Sometimes my life feels like it’s stuck in neutral – like I’m stuck in an endless loop of introduction with no proGREss. It’s during these times in my life that I stop, sit down, close my eyes, and reset my brain for 10 to 15 minutes. In doing this, I drop my so-called “problems” from my mind and awaken feeling fresh and energized. Long before I was some new-agey nutjob, though, I was (and still am) a nerd with a penchant for numbers and tech, so I tracked my worries as I released their grip on me. Here are some problems I found myself worrying about far too often before I discovered how to meditate and refocus.
Life is too short to worry about…
1 – …Bills
Death and taxes are far from the only guarantees in life. You’ll repeatedly have your heart broken, enjoy the sun, the moon, eat drink, and be merry – and you’ll have a hard time in life without paying bills. Whether monthly, quarterly, or annually, bills are relentless. If you ignore them, they only get bigger, louder, and more destructive. The thing is: we all have bills…and letting them run your life isn’t going to improve its quality any time soon.
It’s easy to say not to worry about bills. Everyone knows it’s not a good idea to worry about them, but when you’re drowning in debt and have minimal to no income, it’s a little harder to keep wipe those pesky bills off your mind. Being told life is too short to worry about bills is one thing; having the confidence to stand tall despite insurmountable debt is an entirely different beast. At various points in my life, I’ve slept on floors, lived in a car or van, and couch-surfed with friends and family – I can assure you that losing your house, car, cable, gas, etc. won’t kill you. I survived a lot.
Stop fearing your bills – you’re letting them control your life. Create a budget for yourself and stick to it. Put your budget over anything else. This will help you get a better view of your bills and how they affect you. If you’re struggling to make ends meet, cut some of your nonessential bills. Cable TV is one of the easiest bills to cut. There’s a plethora of entertainment options out there, and even if you subscribe to Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, you’ll be spending less annually than a cable bill.
Pay back any debts to family and friends first. They’re the people who will be there for you at the bottom, not your bank and utility companies. Keep your collateral loans (i.e auto loan and mortgage) current. The last thing you want to lose is your home and car. If you have to choose between the two, sacrifice your home over your car. In a worst case scenario, it’s better to be mobile.
2 – …Money
“Cash Rules Everything Around Me – C.R.E.A.M., get the money. Dolla, dolla bill y’alllll…” Method Man
Money is the cause of and solution to life’s most unnecessary problems. We need bread – there’s no denying that – we just don’t need to allow cheddar to be the source of undue stress. Always remember that currency is imaginary, and economies don’t exist in nature. Since moolah is imaginary, all of your worries about said funds are in your head. People do some strange things for paper, and I’ll never understand why. Material wealth doesn’t equate to happiness.
Instead of stressing about your supply of coinage, try focusing on the things that make you happy. If you pursue a job that satisfies your desire for GREenbacks, you risk ending up in a career you hate. Dinero won’t solve that problem, nor will it help you find like-minded friends. People who pursue their dreams and passions always have more fulfilling stages than those motivated by loot.
3 – …The Past
The beef-witted among us who don’t learn history are doomed to hear it repeated over and over by those who do. Most of humanity’s violent wars were waged because of conflicting beliefs over what happened in the past. The past is important to learn from, but you shouldn’t let it get in your way and become a burden. Instead, face forward, and brush that dirt off your shoulders.
We all faced obstacles in our past. There’s no need to run from or be ashamed of who you are or where you came from, but don’t let what happened to you distract you from your personal goals. Learn from your hardships, and fight harder next time. The only way you can continue being harmed by something that already happened is if you let it.
4 – …Who’s Sleeping with Whom
Gossip is the worst. I don’t mind talking to my friends or partner about what’s going on in their lives, but I’m entirely uninterested in hearing about everyone’s dating and sex lives. Is it doing you any good to know that Joe and Donna are hooking up in the break room at work? Sure, you’ll know the counters aren’t safe to eat off, but you really should already know that. What else are you gaining – a conversation starter? You’ll end up looking like the work gossip, who nobody likes nor trusts.
Instead of joining the grapes on the vine, worry about you. While we’re on the subject, there’s really no need for everyone to know who you’re banging either. It’s not necessary to hide your sex life (and you should certainly be honest about it with your partner), but it doesn’t need to be in your repertoire of icebreaking conversation fodder. Life’s just too short to worry about the sex lives of others.
5 – …Haters
Think about all the celebrities you don’t like or don’t care about: Kim Kardashian has no business being famous, Justin Bieber is overrated, LeBron James is no Michael Jordan. Regardless of how you feel about any of these people, they have successful careers. Although they get their share of hate mail, successful people continue doing what they’re doing. Now apply this concept to your own life…
People aren’t always going to like what you do; there’s Haterade in the water everywhere. Whether you’re a local celebrity or a virtual unknown, you’re going to step on some toes. I’ve met people (women, especially) who are the absolute kindest, compassionate, most thoughtful, and likable human beings, and they STILL have had haters say and do some of the most despicable things to them. If I stopped and stressed out every time someone didn’t like my decisions, I’d never have accomplished anything in life. Don’t stress the haters.
6 – …Work
There will always be projects, chores, errands, and emergencies at work. Nobody has a career that’s without stressful situations. It helps to love what you do, but even if you don’t, work is a silly thing to get uptight about. If you’re not at work, there’s nothing to worry about. If you are at work, then stop crying over spilt milk, roll up your sleeves, and be productive. The less you worry about work, the quicker it goes by.
I was having a discussion with my girlfriend the other day about random dating horror stories. We both laughed hysterically about a guy she talked to whose username was along the lines of “CorpExecutive123” although he hated talking about his job. Why would you advertise your job on a dating site if you weren’t willing to disclose your occupation? Never be ashamed of who you are or what you do to earn a living. You’re not defined by your career; you define it.
7 – …Aging
Getting old is a difficult and scary task – there’s no denying that. We all go through the same stress, anxiety, fear, worry, and doubt. It’s understandable to feel a little bit stressed about aging, but you have to keep in mind there’s nothing you can do about it. You’re going to age whether you like it or not. There’s nothing you can do to stop the process, but you can embrace it and make the most of your time.
Aging is a part of life. It sucks, but it is what it is. Instead of worrying about your impending geriatric state, enjoy the present you exist in right now. You’ll only be this old once, so do all the fun things you always wanted to do at that age. Stop wishing you were younger.
Don’t waste your time worrying about not being old enough yet either. Being a kid has its advantages. Sure you can’t gamble, buy cigarettes or alcohol and you don’t have much of a say in what happens in your life, but there are plenty of advantages to youth. You get a slap on the wrist for most minor offenses (and your record isn’t as permanent), it’s easy to get out of contracts, admission prices are cheaper, and bills are usually free. You can’t speed or slow time. Enjoy your life the way it is right now.
8 – …Death
Sooner or later in your life, you’re going to have to face the inevitability of your own death. You can’t dodge the grim reaper, and hiding is only going to hinder you from living your life to the fullest. You won’t give your all when you’re holding back. After you face death, you’ll find it easier to face over and over throughout life. You’ll have more courage and tenacity.
Death isn’t easy to face; religions have spawned throughout the human history in an attempt to soothe people’s fears of oblivion. If you go to sleep, you may not wake up, and even if you do wake up, no matter how safe you are, we could be nuked by another country or a meteor could fall out the sky and kill us all. Unless you’re reading this from a professional shelter, you have no chance of surviving an extinction-level event. Now face mortality, and go live your life.
9 – …What People Think
When I was younger, I always said I didn’t care what people thought of me, but the reality is very different. In my mid to late 20s, I completely stopped caring what people thought of me. By the time 30 hit, I jumped out of an airplane and hit the ground running. I blew the whistle on the banks and started living my life as though nobody was there. I started being me, regardless of what my friends, family, the government, or the guy at the other end of the barrel aimed at me thought about it.
Fitting in is an advantage in certain situations, but it’s certainly not the end-all, be-all for every situation in life. There are times when you need to keep a low profile, but for the most part, unless you’re a secret agent or political leader, feel free to let loose sometimes and have fun, regardless of what people think of you.
10 – …Celebrities
Paparazzi follow celebrities everywhere they go, snapping pictures, videos, and sound bites to feed to the convoluted masses. They’d have no reason to take pictures if there weren’t hordes of people hungering to learn the latest celebrity gossip. Why does it matter, though? Does knowing what Mariah Carey is smoking or who Daniel Radcliffe is dating get you anywhere in life? There’s plenty more going on in the world outside the lives of celebrities. Stop worrying about their drama.
11 – …What Other People Are Doing
It’s not just celebrities – some people get into everyone’s business. What can you learn about life from other people’s business? I’m reminded of times as a kid where I would say “but ___ is going to the movies” as a way of convincing my parents to grant me permission to go. Their answer was a useful lesson: don’t worry about what other people are doing. They’re not paying your bills or putting food on your table. Their problems aren’t yours, and there’s no reason to take them on.
If you’re constantly following the example of others, you’ll never get ahead in life. People who get ahead don’t emulate their peers. They walk their own path and inspire others to follow suit. Don’t worry about where everyone else is going or what they’re doing – focus on you.
12 – …Safety and Comfort
It’s nice to have somewhere safe and comfortable to lay your head at night. Comfort foods and our comfort zone are important aspects of our life, and it’s difficult to feel comfortable if you’re not safe. This is why some aspect of safety and comfort is necessary. You can’t get too comfortable in that shell though. Sooner or later, you’re going to have to break out of your comfort zone and experience life.
Taking chances is important in life. If you never take chances, you’ll never stand up for yourself, and you’ll likely not have very much fun. Instead of being meek and introverted, stop worrying about living to be 100, and start worrying about having a little bit of fun. After all, you only live once.
13 – …Mistakes
Don’t worry too much when you make a mistake – nobody’s perfect. Figure out what caused the mistake and what you can do next time to avoid it or improve the outcome in at least some minor way. Remember what Thomas Edison said about mistakes being the key to innovation; we stumbled upon some of our GREatest inventions by mistake. It’s not the end of the world.
When you make a mistake (especially a string of them), it’s easy to get frustrated and feel like everything is falling apart. Stress can compound as you race toward deadlines, and the inkling to throw in the towel starts to build up inside. It’s ok. You may need to pay some sort of retribution for your mistake, but that which doesn’t kill you only gives you an opportunity to prove who you really are.
14 – …Winning the Lottery
There’s nothing wrong with occasionally throwing a couple dollars down on the lottery. Someone has to win, and it very well may be you. Someone else also has to get eaten by a shark, struck by lightning, and abducted by aliens, but you’re not waiting for one of these pivotal moments to occur in your life before finally taking action. Why would you wait for some imaginary (and highly unlikely) windfall before giving life your all?
While it’s ok to play the lottery, don’t put all your chips into that. Don’t depend on the lottery, God, or some other unlikely external factor to come swoop you away from your life – work with what you have. By pursuing your dreams and goals, you won’t have to worry about the lottery; you’ll feel like you already won.
15 – …What Can Go Wrong
I’m not going to drive to the store today. I may run out of gas, traffic will be busy, the store’s probably closed or crowded, they won’t have the item I’m looking for or it’ll be too expensive, I’ll forget my wallet, my car will get hit in the parking lot, someone may shoot up the store while I’m there, my car will break down, I’ll lose my key, and my house will get robbed while I’m gone. Because of these possibilities, I’m going to sit home all day and do nothing instead.
If you don’t start something because you’re scared of all the things that may go wrong, you’re probably better off, because you can’t be successful if you don’t know how to react when faced with adversity. No matter how well you make your plans, something is going to go wrong. The United States government is one of the most powerful entities in human history, and they’re constantly running damage control. Do you really think your plan is going to go off without a hitch if even they can’t do it?
16 – …Worrying
After a while, your worries start to pile up to the point that you begin to even worry about worrying. Once you’re stuck in this cycle, it’s very difficult to get out. If you ever find yourself in this position, the first thing you need to remember is to breathe. Now stop getting frustrated with you. If life is too short to worry about death, it’s certainly too short to beat yourself up over being human and having a natural reaction. Although you’re better off not doing it, there’s nothing wrong with worrying – worrying about worrying is a good sign you need to stop and take a minute.
17 – …The Pricetag
When I was a kid, I loved Pop Tarts, but my parents were poor (which came hand-in-hand with cheapness), so we’d get the generic version, which taste like cough syrup. Sure, they saved $1 on the face value of the generics, but it put me in a position where not only did I still crave Pop Tarts, but we were stuck with generic garbage that inevitably went stale since no one ate it. This is a pattern that continued throughout much of my childhood.
I hate to sound bourgeois, but quality is an important aspect in life. If you want a really nice jacket, work hard, sell a few things, and save up the money to buy the one you really want instead of settling for a product you’re not happy with simply because it’s cheaper. Price isn’t everything. Worry about the quality and value of the product you’re getting (especially food and pharmaceuticals). McDonald’s dollar menu won’t cut it when you’re in the mood for a good steak.
18 – …The Small Stuff
Don’t sweat the small stuff. Little things go wrong every day in our lives. You woke up late, a dollar short for your lunch, got splashed by a car walking through the parking lot, tripped going up the stairs, and your zipper was down for a really important meeting. If you consider that a bad day, you’re archiving your life the wrong way. Instead of getting frustrated by the little things, focus on all the positives. The sunset, cloud formations, the smell of the trees and flowers around you, food, drinks, love, passion – there are entirely too many GREat things happening on a day to day basis to worry about the little annoyances in life.
19 – …Anything Else Outside Your Control
My girlfriend’s mantra when life gets too stressful is, “this too shall pass.” I mix it up between “this is only temporary.” The general idea is to stop yourself from getting annoyed about that which is outside your control. I don’t like the President, and I’m appalled at the way whistleblowing heroes like Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden are treated, but there’s nothing I can do about it at the present moment. The easiest way to reduce stress is to stop thinking about all the dumb stuff you can’t control so you can focus on whatever task is at hand – whether it’s good or bad, focusing on your present is the easiest way to either resolve or enjoy what’s happening to you.
I had a cat named Shady (aptly named so because of his tendency as a kitten to purr, nudge, and kneed, then suddenly bite you). Shady was convinced that I controlled the weather and would angrily meow at me whenever it rained. That must be what God feels like listening to everyone’s prayers. I can’t stop the rain – it’s autonomous. Instead, I make the day with hot cocoa, s’mores, and espresso liqueur.
20 – …Being Perfect
At the end of the day, you need to accept yourself for your own faults. Life’s too short to dwell on anything for too long unless it makes you feel happy and fulfilled. Sure, you’ll make mistakes along the way, but that’s part of the fun. Test your own boundaries, and you’ll begin to enjoy life so much more. For example, I can’t stand when I don’t finish something up to my personal standards. I have an almost Sheldon Cooper-level impulse to finish things, but to help suppress that worry, every so often, I don’t finish…