Stop Worrying by keeping busy
We often think of the word “history” to refer to events that have occurred hundreds of years ago. And we laugh at the idea of changing history. As it turns out, every second that goes by is history too and we can’t go back and change what happened 100 seconds ago, let alone a 100 years-but a lot of us are doing just that. To be sure, we may do something to modify the effects of what happened 100 seconds ago; but we can’t possibly change the event that occurred then.
There is only one way on God’s green earth that the past can be constructive; and that is by calmly analyzing our past mistakes and learning from them-and then forgetting them. I know that we all know this to be true; this is not new information by any means but have I always had the courage to do it? We have all made many mistakes in our lives. Rather than regret it, lose sleep over it, become cranky and frustrated, I realized that I’d be better off doing two things: First, I should have the sense to put a full stop, not a question mark or a different punctuation but a dot and move ahead. This is apparently what George Washington Carver, the scientist, did when he lost forty thousand dollars in a bank crash-the savings of a lifetime. When someone asked him if he knew he was bankrupt, he replied: “Yes, I heard”-and went on with his teaching. He wiped the loss out of his mind so completely that he never mentioned it again.
And the second thing I should be doing: Analyze my mistake and learn a lasting lesson. Spending the time worrying about something that has already occurred will certainly not undo it. But it will take precious time away from me that I could be using to analyze the event and learn from it. Consequently, it is likely I will repeat the same mistake again!
Back when I was younger, I was a chronic worrier. I confess that I still worry sometimes but it’s gotten a lot better over the years. Back then I used to stir and fret about the mistakes I had made. If I turned in an exam paper, I used to lie awake and wonder if I had done well enough. I was always living over and over again the things I had done, or what someone had said to me and wishing the situation were different; and wishing I’d said or done something better. Essentially, I cried a lot over spilt milk. That made me a person that always had a long face, always stressed internally. It made me tired all the time and took away from experiencing all the little joys that one experiences as a youngster. As I grew up I realized that milk that is spilt is gone forever; and all the fussing in the world won’t bring back even a drop of it. And if we allow it, that milk takes along with it our peace of mind and happiness too. What a loss! If that milk could have been saved with a little caution, then I need to make a note of that for the future. But for now, it’s too late. It’s already history -all we can do is write it off, forget it, and go on to the next thing.
And if this wasn’t enough, I used to do something even worse- worry about events that hadn’t even occurred! If a friend said something to me I did not like, I would not just be content fretting over what was said which is fruitless to begin with but then would go on to worry about what that means about our friendship, how we would face each other in school in the future, whom I would now go to lunch with etc. Most of the times, reality was never as bad at all- situations tend to work themselves out if we’d let them and not interfere with the proceedings through our own negativity. So another lesson I learnt as I grew up was to not cross your bridges until you come to them. Don’t turn ahead of the curve, turn along with it.
Again, I know these are old teachings that we all know only too well but then again most of our so called situations arise because we don’t bear these in mind. Knowledge isn’t power unless it is applied!
The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.
So why waste the tears? Of course, we have been guilty of blunders and silliness! So what? Who hasn’t? Even Napoleon lost one-third of all the important battles he fought. Perhaps our average is no worse than Napoleon’s. Who knows? And, anyhow, all of the king’s horses and all the king’s men can’t put the past together again.
So what can we do to stop worrying about things? Most of us have little trouble “losing ourselves in action” while we are busy at work. But the hours after work tend to be the dangerous ones. That’s when we begin to wonder whether we’re getting anywhere in life; whether we’re in a rut; whether the boss “meant anything” by that remark he made today; or whether we’re getting old.
When we are not busy, our minds tend to become a near-vacuum. And nature dislikes a vacuum and rushes in to fill the vacant mind. It fills it with emotions such as worry, fear, hate, jealousy and envy because these particular emotions use up a lot of energy and work your mind nonstop. Such emotions are so violent that they tend to drive out of our minds all peaceful, happy thoughts and emotions.
Worry has the best chance to wreck us when we are not in action, when the day’s work is done and there is that mental vacuum. Our imagination tends to run wild then and manufacture all kinds of conspiracy theories and magnify each little mistake. At such a time our mind is like a wild horse running amuck. It races without looking and it feels like it could collapse out of exhaustion at any moment. The remedy for worry is to get completely occupied doing something productive.
Being introspective is a good thing but too much of it can be equally if not more harmful. If I don’t keep busy and sit around and brood, I will create so many waste thoughts that will drain me completely and wreck my spirit.
George Bernard Shaw summed it all up when he said: “The secret of being miserable is to have the leisure to bother about whether you are happy or not.” So don’t bother to think about it! Get busy. The blood will start circulating; mind will start ticking or in other words, I will have the reigns to the horse in my hands to guide it to where I want it to go and at the pace at which I am comfortable –and pretty soon the positivity will bring strength and crowd the worry from the mind. Keeping busy, as they say, is the cheapest kind of medicine there is on this earth-and one of the best.
When we worry, most of the time it tends to be about something someone did to us or said to us that was hurtful. One sure way to forgive and forget is to become absorbed in some cause infinitely bigger than ourselves. Then the insults and the enmities we encounter won’t matter because we will be oblivious of everything but our cause.
We reap what we sow and somehow destiny always makes us pay for our misdeeds. If we only remember this law, then there is no need to be angry with anyone, blame anyone, or hate anyone. If we are at the receiving end of hurtful behavior, perhaps we are settling our account our own past behavior.
Perhaps Lincoln was one of the most denounced and double-crossed men in American history. Yet Lincoln, according to Herndon’s classic biography, “never judged men by his like or dislike for them. If any given act was to be performed, he could understand that his enemy could do it just as well as anyone. If a man had maligned him or been guilty of personal ill-treatment, and was the fittest man for the place, Lincoln would give him that place, just as soon as he would give it to a friend. … I do not think he ever removed a man because he was his enemy or because he disliked him.”
Lincoln was denounced and insulted by some of the very men he had appointed to positions of high power. Yet he believed, according to Herndon that “No man was to be eulogized for what he did; or censured for what he did or did not do,” because “all of us are the children of conditions, of circumstances, of environment, of education, of acquired habits and of heredity molding men as they are and will forever be.”
Perhaps Lincoln was right. When we start out, we all start with clean clothes but then life happens! Each one of us goes off on our own journey and has dirt stick to our clothes along the way. When someone behaves a certain way, it always helps me to remember that this is probably the dirt that got picked up in the course of the journey – perhaps that journey was especially rough! This change in perspective alters my reaction to the person from a show of anger to a feeling of sympathy. I realize that if I had inherited the same physical, mental, and emotional characteristics as that person, and if life had done to me what it has done to him, I would act exactly as he is. I couldn’t possibly do anything else. Being armed with this knowledge leaves no room for judgment and condemnation. So instead of hating or disliking people, I now try to sympathize with them and thank God that life has not made me what they are. Instead of heaping condemnation upon people, let’s give them our understanding, our sympathy, our help, our forgiveness, and our prayers.
To cultivate a mental attitude that will bring us peace and happiness it’s important to get away from the temptation to try to get even with people we dislike, because if we do we will hurt ourselves far more than we hurt them. Apparently, General Eisenhower never wasted a minute thinking about people he didn’t like.
Even if we find it hard to love everyone, for the sake of our own health and happiness, let’s at least forgive them and leave it at that. Confucius said that “To be wronged or robbed is nothing unless you continue to remember it.”
There is an old saying that a man is a fool who can’t be angry, but a man is wise who won’t be angry. Let’s remember that how we feel depends on our own thoughts. How we want to feel is entirely up to us. No one can disturb my peace if I don’t let him.
Sticks and stones may break my bones,
But words can never hurt me.