by Robert Evans Wilson Jr.
The other day on the radio I heard these lyrics from the Shinedown song, “If You Only Knew:” “It’s 4:03 and I can’t sleep … I toss and turn like the sea.” I thought, “Yeah, why is it always at 4 a.m. when I wake up when I’m worried about something?” What’s keeping you awake?
Most of us, at one time or another, have spent sleepless hours in bed worrying about something. To make it worse, you’re usually tired the whole next day.
Over the years, I’ve ruminated over all sorts of things. Big issues I have little or no control over like politics, the environment, terrorism and the economy; personal issues I need to affect, such as my business, family and relationships. I have even worried about volunteer work, churning the same thoughts repeatedly.
Some of us worry about the past—what could’ve been if only we had done something differently. Others worry about some future problem that hasn’t yet occurred.
Worry feels like motivation because it is rooted in the desire to fix a situation, but it is actually a de-motivator. It robs us of valuable energy we need to live a productive life. I love this modern update to an old proverb, “Worry is a brisk ride on a rocking horse; you burn a lot of energy, but you don’t get anywhere.” It is an amusing proverb that creates an accurate metaphor, but it does not offer us an answer on how to deal with worry.
For a simple solution on countering worry, I’ve always enjoyed the lyrics of this Irving Berlin song from the movie White Christmas, “When I’m worried and I can’t sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep; and I fall asleep, counting my blessings.” I admit, though, that I didn’t really hear these sage words or make use of them for years.
When I finally did, I discovered it works. Sometimes we have to start with the basics, and remind ourselves of all we do have and all that is going smoothly in our lives in order to put any troubling matters into perspective. For example, “I have a roof over my head, I have my health, I have food in the house, I have a car, I have friends, etc.”
I recently revisited Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. It was written during the Great Depression and World War II, a period of time when most people had plenty to stress over. The advice still holds up today.
The trick is to divert your pensive energy into practical projects. Carnegie suggests we focus on doing our best one day at a time and the future will take care of itself. In other words, keep busy! Get so caught up in your work that you have no time to ponder all the “what ifs” that have been running like a broken record in your mind.
He also suggests you ask yourself, “What is the worst that could happen?” Then, either accept that or seek the answers you need to fix it. If you choose the later, you must collect all the facts, analyze them, make a decision, and then act on it.
I think his best suggestion is to spend your time helping others. When you focus on what you can do for others, you cannot at the same time focus on yourself. Or in the words of one unknown author, “When you dig another out of their troubles, you find a place to bury your own.”
Robert Evans Wilson Jr. is an author, speaker and humorist. He works with companies that want to be more competitive and with people who want to think like innovators. For more information on Wilson’s programs, visit www.jumpstartyourmeeting.com.