Estimated Lesson Time: 6 minutes
The story of John D. Rockefeller, nineteenth century oil industry billionaire, is one of the most compelling stories demonstrating both the destructive effects of worry and the dramatic positive effects that managing worry can have. By age 53, Rockefeller was reported to have looked as if he were 103. He was living on liquid meals because his stomach could not take solid foods. He was well known at that time for being one of the meanest, most miserable men in business. Fortunately for Rockefeller, and for the world, he followed his doctor’s advice of removing worry from his life, lived to age 98, and became one of the greatest philanthropists of all time. Preventing worry could have made Rockefeller’s first half of his life as enjoyable and rewarding as his second half.
People literally worry their lives away. Besides the severe mental and emotional consequences of worry, worry has also been linked to lethargy, headaches, insomnia, and even death. In fact, doctors often prescribe solutions to manage worry as treatment for patients who display one or more of the many physical symptoms of worry. Over the counter and prescription drugs may help with the symptoms, but it takes a change in attitude to eliminate the cause. Do not permit worry to send you to an early grave.
It has been said, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This is very true when it comes to worry. Worry is a habit and like all bad habits, it can be broken. The best way to break the habit of worry is by learning to prevent worry. Preventing worry can be as easy as changing your state of mind—seeing situations from a different perspective. It is making use of your positive mental attitude.
Here are some suggestions on how you can stop worry before it even starts:
- Live one day at a time. Worrying about the events of tomorrow and especially the events of yesterday will do you no good today. Get over yesterday’s worries and move on to focusing on worthy thoughts. Prepare and take action to avoid possible troubles of tomorrow.
- Keep your mind busy. The mind can only focus on one thought at a time. You cannot focus on both the task at hand and your worries at the same time. You can keep switching back and forth, but that is why the activities that you choose must keep your mind busy as well as your body. Psychologists have known this for years; this is what they call “occupational therapy.” Be too busy to worry.
- Focus on what is right, not what is wrong. We tend to take for granted all the things in life that are good, right, and working as they should. Our attention is drawn to that which is changing or an exception to the norm. On the news, you see stories of the one fire that burned down a house, but you do not see stories of the other 2.6 million homes in the area that were NOT burned down. You hear stories about the stockbroker that lost all his money and committed suicide, but you do not hear stories about the millions of stockbrokers who live very happy lives. This skewed perception of reality causes us to worry about things that will most likely never happen to us. When you find yourself being manipulated by rare stories of misfortune, don’t just think positively, think realistically and don’t worry about something that will most likely never come to pass.
- Delegate responsibilities. The number of responsibilities one has is usually in direct proportion to the number of worries one has. As responsibilities become unmanageable, the associated worries begin to multiply. Learn to delegate responsibility and take on only as much responsibility as you can handle.
- Laugh off sillier worries. A silly worry is one where the chances of it coming true are incredibly slim; the results are not that devastating, and the imagined worry would make a funny story or joke. For example, after I bought this overnight suitcase with a built-in compartment for my laptop, I was worried that the compartment containing my laptop would come unzipped, the laptop would fall out, and I would never know. Then I pictured myself walking in the airport, and my laptop shooting out of the back side of the suitcase and me still walking along with a not-so-smart look on my face. I began to laugh at the image, and the worry was gone for good.
- Exercise. Once again, the benefits of exercise far exceed just a healthy heart and a fit body. Queensland researchers have found that regular exercise alters the body’s chemistry, specifically the chemical serotonin, which appears to make the mind less susceptible to worry and fear. Exercise also is known to burn up stress chemicals such as adrenaline, which promotes a more relaxed body and mind.
- Prevent mental fatigue. Mental fatigue has been directly linked to physical fatigue as well as increased worry. Take regular short breaks. One of John D. Rockefeller’s post-worry life secrets was to take about a 30-minute catnap each day, which he claimed revived him both physically and mentally. He did, after all, live until age 98 at a time when the average expected life of a male was only about 53 years old.
If you suffer from worry, you are not alone. Nearly every individual in the world has worries despite their financial situation, age, sex, or race. Worry is not caused by external events or situations; it is caused by one’s own interpretation of those events or situations. Prevent worry by maintaining a positive mental attitude and by realizing that worry will do nothing for you but send you to an early grave.
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Some discussion questions (some may not apply to this lesson):
- Have you implemented this idea in your life? How has it been working for you?
- Do you have any interesting stories related to this lesson? Do tell!
- What do you admire most about this person? (success biography days)