Worry is just misplaced imagination.

This statement has had a profound influence on my entire life. I first heard it a couple of years ago and I can’t remember who said it but it was one of those things that hit me like a slap upside the head.

Worry is thinking about what could go wrong. I have been a worrier my entire life. I’ve always been focused on the next step, how we are going to accomplish this, what could go wrong, how could we fix it if it does go wrong, what if this happens, what if that happens, and so on and so on. Worrying takes a lot of energy. It’s stressful trying to anticipate everything that could go wrong, not to mention the anxiety that goes along with it.

Once I heard the statement “worry is just misplaced imagination” everything changed. I understood that I didn’t have to be that way. I consciously made a decision to stop worrying and my stress level declined drastically. Worrying is simply thinking about something that could go wrong in the future and dwelling on it. We don’t know what’s going to happen in the future so instead of worrying about what could go wrong I changed my thoughts to start “worrying” about everything that could go right. When I think about all of the things that could go right I feel a lot happier.

For example, I am currently on a 1 year maternity leave. This means that I am on unemployment and therefore earning quite a bit less than when I was working. Initially, I was really worried about how we would make ends meet, would we be able to continue our current lifestyle, would we have to give up doing things that we liked, would we end up going into debt, etc. etc. I didn’t feel good spending any money even on basic things like groceries and necessary baby items. I would get upset with my husband when he would spend money on unnecessary things like eating out for lunch. I was not feeling good about money at all and it was affecting my outlook on everything else and causing some squabbles between my husband and I.

I didn’t like the way I was feeling.  Everything that I was worrying about was possible but it was not guaranteed to happen. I had no way of knowing definitively what would happen because it was in the future. So I started to think of everything that could work out to our benefit. Maybe we wouldn’t be eating out as much. Maybe my husband would be able to work more hours because he was taking some time off from school right after the baby was born. Maybe we could defer some house maintenance. Maybe we could cut back on how much we’re spending on our mortgage. Maybe we could hold off on contributing to our savings. Maybe we could use some of our savings to make it through the year. Maybe, maybe, maybe…

Once I started thinking this way I immediately began to feel better. Although, the things I was worrying about initially are possible, the positive things I was thinking about were equally possible. The future is unknown and it could be great or it could be rough but the most important thing to me is feeling good because feeling stressed and full of worry serves me no purpose. I may as well be happy. Then if something does go wrong, I’m in a much better frame of mind to deal with it.

Initially, this change in thought patterns took a lot of focus and it was a challenge because I was very much used to thinking about negative outcomes. However, I had a strong desire to improve my level of happiness so I consciously challenged myself to reach for potential positive outcomes. Now, this happens automatically (for the most part…no one’s perfect!). I am much more relaxed and negative situations don’t bother me as much.

Next time you are feeling worried about something simply notice how you are feeling and decide whether you want to feel that way. If you don’t then work on changing your thoughts. It takes some effort but it’s amazing how much better we can feel simply by changing our thinking.