How do you handle worry? Do you allow it to paralyse you, or do you have your own secret to overcome adversity that you can fall back on when worry starts to affect you?
I have had many periods of extreme adversity in my life, life-threatening worries, times when I had absolutely no idea what I would be doing in a month’s time, where I would be living, how I would be earning an income, or even if I would still be alive and in one piece. I survived all of them. Worrying about the situation or the outcome did not help and probably hindered, my ability to overcome the hurdles and move forward.
With that experience, I thought I had the worry demons, handled, sorted, under control. I even wrote a short e-book about overcoming adversity. You can download a free copy by putting your name and email address in the box at the top of the page.
Recently, I found out that worry is an insidious beast, it’s a bit like dandelions in the lawn in the Northern Hemisphere or cockroaches in warmer climates. You can get them under control but take your eye off them for a short while and they are back with a vengeance before you have even noticed.
Arriving in Canada 10 years ago with virtually nothing, it took time and every cent we earned to set up a house with appliances, furniture, and all the other things we fill houses with, to buy vehicles and generally re-establish ourselves. By the time of my heart attack in 2010, we had not managed to save any worthwhile amount, had very little in the bank. The heart attack put an immediate end to most of our income.
Although I have been generating an income from my on-line and off-line business activities, we have not yet recovered financially, have accumulated some debt and are very aware that at age 63, time to create wealth is limited.
I decided to liquidate an investment in South Africa both to boost our income and because the continuing devaluation of the South African currency is eroding the value of that investment. In early August, I applied to the financial institution holding the investment and after protracted correspondence, by the end of September it seemed that the money would be released. Then last week, I was told that it could not be released because of South African exchange control and tax regulations governing these types of investments. I certainly have not given up my goal of getting those funds released, but I have to accept that it will take more time.
That was a blow and caused the dark clouds of worry and depression to descend on me. It’s strange that our minds can handle tangible threats to our safety, (like my experience of people outside my fence threatening to shoot me) easier than the nebulous fears associated with something hard to define that might happen next week or next month.
I am appalled to admit that I let these dark clouds hang around for 2 days before I sat myself down and fell back on my old strategy for handling worry.
The first thing I did was to get out my old copy of Dale Carnegie’s “How to stop worrying and start living”. A book I purchased when I did a Dale Carnegie course as a young adult. A course that changed my life from a shy, timid “just left the farm for the city” boy to someone with the confidence to become an outgoing adult. Inside the cover of the book, I had written my name and Salisbury, Rhodesia, 1973. Forty years ago. Through all the upheavals and moves in my life, that book and two more by the same author which were required reading for that course, have survived. They had been stored at my son’s house in Zimbabwe for years since we lost our home, still in good condition despite the years and moves. Sue retrieved them last Christmas when she visited the country and they are now back on my bookshelf.
Dale Carnegie’s first advice is to live in day tight compartments.
This is the first step to putting problems in perspective and preventing them becoming debilitating worries. By refusing to worry about tomorrow’s, next week’s or next month’s problems, and only doing what we can to fix today’s we can keep a clear mind and do something constructive.
Don’t confuse this with sticking your head in the sand like an ostrich, it’s not. Making plans to overcome problems is constructive, worrying about them endlessly is not, it’s highly destructive.
Then he suggests a three-step formula along these lines, to stop worrying:
- Ask yourself what is the worst possible scenario.
- Prepare yourself to accept the worst.
- Focus your mind on improving the outcome – then take action.
To be more effective, you should write down in detail that worst case scenario. Facts only, for instance, “I will have to sell the house”, not things like “people will think badly of me”.That defines what you are worrying about, it is no longer a stream of worries flooding your mind and preventing constructive thinking. Often, some of the things we worry about are imaginary, others are unlikely to happen. Writing the real potential effects define the problem.
I first read those words of advice forty years ago, the system has worked for me over and over again, in circumstances much more dire than I am contending with now. Even though I had not picked up that book for over ten years, when adversity struck, I remembered the advice and used it. This time, with far less to really worry about, I forgot about it and paid the price with two days of worry.
My problems are not serious, I will overcome them as you will with yours if you confront them and refuse to let worry stop you living an extraordinary life.