One of my favorite “Peanuts” cartoons describes Charlie Brown and Linus sitting on a bench. The caption reads, “Worrying won’t stop the bad stuff from happening; it just stops you from enjoying the good.”
Such wisdom from a pair of kids! It’s advice I take to heart and try to remember when I’m facing a situation like we’re going through today with the coronavirus.
Worry is the most destructive habit. I’m as bad at worrying as anyone. I always think about what can go wrong with any project. Over the years I’ve learned that worrying doesn’t give you anything but wrinkles; something else to worry about. Worry doesn’t do any good. I know; most of the things I worried about didn’t happen.
Worry is wasting today’s time to clutter up tomorrow’s opportunities with yesterday’s troubles.
Dr. Charles Mayo, one of the famous Mayo brothers who founded the Mayo Clinic, said: “Worry affects circulation, the heart and the glands, the whole nervous system, and profoundly affects the heart. I have never known a man who died from overwork, but many who died from doubt.”
In my most recent book, “You Haven’t Hit Your Peak Yet!,” I wrote a chapter on “The Second Ten Commandments.” The first one reads: “Thou shall not worry, for worry is the most unproductive of all human activities. You can’t saw sawdust. A day of worry is more exhausting than a day of work. People get so busy worrying about yesterday or tomorrow, they forget about today. And today is what you have to work with.”
For the first two months of this year I spent a lot of time in bookstores, in the middle of a promotion tour for my book. Browsing the shelves, I found plenty of self-help books. Some of the most popular books concern worry, stress and simplifying your life. And some of those have been around for decades, because the advice they offer is timeless.
Dale Carnegie’s “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living” has been one of my favorite books for the last 50 years. It was first published in 1948, but the advice is just as fresh and valuable as it was then and is right-on for these uncertain times. Two sections that really knocked my socks off were about business people trying to solve problems without the added burden of worrying. Carnegie credits Willis H. Carrier (whose name appears on many of our air conditioners) with these silver bullets:
- Analyze the situation honestly and figure out what is the worst possible thing that could happen.
- Prepare yourself mentally to accept the worst, if necessary.
- Then calmly try to improve upon the worst, which you have already agreed mentally to accept.
These nuggets are taken directly from Carnegie’s “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.” This particular list describes how to “Break the Worry Habit Before It Breaks You”:
- Keep busy.
- Don’t fuss about trifles.
- Use the law of averages to outlaw your worries.
- Cooperate with the inevitable.
- Decide just how much anxiety a thing may be worth and refuse to give it more.
- Don’t worry about the past.
I love the story of the little clock that almost worried itself to death. It worked itself into a frazzle thinking about how often it would have to tick in the coming year.
“I’ll have to tick two times per second, which means 120 times a minute, 7,200 times every hour, and 172,800 every day!” Then it went further – 1,209,600 every week, and a whopping 63 million times, give or take, over the next 12 months! The more it thought about that number, the more worried it became. Finally, anxiety overtook the little clock and it stopped ticking.
And it was miserable. So it consulted a psychiatrist. “I just don’t have what it takes to tick that often,” it complained.
The doctor asked, “How many ticks must you tick at one time?” The clock replied, “Just one.” The doctor suggested, “How about using your energy to just tick one tick at a time, and I think you’ll be just fine.”
So the little clock wound itself up, decided to take one tick at a time and ticked happily ever after. Taking life one tick at a time, instead of worrying what will happen down the road, will buy you time that you would have wasted with untimely fears.
Mackay’s Moral: Worry pulls tomorrow’s cloud over today’s sunshine.