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As we travel down the road of life, there are many twists, turns and junctions to be navigated. One of the greatest roadblocks to a successful journey are the self-inflicted moments of incessant worry. Even the most intelligent and grounded people often get swept away by a tsunami of worry and doubt at different life moments. We tend to lock ourselves into a prison of stress and anxiety as we lose our focus and confidence and submit to worrying.

Worry can be simply defined a anxiety, stress, fear, and uncertainty over some perceived “potential problems.” The truth is that we all worry at times. It is the depth and degree of that worry that can drag us into a nightmare of our own design. Jesus asks us rhetorically in Matthew 6:27, “Can all of your worries add a single moment to your life?” The obvious answer is no, yet we continue to engage in debilitating worry that can render us afraid, dazed, and confused. The higher our level of anxiety and stress, the more impaired we become in our thoughts, decisions, and actions.

Worry is our subconscious mind and fragile emotions at work in an exhibition of our fears…fear of failure…fear of injury…fear of loss. Even when our experience, knowledge, and consciousness tell us that all is well, worry seeps in to undermine us with paralyzing doubt. Worry and angst test our tolerance for uncomfortable situations, foster self-doubt, and stress us to the point of physical illness. It takes to task our mind’s ability to calm the storm within. Worry seeks to remove the logical and obvious from our consciousness and leads us down the road of our conjured up worst-case scenarios.

Worry, doubt, and fear partner with our glass half-empty thoughts to ramp up our stress and anxiety. It is only by controlling our thoughts and approaching life in a positive manner that we can move worry to a manageable and healthy level.  It is natural to have concerns that show a higher level of interest and caution about a particular thing or situation. Concern and reasonable caution are natural methods to both problem solving and creating a healthy approach to life. The greatest tool in our bag is in practicing mindfulness. When our awareness is focused on the present moment, then our ability to zero in on any possible worries is greatly increased.

Mindfulness requires us to quiet our thoughts and anxieties to allow us to reject the negative energy and vibrations of an unknown future. It requires that we focus on what our senses can detect, and our minds can control in the present moment. It is through worry and fear and mental jousting with thoughts about what might possibly happen next that we lose our joy and pleasure of the present moment. Mindfulness serves us as a barrier to the emotional barrage of “what ifs” as we navigate daily life.

Mindfulness is achieved by the practice of quieting our thoughts, clearing our mind, and moving to a level of serene consciousness. The development of a more mindful approach requires that we set “intention” to become more aware and less fearful. It also requires that we move our “attention” from future fictional happenings to what is occurring in the present moment that might impact the future. It is through setting our intention and directing our attention to the present moment that we can develop an “attitude” and perspective that can allow us to chase off some of the demons and burdens of worry about future events.

When I was coaching, we spent many hours working on situational strategies.  Creating some of those high pressure, high anxiety moments in a practice setting was vital to teaching individuals and a team how to deal with the moment when it occurs in a game. We tend to stress less when we have experienced a situation previously and have an intended plan of action. Our confidence rises as we recognize situations as familiar… places we have already been…a scenario we have played out…a problem we have conquered.

 “The same is true in life.  Experience and familiarity with stress filled situations allows us to have a higher comfort level when we are confronted with similar challenges as life progresses.” 

Worry is the mind’s visualization of our fears. The more we can identify our fears, research, and share our emotions attached to those fears, the greater the chance that we can face related situations in the future with a more positive and productive attitude.

We’ve all seen those road signs that say, “proceed with caution.” Those words of warning are also great bits of advice in dealing with possible situations that might lead to worry and stress. Proceeding with caution invites us to slow down and settle into the mindfulness of the present moment. When we tend to blow through life unprepared and unaware, we create a whirlwind of worry and doubt that often engulfs us and diminishes our chances for a positive outcome.

Sometimes in life we must simply, “Let Go and Let God.” Worry often arises from our perceived inability to control our life situations and outcomes. Many times in my life I have prayed for an outcome that I considered to be right and perfect for me.  Often, I moved forward in disappointment only to find down the road that what I had stressed about and prayed for was not the shiny reward that I had imagined. God and the Divine Energy of the Universe provided something better…often it was something that I had never imagined in my moments of previous prayer and worry.

Impatience is a symptom of worry and the urge to move at our own directed pace and direction. Life tends to unfold in Divine Order. No amount of worry or impatience will move the Universe ahead faster or tilt it in a direction that it was not intended to go.  As hard as we might try, we cannot make the river flow in a direction that it was not intended.

Worry also carries us into a foggy state of consciousness when that anxiety rest upon what another person or persons does or does not do. As often as we would like, we simply can’t and shouldn’t seek to control others. Nature teaches us that we can nurture and protect, but at some point, we must let go and rest in the confidence that our love and guidance have provided a blueprint for success, joy, and happiness. To attach our own happiness and joy to that of another soul creates a burden for all.

Worry is also highly contagious and can spread rapidly within a family or group.  Great parenting and great leadership embraces being the calming voice of reason in the storms of life. We can’t live a happy and productive life in a bubble. There are so many reasons to be happy rather than filled with worry. The most important is the realization that peace and happiness require us to live in mindfulness and to release and trust in Divine guidance and Divine order.

Peace of mind is what we receive when we open our soul and consciousness to all possibilities for love, harmony and prosperity. Live in the mindfulness of the present moment. Seek daily to approach life with a smile and determination to make your life and that of others better.  Above all, in the words of the famous Jamaican singer Bob Marley, “Don’t Worry…Be Happy.”

Fred Clausen  

author of The Fork in the Road Leads Home: Reflections From My Life's Journeys...A Collection of Essays and The Essential Elements of Successful Coaching