I had my yearly eye exam a few weeks ago. My eye doctor declared that my eyesight is improving. It’s nowhere near 20-20 but, considering that I’ve worn both glasses and contacts since seventh grade and often feel a little like Mr. Magoo, this is a big win for me!
Call me crazy, but my favorite part of the eye exam is identifying the letters on the Snellen eye chart. I’m always up for a good challenge so I’ll squint, blink, stall a little, and then give it my best shot at answering correctly.
Is This Better Or Is This Better?
I look forward to the moment during the exam when my doctor flips the focus dial and says “Look at the chart. Tell me, is this better or is this better?” I’m always determined to break my previous year’s “record” as she tries to determine which prescription is best for me.
Even though my eyesight is improving, no matter how hard I try, I can barely make out the letters in the fifth row. Rows six, seven, and eight? No way, they’re way too far off and blurry for me to make sense of them!
In my eyes (no pun intended) the Snellen eye chart is similar to you and I dwelling on the past and worrying about the future. The present moment is the BIG E on the chart. It’s right upon us so you and I can see it better, It’s clear and in focus. We’re literally living in the moment so therefore we can tackle each problem that comes our way with a “right now” perspective.
The past and future are the tiny little NPXTZFH grouping of letters that are barely readable. The past events are dull from time passing by. The future is further away (obviously). The details are blurry. We don’t have all the info to tackle the future so we squint, we blink and we guess and catastrophize about what could happen.
Some Days Attack Me All at Once
Don’t worry about the future. Focus on the present. Easier said than done, right? I love this quote by Ashleigh Brilliant “I try to take it one day at a time, but sometimes several days attack me at once.”
I’m a work-in-progress. Even though I haven’t completely mastered the art of worrying less and living one day at a time I’m getting much, much better at it. Up until about five years ago, I used to be pretty darn good at mulling over past hurts and events and inventing possible future scenarios to worry about.
Why did I behave that way? Why did that person hurt me? Why didn’t I speak up? What if one of our sons has an accident? What if my husband and I aren’t healthy by the time grandbabies arrive? What if my sons don’t get job offers? What if we move and I have trouble finding friends? What if the economy tanks? What if we haven’t saved enough for retirement?
My self-inflicted worry problem was awful and really quite out-of-hand!
One Play at a Time
One of our sons goes to the University of Arkansas (Go Hogs!) so my husband and I decided to watch the movie Greater recently. It’s the true story of Brandon Burlsworth, a Razorback football walk-on in the 1990s.
I generally don’t like sport-themed movies, but this one is a “must-see.” Spoiler alert: Have tissues on hand before you start the movie. If you’ve got children who you’re trying to instill the traits of resiliency, hard work, pushing through adversity and deep faith have them watch it with you! Although there were many parts of the movie that I loved, there’s one scene in particular that stood out to me. As Brandon practiced drills on the football field, the coach told him (I’m paraphrasing) “to just think about the few feet in front of you and focus on what you’re doing one play at a time and that’s how games would be won.”
I think the coach’s advice goes beyond the football field and is a lesson that every one of us should take to heart. Our lives won’t be “won” by stressing out about things from our past or worrying about tomorrow, the next week, or the next year. Our lives will be “won” by considering the moves that are right in front of us and then acting upon them.
Sure we can remember our past and learn from it. Sure we can keep our eyes open and be looking out ahead of us and even do some planning. Sure, we should look at the big picture, but when we wig out about the past or stress out about the unforeseeable future we’re just taking away from the joy we can experience now.
Living in Day-Tight Compartments
At the recommendation of a friend, I bought the book “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living” by Dale Carnegie. It’s easy to read and has practical advice for anyone who tends to worry.
In the book, Carnegie tells the story of Sir William Osler, a professor of medicine at Oxford. Osler, while a medical student, was worried about passing his final examination, worried about what to do, where to go, how to build a practice, and how to make a living when he read this quote by Thomas Carlisle that changed his life: “It is not our goal to see what lies dimly in the distance but to do what clearly lies at hand.”
Rather than look to the past or more than 24 hours ahead of the present Osler focused on the tasks at hand. He then went on to give a speech to students at Yale University where he told them that the secret to his success was living in day-tight compartments.
Here’s my Cliff Notes version of the meaning of “day-tight compartments”: If there is a leak on an oceanliner the captain will press a button and big, heavy iron doors will close off sections of the ship called the bulkheads, which will create watertight compartments. If the compartments are shut the ship won’t sink. If you and I close our mental “worry bulkheads” of our past and of our future, we’ll have peace of mind to focus on today.
Simple Tips to Worry Less
Over the years I’ve come up with a few simple steps that have helped me worry less.
- Don’t Brush Them Off. Before you can tell your worries to “talk to the hand” you have to acknowledge them. Denying them won’t make them go away.
- Stop the Rolling. Worries can roll around in our heads like marbles. In order to stop the rolling, imagine picking them up and looking at them closely. Name them. Write them down. Ask yourself questions like: Can I really change the past? What’s the worst thing that could happen? What solutions can I possibly come up with? What are the chances, according to the law of averages, that this event I’m worrying about will ever occur?
- Learn to Trust. God’s grace covers your past and your future is in His hands. He’s managing your affairs and He doesn’t need any help from you. In His Word, He tells each of us to “cast our cares upon Him because He cares about us.” (1 Peter 5:7) The word “cast” literally means to cast like you would if you were casting a net. As you give your worries to God, imagine tossing your worries at Him in this way. Have faith that once the net is out of your hands it’s gone and He has it.
- Until Bedtime. By stewing about the past or catastrophizing about the future we ruin today. Do what you can, do it well, and then go to bed. As Dale Carnegie writes: “…be content to live the only time we can possibly live: from now until bedtime.”
- Be the Light. People will begin to take notice as it becomes apparent to them that you’ve left your worry tendencies behind you. They’ll wonder how you did it. This is your chance to help them get out of their worry rut and share your secrets with them. As I’ve written numerous times in my blogs, our purpose is to bring value to people in our world. This is one way you can bring values to others!
Peanuts creator Charles M Schulz was spot on when he said: “This is my report on how to live… They say the best way is just to live one day at a time… If you try to live seven days at a time, the week will be over before you know it.”
Let’s vow to live our life one day at a time. When today is over we don’t get it back. It’s gone forever. Why should we spend so much time stewing about the past or worrying about the future, when all we have is the present, and we’ll never have that “now moment” again? Let’s embrace it, hold it dear, live it fully, and be grateful for it.
Having trouble letting go of something that happened in your past or fretting over the “what ifs” of the future? Reach out to me. I’m a great listener and I’d love to share a few additional things that have helped me.
Interested in joining me for a virtual book club? We’re getting ready to start reading and discussing a book over on Facebook in The Confident Woman Club and we’d love to have you join us. What is The Confident Woman Club? It’s a Facebook group where we try to empower women to be the best they can be in their personal life and in business.
What’s Wrong With Being Confident? Absolutely Nothing.
It’s time to take control of your thoughts, your actions, and your life. It’s time to live the life you know you’re meant to live. Want someone to come alongside you to coach you through some of the trials and unexpected events coming your way? I’d love to help!
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