Why do we fear things we can’t control?

In coaching and NLP we learn that the only thing we can really control in this whole world is ourselves and our own behaviour. We have our own free will, everyone has their own free will, and we can’t control how someone else is going to choose to behave. We can control what thoughts we give our energy to, but we can’t control the thoughts that come into our own minds, let alone the thoughts that come into someone else’s. We can’t control the world outside, the weather, other drivers on the road, people walking past us, what those people might think of us, birds flying over our heads with the ever present threat of diving for our chips or dropping presents on our heads, so today I have a question for you, why do we worry about these things? Why do we waste our time, energy and emotional state worrying about things we can’t control?

Personally, I’m a very logical person, and if there’s one thing I hate its spending time doing something that’s pointless. If we only have one life, a certain amount of time in that life, why waste any time? Time to me is precious, life is to be enjoyed, not to be wasted away. So I say it again, why worry? I have come from being a person who worried, I have been a person who was always stuck fretting about something that happened in the past or worrying about the future. This is how I know what an utter waste of time this exercise really is, and how negatively it can affect your experience of the present. After all, your experience of the present is exactly what you make it. It’ll be whatever you choose it to be depending on your internal experience. How can you enjoy the present if you’re worrying about the future? How can you possibly be fully present and enjoying your life right here right now if your mind is somewhere else? If your mind is anywhere but in the present, then it doesn’t matter where your body is. It doesn’t matter what’s going on around you, outside of you, you’re not really there. Time is slipping by unnoticed by you, because you’re not there. You’re not in the moment, you’re somewhere else. You’re wherever your mind is at that moment, and if you’re worrying, I’m betting your mind isn’t anywhere all that desirable. If your body is somewhere perfectly fine, mundane, or even somewhere nice, why would you ruin that for yourself by letting your mind go somewhere else? You’re not ruining that place or that experience for anyone but yourself. You’re not achieving anything good that I can tell. This to me, is the epitome of wasting your own precious time.

Let me break this down further. What are we even doing when we’re worrying? I so often hear people say things like, “We need a bit of worry to get anything done.” Or, “Everybody worries.” Or, “I can’t not worry, it’s just natural!” Natural? Easy? Effortless? Actually it takes quite a lot of energy to worry. And what exactly are we doing when we’re worrying? I’ll tell you exactly what we’re doing. We’re making up a story. We’re creating fiction in our own mind. We’re running a movie with our very own personalised special effects. The very definition of worrying is thinking about what might happen. What might happen? Not what has happened? What might happen? Even if you’re worrying about something that you know is going to happen, it hasn’t happened yet, so you’re still making your own movie of what you think that’s going to look like.
We’re very creative really when you think about it aren’t we. We can create whole scenes, dialogues, scenarios featuring places we haven’t been to yet, people we may not have met yet, and entire things which just haven’t happened yet. And when we do that, can we change the course of how the future event is actually going to play out? Can we build the most desirable scenario in our head then copy and paste it into the future? Can we earmark our least favourite projection and say not this one please? Of course we can’t. So is it even worth doing? No! It’s really not! It’s a waste of time, energy and emotions. Because I bet you’re feeling emotions while you’re creating these fictional projections of the future. How could you not? Every thought has emotion attached to it. So why are you making yourself unhappy by creating fictional movies that you don’t like? You’re simply creating your own misery.

My attitude to worry is, if something is worrying me, if it’s something I can change, change it. If it’s something I can’t change, it goes out of my mind, because I can’t change it. I’m not worrying about whether it’s snowing outside, why worry? It might be inconvenient if the busses all stop running, but can I change it by worrying about it? Never. One of the most common worries I come across with clients is the fear of judgement, stage fright and fear of speaking or presenting most commonly stems from a fear of what other people are going to think about you. What other people are going to say about you. How they might feel about you. Is this something you have any control over? No. You can’t even control your own judgements of other people. They just happen naturally. So stop worrying about them! Don’t fear the thoughts and feelings of others. Take them in your stride. You can’t change them, so why waste your precious life fearing or worrying about them.

So the next time you catch yourself worrying about the future, or about anything you can’t control Stop and think, what’s happening right now? Check in with the present. How’s the present doing? Stop running that future scenario movie. That movie doesn’t matter. Its right here, right now that matters. Now stop reading online posts that distract you from the present and go live your happy, worry free life!