You want to experience a greater sense of fulfillment in your life, but you just can’t stop worrying about whether certain aspects of your life will come crashing down, ruining it forever.
Of all the emotions a human can feel, worry and its more sinister cousin fear rob us of a life well-lived by stealing our focus and forcing us to obsess on a potential future that might not even happen.
If you find yourself in this trap frequently, here’s how you can escape it.
1. Realize how unproductive it is
To be fair, worry was a useful ally to our ancestors, but it no longer has any useful purpose in 2017. These days, we don’t have to obsess over whether there is a saber-toothed tiger hiding in the bushes, but our cousins back in 10,000 BCE did, and it helped ensure their survival.
There are few immediate threats to our safety in the 21st century, but we still act as if there is. In order to succeed and enjoy life in today’s world, you need to mentally override this evolutionary impulse.
You do this by realizing that things like your looming deadline isn’t going to feast on your corpse. What’s more, worrying won’t type a single word on the page – you need to do that.
2. Figure out what is bothering you
Instead of chomping your nails down to the tips of your fingers, get out a pen and paper and write down exactly what is eating you.
Much of the anxiety which torments us has many sources. Once you have named the specific things that are bothering you, it will become much easier to conquer these fears.
Take the previous example of a rapidly approaching deadline – once you have determined that this is the source of your unease, take steps to banish it from your life.
3. Take decisive action to fix the situation
With the primary source of your worries unmasked, you can then draft a plan which will eliminate it from your life.
If you need to write four articles for a client in three days, cancel all other commitments, opt out of all but necessary meetings, and work in a quiet setting free from distractions.
Pull up all the research you’ll need, order food, and just start typing. Before you know it, you’ll have a big chunk done, and all the momentum necessary to carry you through to the end.
No matter your goal, start with the end in mind and reverse engineer the process until you backtrack to a task you can do quickly. Complete it, then do the rest of the steps in sequence until you finish.
4. The worst-case scenario is not that bad
Worries often come in layers, just like an onion. You fret about a work project which is due in a few days, but you have yet to take action because you are afraid of doing a poor job.
While you can take steps to bear down and ensure that you do your absolute best, the existential fear of one’s best not being good enough can be terrifying.
Don’t let this stop you. If your best efforts are rejected and you lose a client, this situation is not as bad as you think. The client in question may have unrealistic expectations; on the other hand, others in your field might love your stuff.
Although the worst case scenario in this example might seem bad at first glance, it could end up with you getting work with a client that thinks the world of your skill set.
5. You will die someday – maybe tomorrow
The top reason why unwarranted worrying is a ridiculous activity to indulge in – you are going to die, and there is nothing you can do to stop it.
While it is important to properly judge the speed of oncoming traffic when crossing the street, trembling in fear over whether your best is good enough distracts you from pursuing whatever it is that you want to do in life.
Every moment not spent obsessing over future outcomes is one spent in the present moment. As such, you’ll be able to enjoy the presence of friends, revel in an adrenaline high as you tear down a trail on your mountain bike, and get intimate with the object of your affection without having your unaddressed fears ruin everything.