Focus

Opportunity Knocks: Catch Up on the Life You’ve Missed Out On

Wouldn’t it be cool if you could get back all the time you’ve wasted in your life? Imagine what you’d do with the days, months, even years!

It feels like time speeds up as you get older. Having lived more life, you become acutely aware of how each moment of life can be (has been) savored or squandered.

The older you get, the less time you have ahead of you. This creates an urgency to use it devoutly. While you can afford to waste time in your youth, doing so only causes a delayed side-effect of mid-life regret.

That kind of time-grief isn’t limited to middle age.  In fact, existential crises can happen at any time in your life.

 

Who am I?

What do I stand for?

What do I want to do with my life?

 

These are the “crises” of youth. At some point, though, we get a pretty firm grip on the answers to those questions. We know who we are and what we believe in. We know what we want to do with our lives, except for one thing…

It hasn’t worked out the way we thought it would.

And that’s frustrating as hell. Not to mention depressing. And frightening!

What if your ledgers are full of wasted, frittered-away time?

What if opportunity seems to have vanished from your life, and “potential” is nothing more than a holy grail you’ve given up on?

So many of us have major gaps in our timelines. Youth gives us a liberty we don’t recognize until age takes it away – the chance to do so much more than we did. Instead, we have holes in our resume of life experience, a gaping parity between what we’ve accomplished and what could have been. If only we’d known how to motivate ourselves and take time more seriously…

There is no rewind button. You can’t get that time back. But before you strain your neck in the head-hang-of-sorrow, consider this:

Who’s to say all that time was really wasted?

You’re here now, aren’t you?

Don’t assume that all the opportunities you missed out on were necessarily ones you should have seized. Opportunity may knock, but it may also be an axe murderer. It’s a damn good thing you didn’t answer the door.

Okay, let’s say it wasn’t an axe murderer. Let’s say it was the guy from Publishers Clearing House. It came to your door with a giant check, inked with more figures behind the dollar sign than you can count fingers.

And you didn’t answer the door.

Yeah, that was a dumb-ass move. But what are you going to do about it? Never answer the door again?

Would you ostracize every other opportunity in retaliation for the one that got away?

Of course not.

Opportunity knocks more than once in a lifetime. It knocks every day, in fact, but it may look different each time.

You can’t get all the wasted years back. You can do more with the years you have left. This moment – right here and now – is your opportunity.

This moment is your opportunity…

To worry less about what other people think. Nothing wastes time like the sanctions we impose on ourselves when we live life to appease the scrutiny of others.

To try out that thing you’re afraid you’ll fail at. Successful people have failed more times than the average person. If you’re discontented, maybe it’s because you haven’t failed enough to succeed yet.

To let go of regret. The one that got away may not have been the right one for you after all. Even if it was, it’s gone. Stop rueing that. Open the door to something else.

To get clear on your values. Figure out what’s really important to you. Maybe some of your wasted time was attributable to uncertainty. If you don’t know what’s really important to you, how can you begin to know where to invest your time?

To redefine success. Maybe you haven’t lived out your dreams or achieved success in your lifelong goals. Unless you’ve been in a coma, you have achieved something. Maybe you raised kids or did some charity work. Perhaps you traveled a bit or were a good friend to someone. Whatever you have done, you must realize that those things are just as important as the goals you haven’t achieved.

To let go of expectations. Sometimes we don’t answer opportunity’s knock because we’re certain it won’t work out. But how do you know for sure? Life isn’t one long journey, it’s a series of paths. Sometimes you have to travel the arduous ones to get where you need to go.

To cut out the crap. Nothing that is important and worthwhile is a waste of time, even if it doesn’t get you where you want to go. The lessons we learn along the way are as invaluable as the destination itself. BUT a lot of the things we do routinely are disguised as important, when all they really are is busy-work. Get clear on why you are doing whatever you are doing, and stop doing it if it’s not all that important to the bigger picture

To open yourself up to possibilities. Every day is a chance to start again. Live, laugh, love more. Make time for something you usually pass by. Take a new route to work. Do something silly. Relax. Let go. See every day, every moment, as the right time to make things better – for yourself, for the people in your life, for the world. It doesn’t have to be grand. Sometimes, the most meaningful opportunity is the one you take to be in the present moment and accept it as it is.

Do these things, and you can quickly make up for the life you’ve missed out on. Though it’s not formulaic, all of these things will help you waste less of your precious time. Once you take out the worry and the fear of failure, and you cut out the crap and let go of your expectations; you redefine what you see as an opportunity because you know your values and you see the endless possibilities for a life well-spent, you only have one thing left to do:

Open the damn door!

(And now over to you – what would you like to “catch up on” in your life? Tell us about it in the comments!)

Mindset

10 Simple Strategies to Stop Worrying

Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but it gets you nowhere.

Glenn Turner

 

 

If you’re a worrier, I can’t blame you. Life is complicated. Sometimes worrying feels like the only thing we can do to gain some measure of control in our chaotic lives.

Yet research continually warns us that worry compromises our health and may even make us die younger. Pretty serious consequences in my books. And ironic. Seems there is good reason to worry about worrying.

Plus, there’s the futility of it. Worry doesn’t actually solve anything. But when you have ADD, you don’t always have control over where your mind goes.

It can be damn hard to stop worrying. You’re not stupid. You know you shouldn’t worry so much. But if you could just stop it, you would. It’s not a mindset you choose – it’s a habit you fall into. And for good reason. The primitive part of your brain thinks that worry actually helps you survive.

Truthfully, your ability to survive and thrive is much better served by clear thinking and decisive action. Who doesn’t want to rid themselves of worry-fog and start thinking clearly? But how?

You can, with the right strategies.

I’m going to give you some tried, tested and true techniques to help you get relief from worrying.

They work. I know this because they are the cornerstone of CBT (Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy), grounded in research and an evidence-base for effectiveness with worry. I have also used them successfully in my own life and taught countless clients to do the same.

And they’re simple to use. Practice them at least 10 minutes every day to start clearing your head and letting worry go. Most of them you can start doing right now.

So grab a paper and pen.

 

1. Write it out

We ruminate over problems because we need to make sense of our lives. It is subconsciously alluring to mull over problems until they are solved, but worry seldom finds the resolutions we need.

Writing worries down puts problems into perspective, makes them clearer and sometimes elucidates solutions. The physical act of writing gets free-floating worry out of your head and captures it on paper. Your mind is reassured – letting go of worry is okay, because your concerns won’t be forgotten or ignored.

 

2. Correct Your Thinking

Now that you have written your worries out, look them over. See if you notice any distortions in what you have written. Many of the worries we have are made greater in our minds because of errors in thinking. Everyone makes these follies from time to time, but when we worry, we do a lot of these:

 

Jumping-to-conclusions – Thinking we know how things truly are, without having any concrete evidence. Your partner didn’t answer his phone, it must mean he’s been in an accident.

Mind-reading – This is assuming we know what is going on in other people’s minds, or that we are privy to their true intentions. Your friend’s flippant comment means he disapproves of your girlfriend.

Fortune-telling – We use past experiences to fuel our assumption that we know how things are going to turn out in the future. This happened once before, so I know it will happen again.

Catastrophizing – Jumping-to-conclusions of the most severe kind. A job loss doesn’t mean temporary unemployment – it means dire straits.

Magnifying – Blowing the negative aspects of a situation out of proportion. Because the turkey was cremated, Christmas Day was a disaster.

Minimizing – The opposite of magnifying. In this case we minimize the positives in a situation, or disregard how well things turned out despite the negatives. I got a B on the exam, but if I studied more I would have got an A.

All-or-nothing – Seeing the situation as being all good or all bad, noticing nothing in-between. I have done nothing with my life, it’s pointless.

 

When you find a distortion, write out an equal but more balanced thought. For example:

“Yes, I’ve lost my job but I have the skills to find another one. And if I need help, I will get it”. See, not the end of the world anymore. Take that primitive brain!

Important note: even if you don’t believe that thought right now, write it out anyway. Worry is allergic to brains that try to think outside of it.

 For more information about Cognitive Distortions, check out the work by CBT Godfather Aaron Beck and his protege David Burns.

3. Decide If There’s A Point to It

The subject of our worry generally falls into one of two categories:

  1. Tangible – These are worries that have some basis in reality and are within our control, at least to a certain extent.  A disagreement with a loved one is an example of something you can change.
  2. Arbitrary – These are worries that you can do absolutely nothing about. An apocalyptic asteroid might hit the earth, but it will do so whether you worry about it or not.

Do yourself a favour. If you notice any arbitrary worries, take a good, hard look at them. Are there any aspects of these worries that you can change? Maybe you could built a fallout shelter to survive the asteroid? Or maybe you can spend more time praying, being with loved ones or finding some other solace in knowing the end is nigh?

If there is absolutely not one single thing you can do about this worry, strike it off your high-priority (attention-getting) list. There are certainly enough tangible ones to take their place.

 

 4. Examine Your Evidence

When we are worried, we tend to be rather biased. We analyze everything in terms of what we already believe. In other words, we inadvertently pay attention to anything that confirms our worries but ignore everything else.

Start thinking about the aspects of the situation you have been ignoring. Write this evidence down. Treat your worries like a witness you are cross-examining.

 

5. Find Your Bad

Often, what we’re worrying about is not what we’re really worried about at all. When you are worrying about a specific event, ask yourself this question:

“And what would be so bad about that (the feared result) ?”

When you get your answer, ask yourself again:

“And what would be so bad about that (the next feared result)?”

And so on. Keep going until you can’t come up with anymore answers. Usually, your last “bad” is the bottom line. It is what you are really worried about, at your core. Now, follow the next step.

 

6. De-catastrophize

If you notice that you tend to go from zero to catastrophe in 6.2 seconds, then you MUST make writing your worries out a habit. Write down each step that would occur along the way to “catastrophe”.

For example:

Say something silly in the job interview, then:

look like an idot, then:

won’t get the job, then:

will look completely incompetent, then:

will never get a job, then:

will end up broke, then:

will lose my home, then:

end up on the street!

 

Okay, so the example is a bit extreme but that’s exactly what catastrophizing is – extreme thinking. Most of the time, you don’t even realize how quickly your mind goes from one negative incident to the end of the world. As you dissect the catastrophe – think about each step:

  • On a scale on 1 to 10 – how likely is it this thing will happen?
  • On another scale of 1 to 10 – how likely is it that you would be able to handle it, get out of it, or get help – even if it did happen?

Worry can usually be summarized by this equation:

Worry = Overestimating the threat (real or imagined) and the likelihood of it happening + Underestimating your ability to cope or to get help

Stop over and under estimating.

 

7. Ask your best friend – in your head.

Left alone with our worries, they can seem insurmountable. What do they say – a trouble shared is a trouble halved? While it can be helpful to talk to a good friend about a problem, usually we are just seeking their reassurance. That feeling of reassurance –it doesn’t last long. Worry will worm its way back into your psyche eventually.

Ask yourself what your best friend would say about the situation you are in. Imagine you are talking to them and write down their words of advice and encouragement. Most likely, their views of the situation would be a lot more balanced if not positive, and certainly a lot more supportive than whatever your head is saying to you.

The reason this is more important that actually talking to a friend is this:

By imagining what supportive things they would say, you are actually generating your own supportive self-talk as well. Subconsciously we are more apt to endorse ideas we think are our own. If you need to start changing your own thinking be role-playing someone else’s, so be it.

Warning: If your actual “best friend” wouldn’t give you good advice in real life, don’t do this exercise with them in mind. Think about the characteristics of what a good best friend should be. Then think about what this kind of person would say. Or better yet, think about what you would say to your own best friend or a child who was in a similar situation.

 

8. Take Action

Sometimes worrying can be functional… to a point. A few nerves can be the catalyst we need to get into action. For example, worrying about passing an exam and then studying to make sure we are prepared – that’s functional. Worrying about an exam and burying yourself in video games to avoid the stress – that’s silly. Look for what actions you can take to remedy the situation. Then take them.

Sometimes the whole point of worrying is that it “helps” us avoid taking uncomfortable action. If this is the case, you need to decide what is more uncomfortable – the worry or the action? If the latter your answer, then maybe you need to embrace your worry a little more, because it is clear you are not ready to do anything about it.

 

9. Check Your Beliefs

This one can take some thinking-time, but can be very powerful when it comes to removing needless worry from your life.

Ask yourself, “What do I, in my heart of hearts, believe about of worry?”

Deep down, many of us believe that we need to worry. We think that worry makes us conscientious, good people who care deeply. I believe that the second part of that statement is true for most of us, but not because we worry. We are those things anyway. Worry is not the conduit, it’s a side effect. A very limiting one at that. How much more helpful, caring and conscientious can we be, when we are not castrated by the physical and cognitive damage of stress and relentless worrying?

Another belief many worriers maintain is that worrying about an incident actually prevents it from happening. This kind of magical thinking has many causes, which we will not discuss here, but its important to know that there is no reality-base to it.

10. Set Aside a Worry Period

If you have done all of the above and worry still lingers, this last one is your lifeline to respite.

Set aside a period of one-half to a full hour day. Use that time to do nothing but worry. Set your timer and go for it, full throttle – just make sure to WRITE IT DOWN! If you need to know why, re-read my first point in this post!

When the timer runs out, go do something else.

The reason this one works so magically is straightforward. Your brain worries incessantly because:

a)      It thinks that by worrying, it is doing something about the problem.

b)      It believes that if it stops worrying, it will forget all about the problem and something terrible will happen.

Giving worry its own designated spot in your life satisfies your brain and alleviates its concerns about a and b. When worries crop up at other times in the day, remind yourself that you will worry about it, just not now.

Warning: Worry periods can be done anytime, but are best avoided right before bed!

 

So now you know: worry may feel like an inescapable prison, but there are actually several things you can do to liberate yourself. And only one of these things actually involves taking action – how easy is that!?

You can do any or all of these things, in no particular order, and they will help your manage worry better. Ten or fifteen minutes a day, and life will start to feel lighter in small doses. Do each of these techniques repeatedly, every day, and worry will become a once-in-awhile phenomena, rather than the dominant mindscape in your life.

The only thing you need to do now is start.

Peace & Love

Post script – This post is a short summary of some of the many elements you might experience in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Worry. You absolutely can do all of these things on your own. But if you find you are still struggling, seek professional help. A trained CBT therapist will be skilled in helping you remove the barriers that stop you from going forward.

Mindset

10 Reasons to Stop Worrying About What Other People Think

“Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner.”  ― James Frey

Who cares what anyone else thinks, right?

Easier said than done.

Most of us do care, at least some of the time. Especially us ADDers who so frequently rely on another’s perspective because we can’t always ourselves so clearly.

Caring about what others’ think isn’t really the problem. Worrying about it is.

What’s the difference?

Caring about what others’ think means you respect their opinion and will bear it in mind, but it doesn’t suggest that you will rely on someone else’s viewpoint to determine your worth. Worrying about it implies that your worth is contingent on someone else’s appraisal.

I hypothesize that almost all people, from time to time, worry about living up to other people’s expectations and that the few who have NEVER cared are probably sociopaths. It is human nature to want to be liked and accepted.

But for some, this worry can affect their lives almost globally. It can be so debilitating that it interferes with their ability to feel at ease with themselves and around others, and possibly even limits what endeavors they take on in life. This kind of need for acceptance can be so great that people will actually forgo their own needs and desires in order to do what they think will achieve the approval of others.

Letting go of this need is not an easy task. It is unrealistic to think that you will never again care about what other people think. But it is possible to worry less about what other people think and to care more about your own needs, beliefs and desires.

Here are ten reasons to stop seeking your worth in approval from others.

1. Me, me, me!

One of my favourite sayings goes something like this:

“You’ll worry less about what people think about you when you realize how seldom they do” (David Foster Wallace).

To me this is a very profound statement, but it can be taken one of two ways: that either a) people don’t think about you or your shortcomings as much as you think they do, or b) people generally don’t hold you in high regard.

Someone with low self-esteem might be apt to think the second interpretation is true, but I believe the author’s true intent was to point out this: people generally don’t think outside themselves a great deal of time. It is a sad but simple truth that the average person filters their world through their ego, meaning that they think about most things in terms of “me” or “my”.

Therefore, all people, events and phenomena are judged according to how they affect “me” or “my”. This means that, unless who you are or what you have done directly affects another person or their life, they are unlikely to spend much time thinking about you at all.

 

2. It’s None of Your Business!

three-monkeys-1212617_640

Another one of my favourite all-time quotes is from a character in the movie Adaptation. The lead character, Charlie, asks his “twin brother” why he didn’t seem bothered by the fact that his high school crush never reciprocated his feelings. Donald responds with this:

“That was her business, not mine. You are what you love, not what loves you. That’s what I decided a long time ago.”

People are entitled to think whatever they want, just as you are entitled to think what you want. What people think of you cannot change who you are or what you are worth. People’s thoughts, even the ones about you, are their business. Their thoughts or opinions of you cannot add or subtract anything to or from you, unless you allow them to. Try as you might, you ultimately do not have control over what other people think.

 

3. What Difference Does it Make to You?

What does it really mean to your life?

If you decide to wear something unusual or bold and you are met with (what you interpret as) a disapproving look from someone else, how does that really affect your life?

Try to think about your answer in tangible terms. Sure, you might be embarrassed momentarily, but five years from now, or even five days from now, how much will their fleeting opinions really matter to you?

 

4. Give Back the Crystal Ball

 

crystal-791376_640

You are not a mind reader or a fortune-teller (my apologies to any readers who in fact are mind-readers or fortune-tellers!). You may think you know what other people think, but unless you ask them directly (and assuming you would get an honest answer), you will never truly know.

 

5. Life Is Complicated

People have many things going on their lives. They have unfulfilled desires to dream about, worries to worry about, families and spouses to care for, jobs to do and careers to advance, bills to pay, chores to be done, pets to walk, plans to be made, hobbies to indulge, TV and movies to watch, music to listen to, sports to follow, religions to follow (for some these last two may be one in the same), and so on.

If people sleep eight hours a day and work another eight, that leaves only another eight hours to devote to those other things.

How much of those eight hours do you think another person would devote to thinking about you and your perceived short-comings?

On the other hand, think about this: people have on average 60, 000 plus thoughts a day. Even if someone else thought about you ten times in one day, that is only 0.017% (if my mathematics aren’t precise, forgive me for I know not what I do!) of their overall daily thoughts. That is so inconsequential it is almost imperceptible. Something that insignificant is hardly going to make much of a difference to the person thinking it, so why should it affect you so much?

 

6. Here One Minute, Gone the Next

 

People’s thoughts, ideas and views change on a regular basis. Some philosophers and theorists would even suggest that we are in a constant state of flux, so much so that we cannot even say we have one, specific ‘self’ or a fixed personality. We are constantly changing.

That means even if somebody does think badly of you at the moment, there is a good chance they will think differently in the near future. Either they will have changed their opinion of you, or they will be thinking about something entirely different (see point five for a comprehensive list of entirely different things to think about!).

 

7. You Reap What You Sow

Worrying too much about what other people think of you can become a self fulfilling prophecy. Frequently, people indulge their need to be liked so much so that it actually dictates to the way they behave. Some become people-pleasers or so submissive that many people are turned off. The behaviour you use an attempt to ensure you are liked may actually cause you to be disliked.

8. Everybody’s Doing It

Remember that everyone has negative thoughts about other people and themselves from time to time. So when you are worried about someone in particular, remember that they too worry about what someone else thinks of them (maybe even you). They, too, have thought negatively of by someone in their life. And you, too, think negative thoughts about other people from time to time.

 

9. It’s a piece of cake? No, a piece of pie!

cherry-pie-1241372_640

Draw yourself a circle. Imagine that it is a pie. Now think of everyone in your life, and draw segments in the circle, whose sizes are proportionate to their importance in your life. For example, your family have a larger slice of the pie than your hobbies. Think about the particular person you are worried about at the moment – unless their allocated piece of the hypothetical pie is bigger than anyone else’s – then who cares what they think!

10. You Can’t Please Everyone

You can’t please all of the people all of the time, but you can please some of the people some of the time.

Every time you are concerned about what people think of you, write down a list of attributes the people in your closest circle admire about you. Don’t be tempted to discount what they think (“Of course she’d say ____, she’s my mom!”). After all, the people closest to you may have a bias, but then again – shouldn’t their opinions also matter the most? You’ll never be liked by everyone, and even the people who do genuinely like you are not going to agree with and approve of every single aspect of your life.

It is impossible to live up to everyone’s expectations so there is no point in burning yourself out trying to do so. Just make sure that one of the people you please is you!

Concern about what others think is completely normal, and even the freest and most confident spirits will at times worry about how they are perceived and whether or not they are accepted by others. But you should take solace in knowing that the need to be loved and accepted bonds us together, as different as we are, in this – the human race.

If you need to know how to handle your critics (including yourself), check out this post. 

What experiences have you had in being overly concerned about what others’ think? If you’ve found ways to overcome this please share below!