Written by Erika Marcoux
Worrying is Not Planning
Worry doesn’t lead to a desired outcome. In fact, it can drain us from having the energy to take the necessary steps to obtain our desire. Worry can be seductive and fool you into thinking that there is some merit in it, some outcome. It is, simply put, a product of ego thinking—the endless mind chatter that can dominate our lives when we are not conscious. By practicing meditation, you can discern these worried thoughts and choose to let them go.
Let’s say you had a lifelong desire to hike the Half Dome Trail in Yosemite National Park. Several times you’ve thought about booking your flight and making your reservation at a Yosemite campground. As soon as you imagine this, you begin to worry. “What if the flight is delayed on the way there? What if while I’m camping, a bear eats my food supply? What if I’m sleeping and the temperature drops and I become sick because I forgot to pack my thermal underwear?” This list of what ifs can go on and on. Before you know it, you’ve come up with every excuse not to hike the Half Dome Trail after all. This worry is future oriented, generates ongoing fear, and is unproductive.
Let’s Try another Way
Begin to imagine that you are on top of the Half Dome Trail after hiking for six hours. You see the blue sky, hear the birds, feel your sore leg muscles, smell the fresh air, and taste the salt from your sweat. You reach your desired outcome, you’ve arrived and it feels amazing! Now begin to imagine you’re rewinding this adventure and you can see the steps unfold to getting to the top. Before you hiked up the Half Dome Trail, you woke up that morning and put on your hiking boots and filled your backpack with water and food. The evening before, you put your food supply in a locker to keep it out of bears’ reach. You slept comfortably in your thermal underwear. You arrived to the campground the day before even though your flight was delayed. You booked your flight a day early so that a delay wouldn’t prevent you from reaching your desired hike.
The successful fulfillment of your desired outcome didn’t come from worry. It came from the executive skill of planning. Worry is unconscious and planning is conscious. There is a remarkable difference. In her book Rethinking Positive Thinking, Gabriele Oettingen says, “The obstacles that we think prevent us from realizing our deepest wishes can actually lead to their fulfillment.” In imagining your desire, welcome the obstacles that could block you from experiencing your desire. Face the fear by breathing into it and letting it go. Use these obstacles to design your plan, which actually gives you energy to take action.
Meditation can help you plan and experience desired outcomes that you may not have dreamed were possible. The mind is a creative and powerful force, use it wisely and design the life you want.