Jim watched as Jennifer talked to a co-worker. Jennifer talked softly with a soft inflection of humor. Jim thought it was curious and told another associate that when Jennifer talked to him, she spoke confidently with assertiveness – not with the humor that he noticed in the earlier conversation. A moment later he looked around and spotted Jennifer twenty feet away. He was sure that Jennifer heard his exchange and worried that she would take it the wrong way. He wasn’t sure if he should ask her if they were good or just leave well enough alone.
I am grateful for worry because it lets me know of the things that I care about. I can only worry about the things that I have an emotional connection to. It is the anticipation of loss and the warning system that lets me know of what is at stake. Worry only activates when there is something of value that is at risk and we are unsure of the outcome. There are many variables to everyday life and it is impossible to say with certainty what is going to happen. Of course, I can say what I believe is going to happen, but such statements are infused with assumptions and presuppositions that don’t always line up with the reality of the situation. Sometimes it is a wonder that anything I think is going to occur actually ever does.
Uncertainty happens to all of us and happens on a frequent basis, which causes worry – not the uncertainty itself – but what it represents: loss. This takes many forms, such as material goods, safety (ours or someone that we care about), our emotional state, or our relationships. Also, our egos may be on the line as well, as we may worry about what others will think of us, our ideas, and suggestion. In this case, the loss is one of influence with others.
Keep in mind that it isn’t the loss itself that sparks the worry, but the fear or the anticipation of it that causes the worry. To me, this indicates that worry is a reaction to my mindset and self-talk. If I maintain a positive mindset and I am focused on what I am going to gain from an event, then the amount of worry that I feel will be minimal, if anything at all. Those that think in positive terms are like cliff climbers that are focused on the next hand hold and the summit. Compare that to the negative mindset, where they are focused on the distant ground below, the pain and death that will occur if they fall, and so forth. In both cases, their exact location may be the same, but their ability to reach the peak will be very different.
So why am I grateful for worry? There are two reasons. First, worry tells me what I truly care about. Since I only worry about those people or events that I may experience loss with, it means that I worry that I may lose that which is dear to me. Sometimes this can come as a revelation – I didn’t realize that this thing had such a strong pull on my heart. This is important because anything that I care about, even if it is on a subconscious level, impacts my decisions and behaviors on a daily basis.
Second, All emotions exert energy – the more powerful the emotion, the more energy is created. It is primarily exhibited in my focus. This means that the more intense that I feel an emotion, the more focus I have on that emotion and what the emotion is centered on. Therefore, the more that I worry about something, the more energy I am creating from the worry and the more focus I am exerting on it to the exclusion of other events or priorities in my life. I have to decide if the effort of the expenditure is worth it.
One of the most effective ways to reduce worry and restore focus to positive emotions comes from Brendon Burchard and his book “High Performance Habits.” He talks about a technique called “release tension and set intention.” Although I strongly suggest reading the book to get the full description (there is also a youtube video on the practice as well), it essentially means breathing in through your diaphragm and breathing out through your mouth while saying “release” as you release the tension in your body. Once you feel that your tension is gone, then you address yourself in the third person, which psychologists cal and tell yourself what emotions that you want to feel. It is an excellent technique and one that I use at least four times a day.