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By Max Greenberg

Worrying: Would it help?

Uploaded: Jun 15, 2016

There’s a scene in the Tom Hanks movie “Bridge of Spies” where Hanks is talking with the captured Russian spy who is to be exchanged for a captured American spy. Hanks is the go-between. The Russian doesn’t know if he will be given a hero’s welcome when he returns to Mother Russia, or if he’ll be facing the firing squad as a traitor. Hanks seems very concerned with the spy’s welfare and state of mind and asks him why he doesn’t seem worried to death at the prospect of possibly facing the firing squad. The Russian answers by asking Hanks “Would it help?”

Worrying. Does it help, will it help, has it helped? There are so many things to worry about these days:
Which bathroom people should use
Will Donald Trump become President
Where will the next mass murder take place
Will the Warriors blow a 3-1 Finals series lead (It’s 3-2, and the answer is no.)
When will they discover at work that I am not qualified for my job
Is my spouse cheating
Should I sell my house now or wait a while and watch its value grow
Will there finally be a real downturn in the Palo Alto housing market
If I sold my house I’m going to make $2 million but I'm so worried that I'll have to pay capital gains taxes (there are some strategies to avoid or minimize them)
Will my kid get into a top tier college or make me feel like a failure as a parent (sheesh)
Will my stock go up or should I sell now

Now, that’s not to say that we can’t pay attention to things that affect us, be prepared, do some research, have a plan. But that’s a far cry from constantly allowing ourselves to be bombarded by media of all kinds that thrive off of covering the worst of humankind and stoking our fear and worry quadrants of the brain. Of all the media, I would say local Bay Area news is probably the worst. Access to virtually all newspapers on line is a close second. Being informed about our world is one thing but walking around with the accumulated negative thoughts and images of the universe is quite something else.

We also don’t need outside media to set us off on the path of constant worry. Working in senior retirement communities I see every day the difference between the quality of life the folks with a positive mental attitude have towards their new life in the community, and those that fret and worry about everything that could possibly go wrong or, according to their “high standards” is not quite right. They are all eating the same food, walking down the same halls, swimming in the same pools. The one group sees the positive, the other always worrying and looking for the negative. And I’ve noticed that the “negative” group can often be seen devouring the local papers. Coincidence, causation?

Darrin Hardy in his book The Compound Effect has some useful downloadable forms you can use to chart your media exposure and become aware of what you are spending your time listening to and looking at and filling you mind up with. Especially before bed-time. That’s probably the worst time to feed and stimulate your mind with negative images.

I also love what the late, great Lou Tice says in his book Smart Talk: “Worrying is negative goal-setting.”

So we have a real choice we can exercise every day: to worry or not to worry. And if you have “always been a worrier”, you know the three little words that you can say to yourself to change that: “Up until now.”

Have a worry-free day.