Facing Your Little Worries

All of us have something that we worry about. It might slip into our minds when we’re trying to go to sleep, or it might pop up when we’re going through a lull at work or even during the commute.

Maybe it’s our financial state. Maybe it’s our own mortality. Maybe it’s a nagging little pain that we know we should get checked out… but we don’t really want to hear what the doctor has to say about it. Maybe it’s our relationship with our spouse.

Quite often, we’ll think about this little worry, then we’ll forget about it. Something more urgent will pop up and take the place of that little worry.

That worry stays hidden, though, and eventually it pops back up again. It slips into our mind in the shower or when we’re taking off our shoes after a long day at work.

Often, that worry sits there in our subconscious, adding a bit of stress to everything in our life without us really sensing it or knowing why.

For me, these worries usually come in a few flavors. I worry about my health. I worry about whether I’m doing a good job as a parent. I still worry about our finances, though we’re in much better shape than we once were.

I like to view these worries as being “very important but not urgent.” They aren’t things that are pushed to the center of our attention all the time. They aren’t things that come with a big due date. Yet they remain more important than the things that often grab our attention and more important than many of the things that are due in the next week or two.

Almost every dimension of your life is rewarded by taking on these little fears. Those little fears are often the tip of a big subconscious iceberg that’s aware of some deep challenge in your life, even if you’re not consciously noticing it too much. That deep challenge in your subconscious, adding stress to every decision in your life whether you directly notice it or not.

Worried about your health when you’re laying there at night? That worry subtly pushes on most of the decisions you make (whether you consciously notice it or not), causing those decisions to become more difficult. A choice that would have once been easy now becomes hard. You’re pushed in different directions, often with unhappy results. You feel guilty about choices you once made without guilt.

This describes exactly how I felt about many of my money decisions in 2005 and early 2006. I would worry about my finances sometimes, but most of the time I would just try to live my financial life without any worry, much like I did in 2002 and 2003.

The result? Decisions that were once easy started to become more stressful. Things that were once ordinary, like getting the mail, became painful situations I wanted to avoid. I was more stressed and less happy about almost every aspect of my life.

The worry was eating me up, even though I was rarely addressing it directly.

The solution, as I eventually realized in later years, was to just address the problem head-on instead of letting it slowly poison my life. When I started consciously addressing the problem and looking for real solutions to the situation I was in, the subconscious worry started to go away.

Even though I was making some very difficult conscious decisions, the overall stress level in my life went way down.

This is true about any of those subconscious worries that float up as I’m trying to drift off to sleep. If I am taking deliberate action to address those worries, they don’t bother me at all. If they’re actually worrying me, then I know there’s truly something there I need to address.

What are your little worries? What steps can you take to start addressing them?

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