Though Christmas is supposed to be the “happiest season of all,” this is actually one of the times of the year where people worry the most. I was out the other day and it was a mad house.
Christmas and the Holidays aren’t alone in their capacity to make people worry, though. As a people and a country, we’re arguably more worried than ever before. It’s not a good way to live, but there’s no escaping it. You can’t pretend like the problem of worrying doesn’t exist. “Don’t worry, be happy” is nice in theory, but it can’t rewrite reality, because we can’t control when we feel emotions. You can’t control when you’re worried and when you aren’t. However, there are few worse ways to live than being in a constant state of worry.
What do you do?
The answer is to transform your worry into something else. Keeping your worry as bad thoughts in your mind is an excellent way to sap your strength and prevent you from solving the cause of your problem.
Transform your worry into positive action. This was the exhortation of Louis XIV:
Time, action itself, and the aid of heaven usually break a thousand paths and uncover a thousand unexpected solutions.
This is the line to keep in your head when you have worry. Sitting being worried isn’t going to solve your worry. In fact, you’re only going to be more anxious. One passage from The Virtues of War, a historical fiction about the campaigns of Alexander the Great, sums it up:
To attack makes men brave, to defend makes them timorous. If I hear that a commander of mine has taken an offensive posture in the field, that commander will never serve me again.
If Alexander the Great never actually said these words, they do sound like something he’d say.
Reveling in worry is taking a defensive posture in the field. You clam up. You wonder why things are so bad and why bad things only seem to happen to you alone. You focus more on your problem than what you can do to make things better and this acts as a downward spiral that’s increasingly difficult to recover from.
You’d be extremely surprised at the things you can get done with concentrated, small efforts. Things that once appeared impossible become not only reality, but things that you’re confident you can do routinely. Little by little, your problem becomes graspable, and then a thing of the past.
That isn’t to say it will be easy. You’ll be frustrated more than once. But at least you’ll feel the power of taking action. You won’t be sitting in stasis and consumed with worry. Your thoughts will be elsewhere – focusing on what you can do next, instead of ruminating on how bad everything is.
In everything from your biggest problems to your smallest ones, no matter where worry is, this is the approach you need to take. Never assume a defensive posture in the field or you’ll be a timid boy who will soon be consumed.
Take a small step, receive a small failure, and succeed in a larger way in the next small step. You’ll conquer the problem.
Sometimes this approach is hard to maintain. I must confess that 2018 isn’t a year that’s always gone to my liking. While it’s been my best professional year, I can’t help but feel that other areas of my life have regressed. Was that a sacrifice I chose to make? I honestly don’t think so. It just feels like it happened. Familial issues have also crept in, which is something outside my control but has taken a toll nevertheless.
To say that worry hasn’t come from all of this would be a lie. I Just don’t feel as confident as I did in previous years. That’s not a good feeling to have. You always want to feel like you’re moving up, as Scott Adams says.
Then I realized that I was violating my own rules and not transforming enough of my worries into positive action, the way that I did in the past and which made past years feel so successful. At least, I wasn’t doing it as much as I was doing it before. I wasn’t doing it in the parts of my life that feel like they’ve regressed, and only recently did I realize it.
Figuring out what you’ve done wrong isn’t always easy.
I don’t do New Year’s resolutions. They set you up for failure. Just know that engaging in a system of small behaviors toward your problem will pay off by the end of the year. I guarantee it. Not every day will be an up, but you’ll be more up than down.