How I Gave Up Worrying About My Business
"Would it help?" asked the Russian spy during the Cold war in the movie Bridge of Spies to his lawyer (Tom Hanks) every time his lawyer asked.
Every time I worried, I asked myself the same question.
My answer used to be...
Yes, it did help.
I will tell you about my relationship with worry and what I've seen that transformed it (without having to do anything but an understanding of how the human mind works and how human experience is created moment to moment).
The reason I made this personal...
It's not meant as advice/technique/positive thinking.
That didn't help me see different because I heard it as empty words and platitudes.
Until worrying really stopped being useful to me, there were no techniques or words of advice that made any difference. Why would I not use worry when I still saw it as useful?
I used to be a serial worrier. I would worry about almost everything. And inside me I was a proud worrier.
How I used to use "worry"
I used to use worry as a fuel to force myself to do things that I didn't want to do.
I used to use worry as a way to force myself to find the ultimate solution to "life" and "my business".
I used to use worry as a merit so that I would deserve to succeed because I had worried enough. (I deserved success because there was a lot of pain, so obviously there had to be some gain).
I used to use worry as an amulet meant to give protection against evil, danger, or uncertainty.
“Who says that worry doesn’t help? It certainly does help. Every time I worry about something it doesn’t happen!” was lurking behind this superstition.
So obviously worry was useful to me.
Real fear and unnecessary fear
If there were a lion walking right now into my office, something amazing would happen. My brain will drop all unnecessary thinking and I will be ready through the brilliant mechanism of fear.
That's real fear.
You know that because it is only present in imminent danger. Our brilliant minds calculate the solution to imminent danger like it beats our hearts and breaths without us having to think about it.
What if I use my thinking to imagine a lion coming into my office?
That's what I'm referring to as "unnecessary fear". I can get scared, no problem because feelings are just a thermometer showing the temperature of my thinking.
This is the thought experiment that has helped me start to see how worry really works.
Thought Experiment (1 min)
If I were to give you a million dollars if you could worry yourself, get scared and anxious right now, what would you do?
I personally would start to spin my thinking out of control with some habitual thoughts. It could be spiders, poverty, disease.
What I realized with this experiment is how I worry, how I scare myself.
Each of my clients has their own favorite thoughts they use to worry. It's not important the content of the thought as much as realizing who the thinker of those thoughts really is.
If your kid had to take a test, would you advice her to worry a lot?
If a brain surgeon needed to operate you, would you want her worried and stressed out?
If an athlete had to play, would it be useful for the coach to tell the athlete to start worrying?
What's the difference when you find it useful to worry?
As babies, we were born without worry, stress or anxiety and it works fantastically when we need to learn the important stuff. (Imagine if babies started to stress out about each thing they need to learn and would never get good at talking or walking).
We learn to worry. It's not our nature. It is an acquired habit.
Intuitively I knew that worrying is not good for business and performance.
If I could win a million dollars by dropping the worrying thinking in a second, how would you do it?
I haven't been able to win that imaginary million but I have seen something interesting.
The only thing I need to do is to recognize the feeling. Since feelings tell us the temperature of my thinking, I don't even need to know the content of my thinking, like I don't need to open a garbage bag to analyze what exactly is producing the stink.
As soon as I notice the feeling, I know what I'm actually doing with my thinking.
Do I try to stop it?
Do I try positive thinking?
Just seeing what is happening is enough. "Oh, I'm worrying myself, I'm scaring myself."
Thoughts and their companion feelings pass. So as best as I can I just let the system settle.
Look at babies. They come into the world with the default setting of the system settling itself back to harmony and happiness.
I could recognize that I had messed up a lot with my default setting because I thought that if I worried enough, it would be useful.
What is really useful
There is an intelligence behind life that grows my tomatoes and strawberries every summer, that beats our heart, that spins the planets.
I had drawn an imaginary line between that life intelligence and me.
As soon as I could see that we all have that brilliance of life available to us moment to moment, worry didn't seem useful any more.
To let that inner wisdom shine through, to get something fresh and transformative in the moment, I cannot occupy my mind with old thinking.
The Latin word for worry is preoccupation. It means to occupy your mind before it is time.
Once I could see that a cluttered mind will never give me the best chance in business or in life, worry stopped being useful. While it was up to me to worry and figure everything out on my own and try to control the world the best I could, worrying made sense. When I realized that I was missing the most important point, it stopped making sense.
Confusing presence, alertness and worry
Cave woman is sound asleep in a cave when a noise wakes her up. She elbows cave man, who would prefer to go on sleeping. She insists that he needs to go and check it out.
That is alertness and presence that comes from that inner wisdom we all have.
My theory (everybody has theories so why shouldn't I have one?)... we have learned to confuse preoccupying our minds with alertness, wisdom and presence.
Our default is a clear mind that allows us to learn and get good at things fast and easily.
You can watch any baby learning every day and getting good at walking and talking every day.
We intuitively know that inner wisdom, brilliance, high performance is empowered by a free mind and dis-empowered by a worry-cluttered mind.
How did I actually give up worry, pressure and stress?
First, I realized that worry is learned. It's not our true nature.
It comes from my thinking. (Yes, it does mean that innocently I am still the thinker and the source of worry). This means that worry, fear, stress is something I'm doing with my thinking.
Second, I realized that it doesn't help. I don't perform better or get fresh ideas when I'm working on my business if I worry and pressure myself. I cannot solve problems and overcome challenges better when I worry.
You have probably noticed that more and more athletes meditate. Sports has long recognized the importance of a free mind.
It's not about meditation or anything else to do. It's about the realization that the state of meditation is actually our natural default. A free mind is our natural state. If we can keep our mind free, we live in a state of meditation.
Having seen that worry is not going to help, I had the sincere intention not to live that way.
Why haven't I given up on chocolate?
Because i don't want to live without enjoying chocolate.
Why have I given up on worry?
Because I don't want to live a life that is less enjoyable and productive.
Any lasting change comes from realizing that a certain habit is not useful and having a sincere intention not to live like that.
Yes, I'm calling my constant worry a habitual way of thinking, something I thought it was a good idea to do with my power of thought.
Isn't worry natural?
Most people worry. Yes.
It's common but it is not natural. It's not our natural state as human beings.
Human beings perform great, create great when their minds are free.
Worry and stress are so common that they look like it is natural. But there is a difference between something that is common or normal and something that is natural.
Does it mean I never worry?
Of course, I do.
The only difference is that I catch it faster and faster and let the system settle. I just let it pass because I know it will pass.
Till next time, remember... Your awesomeness is portable. You can take it with you everywhere and anywhere.