People worry. We all worry. A small amount of worry or concern is actually healthy. It can really motivate us to get into action and it can protect us from harm. It all goes back to our primitive times where worry kept us alert and helped us survive. We had to be alert and our minds were designed to protect us from predators and danger. It helped us with our flight or fight instinct. But what happens when we allow our mind to constantly worry? Day in and day out we allow our mind to only react to situations, be consumed by fear and worry about the dreaded “what ifs”.
According to the Daily Mail in the UK in 2008, a survey of 2,000 people suggested that we spend a total of 6.5 years worrying, on average. That is a staggering amount of time! I’m just going to put it out there – worry is one of the most disruptive and destructive emotions we possess and if we are not careful it can become an incredibly bad habit to have, taking us down a slippery slope to self-limitation, self-imprisonment and mental paralysis. It is incredible to think that in the developed world mental illness and anxiety are so prevalent, even though we have never had so many opportunities and conveniences available to us as we do today.
Why is that? Why do we spend so much time worrying and what is it that we worry about? Why do we allow ourselves to be consumed and paralysed by worry?
You just have to Google the word “worry” to get 169,000,000 results in less than a second. Many studies suggest we spend around 6.5 years worrying, in an average life span of 64. One such search got me on to “The New Lead the Field 2017” program and here is a top line breakdown of the things we worry about, including the amount of time that we spend worrying on each category. I know you will find this interesting so, let’s take some time to really think about this:
- 40% of our time is spent on things that never happen. So, that is equivalent to roughly 2.6 years of our lives…Ouch!!).
- 30% of our time is spent on things already done and in the past, that can’t be changed by all the worry in the world. That’s equivalent to 1.95 years of our lives.
- 12% is spent on needless worries about our health. Did you know that, according to some surveys, people spend hours Googling their own ailments and self-diagnosing before their GP visit? Self-diagnosis is so harmful. If you subscribe to the theory that we become what we think about, why would we choose to think of all the negative possibilities when it comes to our health? What are we feeding our minds?
- 10% is spent on petty, miscellaneous worries that just churn in our head day-in-day-out if we allow them to.
- A mere 8% of what we worry about are tangible real, legitimate worries. And the most powerful part is that we can only control 4% of this 8% as the rest is out of our control.
If this is true, which I believe it to be, what is the true cost of worry? We can talk about the real and debilitating illnesses that stress, anxiety and worry bring to our society. We can also talk about the health care costs that are blowing out of proportion. Take it one step further; let’s look at the very concerning increase in teen suicide rates and anxiety in our young. The list goes on! For me the true cost of worry is enormous.
However, it doesn’t have to be this way if we train our minds to focus on what we want rather than what we don’t want. I discuss this in more detail in some of my other blogs but if we look at it simply, we only have to worry about 4% of the things we currently worry about. Imagine that?! And as that 4% is within our control, we have so much time to focus on solutions when we eliminate all the other noise, because that’s all it is, noise that we create for ourselves through bad habits and restricted paradigms.
This is exactly what successful, happy people do, and have always done, worldwide across the ages. Living successfully and getting the things that we want in life, is a matter of solving the problems that stand between where we are right now and where we want to be.
Let’s be clear on this point, no one individual is without problems. Problems are a part of life. Successful people have the same problems. The only difference is that they know what to focus on and how to solve the problems quickly. Most people spend too much time fearing things that are never going to happen or can’t be controlled, leaving little energy and time to deal with the things that they can control and have solutions for. So what should we be doing instead? Putting it as simply as possible: be aware of your thoughts, acknowledge your worries but always focus on what you want and what’s in your control. Anything else is just a waste of time, energy and happiness.