Two ideas from my Happiness Manifesto, Laugh it Off and Expect the Best, seem to combine into a trait that makes me a bit of a weirdo – I don’t worry about much of anything. When my flight gets bumpy I think, “odds are we’ll be fine, but if it’s my time, it’s my time.” I don’t worry about whether or not I’ll lose my job, have a family, or contract some horrible disease. Worrying just doesn’t make me feel any safer or any happier, so I don’t bother. But not everyone is wired like me.
Yesterday, I had three separate people in my office worrying about losing their jobs. They’ve each been at the firm for years and nothing happened this week to make them nervous; perhaps the media coverage of the economy finally cause their fears to reach a tipping point. If anyone should be worried, it’s the most recent hire in the most expendable department (me!)…
But I’m not, and that makes me curious.
My attitude stems from the idea that worrying doesn’t do anything about the problem. There’s a line I love from a commencement address (later turned into a song titled Wear Sunscreen):
Don’t worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.
Most of the things we worry about never come to pass, and most of the challenges we face we never even considered. So what’s the use in worrying?
Now I know I’m more free to let go and ride the wind than those with kids and a mortgage to worry about. And I do think that everyone should ask “what if” and have some idea of what they would do in a crisis. But once the plan is in place, I try to take a deep breath, have faith in my planning, and forget about it. There’s some trait that makes this easier for some, a roll-with-the-punches flexibility, a larger belief that while things might not turn out like we expect, they usually turn out OK. I’m also quite a risk-taker, but that’s a whole other post.
Sidebar: I realize I’m not completely exempt: as I sit here editing this for the 97th time, I realize that I do worry about some things quite a lot. I worry about whether I’ll be understood, and whether my ideas will be valuable, and frankly, what you think of me. But I tend to think of these not as things that happen to me but as things that I can influence: I can communicate more clearly, work harder to have an impact, try to listen more and tune in to the needs of those around me. So these concerns spur me to greater action and clarity, which I welcome.
I haven’t really closed the book on this debate. What am I missing? Am I oversimplifying a complex issue?