A few years ago, my family went on vacation to a resort hotel that offered massages. My wife said I should get one, so I made an appointment.
“Your massage will be with Al Pacino,” the scheduler said.
“With whom?” I asked.
“With Al Pacino.”
“That’s who I thought you said.”
My heart skipped a beat. A massage with The Godfather? This was not the vacation I had signed up for. My mind tripped into WORRY mode. What had I gotten myself into? I was on pins and needles waiting for my appointment.
Finally the door opened–it was time. And out walked a very non-Pacino-like gentleman.
With a thick Bahamian accent and the complexion to match, he said, “Hey mon, I be Al Pacino. Come this way, mon.”
Not the Al Pacino I was expecting.
I wonder how much time and energy we spend on outcomes that never happen. In this case, my ruminations were harmless. But it’s not always this way. We can waste a lot of resources worrying about outcomes that will never be—at work and at home.
So here are five steps to worry-free living that have been a great help to me:
Decide to pursue peace over worry. Imagine all the time you’ve spent worrying that could have been spent otherwise. You’ve let your circumstances and variables beyond your control and relationships consume you. You’ve bound yourself to your afflictions and burdened yourself with your troubles. It was always someone else’s fault or variables beyond your influence—bad moon rising, bad luck, bad cards dealt to you. Instead, choose the road less traveled.
Make two columns on a sheet of paper. Label one column, “Within My Control” and label the other, “Beyond My Control.” Write down variables in their appropriate columns. When you’re finished, take a good look at your columns. Focus on the variables within your control. They’re what you can influence, what you can change. Put your attention on them. Be aware of the items beyond your control because they can impact your performance, but they’re not worth worrying about.
If you have recurring worries, write them down. This declutters your brain. Your mind has limits to what it can hold at one time. If you go into a task thinking about your worries, it’ll be difficult to work. So take a few moments to clear out your mind of its worries by writing them down. You may notice how unrealistic, intangible, or unfair your worries are.
If writing your worries down doesn’t help, try talking them out with someone you trust. Instruct the person as to what you’d like them to do–just listen or offer their perspective. Saying your worries out loud, although a vulnerable thing to do, may alleviate anxiety. Sometimes naming something reduces its power. Hearing the listener’s point of view might also remove the power that unspoken worry can wield.
To break the worry cycle, do something relaxing. Take a walk, put on soothing music, look at art, work in the dark, watch an inspiring Ted Talk, imagine visiting one of these beautiful places, watch Susan Boyle wow Simon Cowell, visit a friend, close your eyes for a minute, listen to your breathing, pray for help. Then repeat.
Or here’s another one–get a massage with Al Pacino. He’s quite good.