“When I look back on all these worries,” Winston Churchill once said, “I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.”
I used to be afraid of dogs. I can’t remember if a specific event sparked the fear, but I do remember steering clear of pooches at all costs as a kid. They call it cynophobia, in case you’re curious. One day, I saw a doberman on a leash and nearly lost my mind. The owner looked down at me and said, “It’s okay. He’s friendly. See?” I accepted the invitation and cautiously patted his head. He was in fact harmless and I’ve loved dogs ever since.
In my case, as in so many, the fear we feel for a particular experience is far worse than the actual experience ever could be. There are some dogs in the world who would tear me a new one the first chance they got, but that’s no reason to be petrified of every domesticated puppy I see.
The same holds true for other areas of life. For some, it may seem terribly daunting to wake up early and work out or to quit smoking. Just the thought of getting out of bed before dawn or making it through the day without a smoke is too much. Instead of attempting to struggle with it, we just remain in our comfort zone, and that is out of fear.
When we worry about the future, we paint a pessimistic picture in our imaginations. This picture is almost always worse than the reality. This is dangerous behavior because what we think about does in fact come into our lives. Say you lose your job. It doesn’t take much for a thought like What if I can’t pay the rent? to turn in to I’m not going to be able to pay the rent! That means I’ll be out on the streets and my Mom will say I told you so and my boyfriend won’t want to be with me and I’ll be heating up Spam on the engine block of my car….
Why do that to yourself? Say this three times slow: “If you worry you can’t pray and if you pray you can’t worry.” Instead of living in fear, picture your life the way you want it to be and hold on till you get there. Most of the problems you’ve imagined are just that; imagined.