the “but what if” worries that are haunting your heels

Worrying about the future seems ingrained in some people. Others may care not for what comes, they just integrate themselves into wherever they are and trust the flow of the universe to bring them to where they need to be. The worriers, however, can’t. It’s a matter of control, what if I’m not prepared and I lose what matters most to me?

We do what we can to prepare for the future, and we want to be reasonably ready for any situation. Some people are where they need to be already, and just need to learn how to let go. They need to trust that things will work out, trust themselves that their work is enough. Their efforts are enough, and their worry serves no good. It’s a reminder that some of us need to hear: there can always be more work done, but if you’ve put in the work you can, you need to trust that that is all you can do.

However, not everyone has that luxury. Sometimes people are below a certain financial line and know they can never be reasonably ready. That’s the problem with telling people to, “Just don’t worry about it”, because the same situation could ruin one family and be barely a dent for another. It’s the privilege of the rich, for good or ill.

But how do we live, knowing we aren’t ready? How do we live, knowing that we aren’t safe if something goes wrong? How do we trust things will be okay when we know if one thing goes wrong, it won’t be?

Poorer people have lower IQ. This is not a cause to their poverty, but rather a symptom of it. When put into demanding situations, our ability to see the larger patterns are limited, and for good reason. The stress forces us to focus on right now, to get through the day. It’s survival, and we can’t to sit back and luxuriously view the options without care. The issue is that sometimes we need to be able to see the larger pattern, the bigger picture. Our minds need to rest a bit so they can understand the context.

It is not wrong to worry. For some people, it’s the driving force that keeps them on top of their crazy life. It’s the grounding factor that keeps people from making reckless decisions. We shouldn’t be angry with ourselves for worrying because it is an action that makes sense in a lot of situations, and a coping mechanism for handling the variables of living.

As with most things, the issue is in how much we engage with it. If we can’t get out of bed, if it takes up most of our thoughts, that’s when our concern becomes concerning. If it’s lowering our IQ, that’s a problem. Yet, with the financial aspect, how can we get out of it?

That’s the issue right there. We shouldn’t see worry as something to “get out of”. We are the things that worry. It is our choice. Even though habits may take our will out of the equation, we can take that will back, slowly but surely. There is a line between using our worry to make our lives more productive and prepared versus letting it overwhelm us. That’s why it’s important to remind ourselves 1. what we can control and 2. what we cannot.

If we can control it, we do our best. Then step two is the difficult part, we try to let it go. We let it be. Maybe the world will fall apart. Maybe the worst will happen. Take that outcome in mind, truly face it: if it happens, life will still go on. Or it won’t, and there’s nothing we can do about that either.

Those who worry are used to the face of their fears. We know their enemy. We’ve imagined its face a thousand times and then some. If something happens we weren’t expecting, we necessarily never would have been able to expect it. If the worst happens, that’s not the end, because as long as we are alive, we can take steps to make things better. It will be different, but it can still always be better, and that’s something to cling to.

Your worry is not your enemy. You are in control of what you can control, and everything else is irrelevant to your headspace. Things will turn out. They may not turn out how you want, but they will always turn out some way, and you are more ready than you know if you’re considering it in the first place.

getting out from under apathy

In life, we can get apathetic. If you’re feeling slow and lazy, I offer two primary options: if you can sleep longer during appropriate times, do it. Go to bed at 10 instead of 11. Avoid long naps, 20 min at most. The second option, when you can’t at the moment expand your sleeping schedule, is to get pumped.

Sometimes when you feel apathetic, your body needs to move. You need to get it to move! Exercise where you can, listen to upbeat music! Life is short. We only have so much time, and all of these things we want to do. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Our lives could be changed dramatically at any moment! But if it is, we want to be able to be adapt to that new situation. So be awake! Be present in what you do. Get your body going so your mind can be there for the things that matter.

If you find yourself in a funk, try to get out of it, even if it feels pointless. You’ll never know which effort allows you to pull through. This is your life! It is your own, and you’re doing the best you can! Whether you feel like you’re behind or ahead of people, know it’s not a race.

the known and unknown

Being positive means one of two things: (1) facing the known and trying to find something worthwhile in it, and (2) facing the unknown and trying to look ahead to the good possibilities instead of the bad ones. Both of these tend to be incredibly difficult because our fears like to overcome our hopes. In terms of strength, negative emotions just stick around better! It makes sense to be prepared for the worst outcome, after all. The problem is that, as humans, we tend to ruminate on those negative emotions and it can paralyze us.

So what can we do to find the good in both the known and the unknown? The first step is to look at what we know. “Looking at what we know” may sound a little silly, but we don’t do it that often. We look at what we want to, and ignore other relevant information. So, make an effort to look at that relevant information! Things might go wrong, but you have things. One aspect of your life may be tremendously difficult, but that doesn’t make the rest of it unimportant. Acknowledging these parts of your life doesn’t mean that suddenly everything is easy or that you don’t have a right to complain, it just reminds you that this one problem isn’t the full picture. We are not the center of the universe, and that’s a good thing.

The second part of being positive is looking into the unknown with hope. This becomes more and more difficult depending on the life you’ve had to this point. Someone who has had their trust betrayed multiple times is likely going to have trust issues with their partners in the future because their experience is telling them their hope will not be rewarded. However, while experience impacts us significantly, there is still that unknown factor. That factor could be both positive or negative, but we want to focus on the negative because we’re not sure if we can handle it.

However, we can handle a lot more than we think. Mentally, we want to hold back because of all of those negative emotions. But we shouldn’t! We have situations that likely will turn out poorly, but we also have situations that will likely turn out amazing! Knowing or not knowing, the future is still something we haven’t experienced yet. All we can do is the best we can in our present, so leave the future to its own devices. You can do this.

when you don’t know what you don’t know

The most problematic aspect of uncertainty is that it doesn’t go away even after you acknowledge it. For most other problems, once you recognize and diagnose it, you can begin to solve it. If you’re tired, get more and more consistent sleep. If you know you aren’t healthy, the next step is usually pretty straight forward: drink water, exercise, get a good amount of sleep, eat a balanced diet, etc. If you aren’t doing well on a project, you assess why. Maybe you look up youtube videos or read a book to learn what you don’t know, or try to communicate better with your group. Realizing you aren’t sure? How do you “fix” that, where’s the solution?

The initial intuitive key is to learn more. If you don’t know what you don’t know, then you can find out by trying to “know” more. But where do you begin? If you are trying to learn about a new subject, it’s good to try and get an overview of things first. You can read articles and watch videos that sum it up, then look at what famous people in the area say about it, and from there start using key words to find out about more of the details. What if it’s more than that, however? What if it’s an emotional, relational situation? Things get messier when you start throwing humans into the mix. You have to respect others and their experiences. Still, just because they think a certain way and have a line of opinions to tell you doesn’t mean that you have to agree with them. We have to balance respect and self-respect, communicating tactfully while completely and truly listening to what they have to say. However, the uncertainty question comes back again: How? How do you be assertive and yet respectful when you aren’t ever 100% sure of how the other person thinks? Or sometimes, how do you just be respectful when you find their opinions despicable?

Sure, you can realize that you are uncertain, but when the next step isn’t clear, things are plain difficult. And the most terrifying but realistic answer is that we don’t ever truly know the next step. We will always have to deal with some level of uncertainty. What we can do is try to move past it. You don’t know what you’re doing, or even what questions to ask? Tell someone you don’t know what questions to ask. Wing things if you need to just get them down. If you try something and it doesn’t work, you’ll know for certain at least that that particular route doesn’t work. Diagnosing the fact you are uncertain doesn’t feel like a huge step compared to diagnosing other things, but it actually is a bigger step than we realize. If we think we know and we don’t, we can’t have the opportunity to fail, and if we don’t have the opportunity to fail, we can never learn. The next step may be foggy, but that’s okay. Just take that step anyways and try to learn what places to avoid.

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Orange’ya glad I didn’t compare you to an apple?

It’s strange to consider that oranges, which are now commonplace in America, were once considered to be rare treats, gotten maybe one or twice a year. Oranges are sweet, but I doubt most people would consider it to be like a candy. We wouldn’t because we have actual candy to compare it to. Even though oranges themselves haven’t altered, they’ve been debunked from a candy to a sweet addition to a meal. The oranges didn’t change, the things around them did. If we consider ourselves to be an orange then, how do we take and utilize this principle? We start off by not comparing apples to oranges.

For simplicity’s sake, let’s say you have a generic person who has an IQ of 100, as that is the average. First, you put them in a room full of people who have an IQ of 90, learning a task the generic person already knows but the rest don’t. Then, you put them into a room full of people who have an IQ of 110, learning something that everyone else knows but they don’t. These situations aren’t fair. However, even if the generic person knows the situation, they are still probably going to feel brilliant in the first class and like a moron in the next. That’s considering the situation while knowing that it’s unfair.

We don’t know the situation a lot of times. We make attribution after attribution on halves of knowledge. Our sense of who we are and what we can do depends tremendously on who and what we are around. It’s not everything, of course, but the environment is a huge factor in our identity. Let me suggest this however; you might be an orange once a year or you might be the commonplace orange. If you think you’re all that, you might just be surrounding yourself with people who are less skilled than you. If you think you’re worth nothing, you might be leaving out a massive chunk of the real population. We don’t have glasses that tells us how much money, IQ, or how many friends each person has. We can’t see the details, we don’t know where people are coming from a lot of times. Your ‘sweetness’ is relative.

So what can you do? You can keep on being sweet. You can keep trying your best, because that’s the best you can do. Help others, be kind. Be ambitious and chase down your goals. Try to keep in mind that both fruit and chocolate bars are sugary and delicious but taste completely different. Keep going, you can do this.

When was the last time you wrote a poem?

Humans are petty, we like when people notice the small things we put effort into. The extent of which varies from culture to culture, but when we know other people notice our efforts, it’s nice. It feels good. “Oh is that a new shirt?” “You have really neat handwriting, that must’ve taken a long time!” “That’s a cool photo! How did you do that?” It doesn’t have to be big (although noticing the big events can be very important as well). There are billions of people on the planet but how many of them feel lonely? How many people feel lost and unloved? Too many. 

 Lots of people dream of becoming celebrities, in part because of the money, but also because we have this desire to be adored. If that’s true, then let’s be genuine fans of other people. There’s a lot we can do to make the people we care about feel and know it.  Let’s try our best to notice the details. Notice someone’s favorite song. Remember what things they do on the weekend. Actually listen to the people who talk to you. Do unto others that which you would want done unto you. 

Love poems seem clique and old fashioned, but sometimes we need to be clique and old fashioned. Afterall, who said love poems only have to be romantic? St. Valentine himself wasn’t writing lines to his girlfriend but letters of encouragement to his friends. Dear friends can be even more important than a lover. Let’s try to treat others like we are writing them a love poem with our actions. The closer we draw to those around us, the more at home we become. 

The winged eyeliner matters

Beauty is a form of self control. We use makeup to cause the illusion of symmetry and accentuate attractive features, it is a skill to be honed. Certain clothes highlight those parts which our culture values, and keeping with those trends takes effort. To be healthy requires focus and self control on a daily basis. No matter the gender, to be attractive physically is a form of self denial for what is percieved to be a greater purpose. Therefore, it could be argued that “looking nice” shows strength of character.

 Afterall, if you spend large amounts of money on attire and products, you most likely care about your life. It shows you put the effort in yourself and so you might be willing to put it in something else as well. However, this doesn’t always transfer over so easily. We have limited amounts of self control, and limited time to care about things. If you only care about appearance, you’re missing out. Besides, what about people who don’t care about their appearance and use self control for other, arguably greater, things? 

If you scorn people who put effort into their appearance, you’re scorning someone’s values and effort. Frankly, that’s messed up. Also, if you scorn people who don’t put effort into their appearance, you’re missing out on what they do put their time and effort into, what they do value. Sometimes people care and sometimes they don’t. The perfect mix is probably somewhere in the middle. Respect people. 

Own up and glow up

Koalas have unique fingerprints like humans. In fact, in some instances stolen property was traced back to a specific mischievous koala. I’m not sure if the koala was represented properly in court, but the thing about fingerprints at a crime scene is that it’s not as upfront as it may seem. You only get partial prints, or perhaps the person was there but didn’t commit the crime. DNA at a scene of crime can be planted purposefully. In the case of the koala, I don’t think anyone nefariously decided to frame the beast. However, it is a thing of importance to remember that responsibility for our actions is primarily our own choice.

The funny thing about humans is our bias. We overestimate our abilities in forseeing an event in hindsight, we compare ourselves to those who are slightly worse than us. We even convince ourselves we are skilled at certain tasks by twisting the definition of “skill”. Maybe Sally doesn’t make the best tasting food, but she makes food in a systematic way that keeps her kitchen more “put-together” looking. Taylor has food everywhere and is a mess, but the outcome is delicious. In both Taylor and Sally’s minds, they are both “good” cooks, but they define it in the way that works out best for themselves. (Gilovich, 2011)

That being said, humans hate taking responsibility for when we mess up. It’s not pleasurable in any manner. With only bits of information, we can convince ourselves it was someone else’s fault. However, that only hurts us in the long term. By being honest and saying , “I messed up”, we get to move on. We get to grow and become better people. It’s up to us, whether we want to go after who we want to be. 


Sources

  • Gilovich, T., Keltner, D., & Nisbett, R. E. (2011). Social psychology. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.

Where the drain goes

My phone drains its battery at an incredible speed that causes me a slight pang of anxiety at all times. If its always on battery saving mode and loses a percentage every minute, there’s a problem somewhere. If I’m being honest with myself, that problem is too much information. I have tons of photos and apps and songs downloaded, and I don’t want to get rid of any of it. However, if I really want to solve the problem, I’m going to have to make a change. 

That absolutely fascinating story aside, its hard to, in modern terms, “block the toxicity”. I’m unhappy but clinging to this idea that it will all work out perfectly. It’s hard to change. We only have a certain amount of self control before we’re exhausted. So pyschologically speaking, to get to where we want to go, we need to make sure our focus goes into things that matter. 

Like a phone, we only have so much battery before we need to rest up. We have limited time and lots of things to do, to the point it may seem overwhelming. So don’t do everything. Don’t take on the world. Focus on one, maybe two things. Use your self control well and build it up. Make changes to the important things a little bit at a time. You can do this.

Step by step dolphin training

What we want is mostly irrelevant. Likely millions of other people want the same sorts of things. We are held in check by going after them by these silly things called responsibilites. That’s why the childhood dream of adulthood is so far off; adults technically could do whatever they want, but do they have the resources for it? Would their credit score be impacted? Would the people closest be okay with it? There’s so many factors in the idea of “adult freedom”. However, we are given a wonderful opportunity.

That opportunity is life itself. I could want sleep, food, a few spare billion dollars, and a more clear cut view of the future instead of the responsibility of work. The fact is, what I want isn’t going to fall into my lap. However, I can do two things to significantly make my situation better. 

1. I can work out how I’m going to reach my goals. We can write out plans, research opportunites, and actually take those risks. Want to become a dolphin trainer? Where’s the nearest training academy? Maybe you live in Idaho, work out how you’re going to save up money, and make a kickstart. In the meantime, read some books on it! See if you want it enough even after reading through manuals. 

2. I can be grateful for where I’m at. Someone always has it worse and someone always has it better. There are always pros and cons. Achieving your goals isn’t going to make everything work out perfectly. Being a CEO means a lot of money, but it also means a lot of stress. Every situation can teach us something. 

So do something about your goals. Live. Refine what you want, nail it down, and go after it. Today is a good day to be the best self you can be.