Friday, April 29, 2011

"The Fog of Worry"

Think of the last time you saw fog. You might have been at home, away on a business trip or on vacation. You got up early in the morning and stepped outside to see the gorgeous mountain view you had been enjoying each day, only to see... but wait a minute! You couldn't see the mountain at all! It had completely disappeared!

Or had it? In the next instant you realized that of course, the mountain was still there, but it was completely fogged in! And unless you'd seen it before on a clear day, you'd have no way of knowing it even existed!  When you're fogged in, what's really around you can't be seen. It's all there, but it's hidden from view, covered by the tiny droplets of moisture floating in the air, produced by a combination of temperature and humidity.

In the same way, worry is the mental fog that prevents you from seeing things clearly. Don't let it blind you to what's really out there! Like moisture fog, the mental fog of worry hides from view the opportunities and solutions that are all around you right now. It clouds your thinking with thoughts and images of a negative nature in which mental attempts are made to avoid anticipated potential threats. Excessive worry turns to anguish and anxiety. Not a good thing! 

Over 40 years ago I heard Earl Nightingale tell about the "fog of worry." On a visit to San Francisco he found himself one morning surrounded by fog, a common event in that city. But if you were to check with the U.S Bureau of Standards you'd find this surprising fact: that a dense fog 100 feet deep, covering seven city blocks, is composed of ... less than one glass of water...that's it! What seems to be so dense and so capable of blocking what's around us can be condensed down to just a tiny amount of liquid, not quite filling a glass.

The same is true of what we worry about. It seems so dense, so all encompassing, yet, in reality almost all our worries are needless! That's right. Experts on the study of what worries people found these numbers. About 40% of what people worry about will never happen. Yes, 40% of what people worry about just won't ever happen!

 Next, the experts say, is the 30% of the things people worry about that can't be changed by all the worry in the world! Worrying about the weather will do nothing to stop the rain or to bring you sunshine. No, worry won't alter, in any way, 30% of what the uninformed fill their worry bucket with! Next is the 12% made up of needless health worries. Does wearing tennis shoes cause cancer? Is my heart beating enough?

Then those same worry experts calculate that about 10% of people's worries are just petty, miscellaneous things. Will I get a parking spot at the big game? Will the all-you-can-eat buffet run out of food? Needless worries! And finally that leaves you just 8% that are real, legitimate worries.

That means 92% of things most people worry about have already happened, will never happen...or if they did happen, there's nothing you could have done about it anyway! It's like the fog over those seven city blocks that couldn't even fill a glass. Your job is to focus on the things that are worthy of your effort and energy!

Dr. Edward Hallowell, a psychiatrist and the author of the book aptly titled Worry, describes "good worry" this way: "Good worry leads to constructive action, such as taking steps to resolve the issue that is causing you concern."

What you can do is start a "Worry List."  When you find yourself worrying, stop! Write down what it is that you're worrying about! When you have five to ten things on your list, do your own evaluation. Ask yourself: "Self, is this a good worry? Or is it a 92% that's already happened, will never happen or there's nothing I can do about it anyway?"

Your "good worries" will lead you to positive action. Fastening your seat belt when you're in a car or truck is a constructive action, based on your concern for safety. Buying insurance to protect yourself or your property is a constructive action, to solve your concern about loss. Worries about having enough money to retire some day should get you to act now to prepare for your financial future, to save more or to earn more. This is good! Worries about that extra weight you might be carrying around should get you back to the gym, walking more, eating better and getting fit and healthier. That's good!

So, next time you find yourself in a fog, smile, reflect about the "fog of worry," and put that fog in its proper a glass, not even full.

Then you can MAKE it a great day!