This post was inspired by one of my best friends @Tommy Goah, who after graduating moved to Brazil to chase a gorgeous girl he fell in love with. There’s a lot you probably could have stressed out about Tommy, but you didn’t. You followed through; Here’s to your fearlessness, mermão .
1.What Can You Control?
I want you to do a simple exercise.
Take out a sheet of paper and write out everything that, at this moment, you are stressed or worried about. It could be anything from an upcoming exam to that cute girl or guy who you like. Write it all down.
[Break: Resume when you’ve made your list]
[Only continue to read if you actually did it. Otherwise everything from here on is irrelevant.]
So you’ve got your list? Good.
Now, next to each “worry” I want you to cross out everything that you cannot control. Simply put, it is out of your control and there isn’t anything you can do about it. For example, I can control the outcome of that upcoming exam (by studying/meeting with my professor) but I cannot control whether I did good on that last exam a week ago. It’s done.
There is nothing you can do about it and therefore, it is pointless to worry.
“But David, even if I cross it out, I can’t help to worry about it.”
Ah yes. Good point. And you’ll probably feel like that the first couple of times. But trust me, after doing this exercise over and over again you’ll begin to train your subconscious mind to not worry or stress about things that you cannot control.
…Now you can focus your energy and precious time on tackling those things that ARE in your control. So circle these items and focus on these two questions:
- What can I do now about it?
- Who can I talk to that can help me figure it out?
Done. You’ve just figured out exactly what was worrying you [ that is in your control] and drafted a mini plan of action to take care of it. You’re on your way to that Hakuna Matata lifestyle you’ve always wanted.
Lesson: Worrying sucks. Don’t stress over things that are out of your control. Ever. Focus on what you can do and do it.
2. What is going to matter 1 year from now?
Remember that list from Step #1? Look at it again.
This is the most important mentality habit you can develop to eliminate pointless worries.
Ask yourself: In one year from now, is that single worry going to matter?
99.9% of the time, the answer is no. And it highlights a certain truth about human behavior: we stress about things that, in the grand scheme of things, don’t matter.
Try to think back of a grave worry you had in high school. How important is that worry now? You’re probably laughing at how meaningless it was and are wondering why you stressed out so much about it.
The same principle applies. Anytime something goes bad, you get embarrassed for some reason, or you’re stressed,meditate on this thought: Will it matter a year from now?
[BREAK: Look at your list. And ask yourself that question]
Lesson: Get in the habit of consciously examining everything and anything that stresses you out. Because in the grand scheme of life, it’s so damn miniscule.
3. Dissociate yourself from the outcome.
This is my favorite “mindset” trait I try to practice (by no means am I close to mastery but I certainly believe it can fundamentally change how you go about living life)
Here it is: Disconnect yourself from the outcome of your desires.
Whatever it may be. Your dream school. Your dream job. That gorgeous babe [ or bro] across the bar that you want to talk to. Anything and everything.
Don’t think about the outcomes. Act and do because it is something you want to do. You have one meaningful life in this world and your actions should reflect your passions and desires, not your fears. So when you’re contemplating whether you should do something [ legally speaking] stop your mind when it begins to think in terms of outcomes.
Our mind will always play out how our actions will pan out. You skip the chance of applying to your dream school because your “mind” tells you that you might not get in. Or you see someone you like and your mind envisions he/she turning away.
In March of next year, I find out about three programs that I applied to. I turned down two job offers for the possibility of doing even just one of the three programs. And to be completely honest with you, if I don’t get into any one of them….I can genuinely say that I’ll be happy. I’ll figure something out.
Lesson: Don’t act with the outcome in mind.
Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. – Steve Jobs
Watch this video before you read on. Made by one of my great friends, Jack Chen.