Worry is Worthless

Worry is a terrible strategy, but for a long time, it was the only one I knew.

Now, I consider this a safe place, so don’t judge me when I tell you a little story.

For years, when I would send in the sketch that goes with my column for the New York Times, I would worry my editor was going to email me back, “Sorry Carl. The jig is up. You’ve been found out. This stuff just isn’t all that good…”

This says a lot about the power of the impostor syndrome which we can talk about another day, but the point today is that WORRYING didn’t help ANYTHING!

I would bring my worries to my business partner (also known as my wife). I would go on and on about “What if…” And when she seemed annoyingly calm, I would say, “Aren’t you worried?!”

She would simply say, “I could be worried if you want me to, but I don’t see how it would help.”

It might feel like worrying helps. But as Shantideva said:

“If you can solve your problem,
then what is the need of worrying?
If you cannot solve it,
then what is the use of worrying?”

I’m going to resist the temptation to offer suggestions. I have found stuff that works for me, but I’d love to learn what works for you. When you find yourself in a cycle of needless worry, what do you do to snap out of it?

Tell me your story. Send me an email at hello@behaviorgap.com or leave a comment on this article.


Every week in the Behavior Gap email, I cover a topic like money, creativity, happiness, or health with a simple sketch and a few hand-crafted words. This week, I even gave away this sketch for free to my newsletter subscribers. Come join us. Each newsletter will take you less than 2 minutes to read, but you’ll be thinking about it all day. Sign up here.