EXECUTIVE DEVELOPMENT PRESS, INC. Copyright 1953
By Robert R. Updegraff
Try Holding Worry Post-Mortems
Rule No. 4
There are no trouble-free jobs, no trouble-free families, no trouble-free lives. Our need is to learn to live our problems-but not to worry about them in advance.
"Some people," wrote Edward Everett Hale, "bear three kinds of trouble-all they ever had, all they have now, and all they expect to have."
Elizabeth Meriwether Gilmer, who wrote for many years under the pen name Dorothy Dix, was a courageous woman who had more troubles than most of us will ever know. She had a saying which helped her over the hard places.
"I stood yesterday. I can stand today. And I will not permit myself to think about what might happen tomorrow."*
*Ouoted from Dear Dorothy Dix, by Harnett T Kane, Doubleday & Co.
That is a good way for all of us-to let tomorrow take care of itself. As a matter of fact, to a much greater extent than we realize, we borrow trouble needlessly. We fear that this or that may possibly happen to us. And we let this fear make us miserable. Whereas, the happy fact is that our fears have an amazingly high rate of infant mortality. In the morning they are born in our minds. By noon many of them have begun to fade. By nightfall most of them are dead.
Meanwhile, all too often they have taken the edge off our happiness for a whole day. Or, worse, they have made us miserable.
Unfortunately for our peace of mind, we usually forget even to be grateful for our escape-for by then we are busy worrying about something else that might possibly happen to us!
This is downright foolish.
For many years the Boston Globe carried on its editorial page this wise observation.
I am an old man and have
had many troubles, but
most of them never hap-
Uncle Dudley is right, as you can prove for yourself by holding a weekly post-mortem over your troubles.
Every time you begin to worry about some trouble-in-the-offing, make a note of it. Do this every day for a week. At the end of the week go over this worry-list and cross off the things that didn't happen as you feared they would. You will be amazed at the results of this kind of a worry post- mortem.
It all boils down to Trotty Veck's wise saying, "There are two things about which one should never worry: That which cannot be helped and that which can be."
* * *
It seems to be a common human failing, whenever anything unpleasant might happen, to assume that it will happen. Thus, many of us make ourselves miserable on the foolish theory that we are "steeling ourselves" against trouble by anticipating the worst.
This sounds good in theory, but it does not make for happy living. The fact is, at least three-quarters of the time the worst does not happen-and we have done a lot of foolish worrying. Often we make ourselves miserable for days, only to have things work out happily instead of badly.
Even when something we fear actually does materialize, isn't it enough to have it spoil our happiness once, rather than doubling our misery by worrying about it in advance?
It is, of course, sensible to plan what we will try to do if things break badly. But that can be done as a game-to prove how resourceful we are-not in a spirit of worry or dread. Having worked out a possible plan for meeting a difficulty, no useful purpose will try to do if things break badly. But that can be done as a game-to prove how resourceful we are-not in a spirit of worry or dread. Having worked out a possible plan for meeting a difficulty, no useful purpose will be served by thinking any more about it. We should get on with life! Concentrate on our work! Enjoy our homes and our friends! Appreciate our blessings!
* * *
The late Dr. Charles Eliot had a sane philosophy which all of us might adopt with profit. As president of Harvard he carried a heavy load of problems, but they never got him down.
At the age of 90 he was asked how he had managed to live so serenely and accomplish so much. His reply is a fine prescription for avoiding worry. He said: "I try to cultivate a calm nature, expectant of good."
He had trained himself to expect everything about his work and his life to turn out all right in the long run. Meanwhile, he did not permit his mind to fret over what might go wrong.
If any one of us will look back over his own life, from childhood to the present day, and hold a post-mortem over his big worries, he is likely to discover that most of them never actually caught up with him.
Or, if they did, in many cases they turned out to be blessings in the disguise of experience.
As George Matthew Adams has written, "Many a person can look back and trace his good fortune to some misfortune."
* * *
Collier's once published the following story about the late President Coolidge. At a time of serious trouble a caller at the White House asked the President if he was not worried.
"You are familiar with the Constitution of the United States?" the President asked.
"Yes," replied his caller.
"Well, do you find anything in it that says a President must worry?"
When you come to think of it, there isn't any clause in the specification of any of our jobs that says we must worry. When we do it usually means that our troubles are managing us, rather than we managing them.
None of us will ever see the end of troubles. They are part of life. The trick is to learn to boss them around.
It is largely a matter of setting out each morning to face our day's grist of difficulties squarely, cheerfully and with plain common sense.
* * *
We were all given a mind to work with, not to worry with. We were given a heart to love with, and to serve as headquarters for our happiness. When we constantly burden our mind and heart with worries we are shortchanging ourselves and the world-foolishily and needlessly.
There are periods, all the way through life, when our troubles and discouragement's come in bunches. These are the hours of testing. We are accumulating valuable experience. We are developing character and "guts". We are growing up.
It is almost impossible for a person to become truly mature without struggles, disappointments and headaches. Yet we need never let our worries get us down.
Thomas Dreier writes of a Florida hermit who died at the age of 76, a serene and happy old man. Before closing his eyes for the last time he remarked, "I ain't been blue since 1912, and I forget now what worried me then!
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