When Should We Worry?

I had an interesting exchange this week with Dave Gray on Twitter this week (Check out Dave’s site for insightful analysis on a variety of interesting topics: http://www.davegrayinfo.com/), which reminded me of something I have intended to post for a while, my rule of thumb on when to worry.  Here’s the mental two-by-two that I use.

1. Ignore

If it’s not important, and you can’t impact it, why would you waste valuable cognitive resources on it?  This quadrant is right out!

2. Monitor

It’s not import now, but it could be someday.   Look over your shoulder occasionally to ensure there’s nothing sneaking up on you.

3. Act

This is the sweet spot.  These things matter and they are things in which you can impact outcomes.  Go nuts folks!

4. Abide

This is where we get in trouble.  If we can’t do anything about it, why are we worrying about it?  If something bad happens, you deal with it.  If it never does, worrying has wasted precious cognitive cycles.

A worry is an expectation of a negative outcome.  The following quote is from an article on social anxiety which discusses the idea of neuroplasticity.  It should help give you an understanding of why I try not to worry too often.

Because we develop social anxiety over time (although some people feel it hits them all at once), the brain is learning all the time — this is cognitive structuring — how to be socially anxious.  The brain is learning how and what to be afraid of.

The brain is literally creating new neural pathways and associations that feed and fuel our fears and anxieties in social situations.

This is quite normal because everything we learn becomes part of our neural associations or pathways.

When you learn things about your family, it becomes a part of your brain’s neural pathways and associations.  Remembering your mother brings back many memories because they are all tied together or bundled together by these neural pathways or associations in the brain.

Anything you learn, regardless of what it is, becomes a part of the vast neuronal associations in the brain, which contain over one billion nerve cells.

When you learn that Alexander the Great tried to conquer the world, as did Napoleon, your brain ties these people together into a neural association in your brain concerning history, historical events, and leaders who lived in the past.

When you learn to tie your shoes, ride a bicycle, drive a car, use a computer keyboard, or learn a musical instrument, your brain gradually develops the neural pathways to make your “practicing” become automatic.

The more you practice, and the more quality time you put into your practice, the more that your brain pathways change.  (Emphasis mine.) Fairly soon, you know how to tie your shoes and you don’t think about it anymore.  This practice you did has made tying your shoes become automatic.

Source: http://www.socialanxietyinstitute.org/chemical.html

The more you worry, the more likely you are to become a worrier.  What to do instead?  Act!  Make an impact on the things you can and constantly work to expand your influence.  Learn a new skill, take a class, network, and build relationships.  Get some momentum behind you and don’t look back.  The world is in dire need of leaders.  Be one!  Make a difference every day, even if it’s just something small.  Over time you will learn more and build a community of concerned people who will help you increase your impact.  There are innumerable causes in search of a champion.  Be one.  You have full permission to make mistakes along the way.  You don’t have to have all the answers.  Just bring a boat load of passion and a desire to learn and things will start falling in place as you work towards your goals.  Go.  Start now.  Do not look back.

If worry starts to creep in, remember what “The Dude” does.  He abides.

Bonus clip:

I loved this interview from Louie Schwartzberg’s TED Talk on gratitude.  It might be a good one to go back to from time to time.  If you find yourself worrying unnecessarily, take a step back and find a way to reconnect with wonder.  Remember, every moment is fleeting.  Will you view them with gratitude and fill them with purpose, or will you allow circumstances to fill you with worry?

cropped with SnipSnip

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