if, what if, what if…all this positive stuff?”
Once you start doing that, do that for a week, and see how you feel. I think you’ll start to notice just how much worrying you do. Now you’ll start the inner shift you need to get a handle on it. It’s going to take you awhile to get a solid handle on it, but you’ve got to start somewhere. That’s a good place to start. Even if you’ve got a decent handle on your worrying, you can still start with this exercise. It’s still a really powerful exercise to do.
Alright, this is Leo, I’m going to be signing off. Go ahead and leave your comments. Please share this and “like” this, that’s why we release these videos for free. Then check out actualized.org for more advanced personal development tips like this, where we talk about how to get yourself into a positive state of mind. Get yourself out of a negative, unresourceful state of mind and other advanced techniques. There’s a lot of different techniques in my repertoire for how to deal with worry. I can only share one or two of them here. So check out actualized.org and sign up for my free newsletter there.