Worry

When I woke up this morning my first thought was: What if no one reads my new book Living with the Monks: What Turning Off My Phone Taught Me about Happiness, Gratitude, and Focus? And my second thought was: Or worse, what if people read it and hate it? But thankfully I didn’t live in that What If World for too long. And interestingly, learning how to worry less is one of the many things I learned when I went to live at a monastery.

One day at service a monk spoke about anxiety and worry. While listening to him, I realized how tense my body was. And this wasn’t just in the moment—it was all the time. My shoulders have always been really tight, and I’ve tried everything from chiropractors to my wife Sara doing the Irish Jig on my back. And nothing has ever worked.

So once the service concluded I approached the monk who led the service.

“Thank you,” I said to Brother Christopher. “That really resonated with me. I don’t have much to worry about in my life. But it seems like I still worry. I can feel it in my body.”

“Well, most of us worry about things that may never happen,” he said.

I started going through the checklist of worries swirling around in my mind. What if my son has no friends? What if I get sick before the marathon I’ve been training for? What if my parent’s need me when I’m off the grid? What if Sara doesn’t like her surprise birthday present? What if no one signs up for my Stratton Mountain event? What if I don’t have anything to write about when I return home?

It got me thinking…

So I conducted a little experiment, and I encourage all of you to try the same thing. That night, in the monastery, I wrote down all of my worries on a blank piece of paper. Then I folded it up, put it away and then set a date to read it six months later. Eventually, I forgot about the list until one day my phone ding’d. It was an alert to read the list of worries I’d written six months ago. And what I found when I unfolded the paper was fascinating. Not a single item on my list proved to be a problem or a concern six months later—not a single one.

All of that worry was wasted energy.

It turns out that 90% of the things we worry about never come to fruition. That isn’t a very good return on your investment. Obviously, the answer isn’t—don’t worry at all, but we need to keep in check all of the things that aren’t in our control. If we spend too much time worrying about things that never happen; we’ll miss out on all of the things we can do to improve our lives. And since I started practicing how to worry less—the tightness in my shoulders has completely disappeared.