Worrying is a waste of time. Greet your anxiety instead.


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gif via Jason Clarke

It is human nature to ponder anxieties that do not exist.

The mind is a fabrication machine, developing worries before they deserve any attention. Wrote Carlos Castaneda in [easyazon_link identifier=”0671732463″ locale=”US” tag=”wells01-20″]Journey to Ixtlan[/easyazon_link]“To worry is to become accessible… And once you worry, you cling to anything out of desperation; and once you cling you are bound to get exhausted or to exhaust whoever or whatever you are clinging to.”

The only way to assuage the nerves is to focus on what’s in front of you, to do the work regardless of the way you feel. Progress happens to the relaxed.


Don’t worry before it’s time

Writes Eric Barker on his life advice blog:

You’re not your brain; you’re the CEO of your brain. You can’t control everything that goes on in “Mind, Inc.” But you can decide which projects get funded with your attention and action. So when a worry is nagging at you, step back and ask: “Is this useful?”

As a survival mechanism, anxiety pushes us to take action — the most basic fear is that we need to eat and have a place to sleep for the night. But anxiety is also a thinking problem that needs to be neutralized by greeting it at the door where it appears wearing the same costume as it did before.

Everything is going to be alright, just like it was yesterday.

Why we worry for no reason


Why we worry, Why we worry for no reason
via giphy

We worry as a ‘preventative’ — to thwart any future stress. We try to control the situation with a surfeit of possibilities that we mentally prepare for, most of which never occur.

“I’ve suffered a great many catastrophes in my life. Most of them never happened.” — Mark TwainClick To Tweet

Anxiety is a thinking problem that rides around the racetrack of uncertainty. It imagines issues that don’t yet exist. Caught in the worry loop, imagining fear stimulates discomfort.

But when a worry becomes a reality we realize how capable we are in dealing with it. We grow more resilient. Once we develop the courage to face our problems, like a lighthouse, we develop the energy to share our experience to console others.

To worry or not to worry, whatever happens, happens.

Serene in the moment



We are too close to right now, this present, stuck in the maw of anticipation that puts us under stress’s control.

Anxiety is a thinking problem. It grows stronger in our attempt to control it while it tugs at the brain with fright.

We need to give our nerves a day or two to calm down. But what if we’re choking on the seduction of pity? To shut out stray thoughts, we may ask ourselves: What’s the worst that can happen? And so what if it does?

The attempt to control the future is futile, a waste of time. The sooner we realize to yield to indifference we gain all the confidence to dance with the fear that tries to weaken life’s enjoyment.

Take a deep breath, repeat a mantra, and tread lightly.

So what?


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Instead of asking the typical fear-setting question ‘what’s the worst that can happen?’ instead persistently ask yourself ‘so what?’

So what if you didn’t get into the college you wanted? So what if you’ll never be famous? So what if you’ll never find a significant other?

So what?

Repetition dulls negative thoughts. Boredom hinders the loop from dominating your internal dialogue. The act of questioning makes your worries irrelevant; at least you’re still breathing!

Asking ‘so what’ won’t resolve your problems but it will quell your imaginary anxiety from thinking about them.

The monkey mind is irrational. But the quiet mind is not indifferent; it too cares. However you move on with the business of living, just remember nothing is as ever as bad as it seems.

Outsmart your worries


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You are not our thoughts. Thoughts are just thoughts. But you are your actions. How you determine what’s reasonable and worth doing versus what’s irrational and worth ignoring demonstrates the emotional strength of your thinking mind.

As Eric Barker writes on his blog:

You’re not your brain; you’re the CEO of your brain. You can’t control everything that goes on in “Mind, Inc.” But you can decide which projects get funded with your attention and action. So when a worry is nagging at you, step back and ask: “Is this useful?”

Worrying is the attempt to control future events that rarely–wait, never happen! Anxiety is a thinking problem for which there are thinking solutions.

Socratic questioning will help you reframe negativity, as will the practice of acceptance. Permitting a bad thought, even exaggerating it, diminishes its effect: you get bored of it. Playing with dialectical forces ultimately reveals the truth.

You can strengthen your emotion muscle through some of the methods outlined below:

Habituate the fear 


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Anxiety is both a contagious and fearful gift. However, more emphasis gets placed on its negative influence rather than its impetus for greatness

By overcompensating for our fears, rehearsing actions that vitiate it, we preempt the tremors with the feeling of habit.

Making art is an anxiety reducer, as is doing the dishes, running, or putting away vinyl. Whatever gets us out of our heads and into a flow state brings relief.

“Habits are more important than fears.”

Seth Godin

Taming the restless mind


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It was all a dream. (image via Cris Saur)
Our mind manufactures time. It fills the present moment with things to do so we don’t have to listen to each tick-tock.
 
Yet the ‘tension’ that arises from the time we shut our eyes until we fall sleep reminds us that we’re still alive.
 
Dreaming sustains the active mind and pauses time. The alarm clock reboots our consciousness once again.

Read:The secret life of time

‘The worrier is the opposite of a lighthouse’


 

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Worrying can be short-sighted and egotistical. FOMO, or fear of missing out, is a 21st-century problem driven by the use of smartphones. As David Brooks highlights in his article The Epidemic of Worry, ‘the worrier is the opposite of a lighthouse:’

“He doesn’t give out energy for the benefit of others. He absorbs energy at others’ cost.” – Francis O’Gorman, Worrying: A Literary and Cultural History

The voices within tend to silence out the rest. Pro tip: save the worry for later or consider what Mark Twain had to say.

The Fab Five, John Berger’s Ways of Seeing, the epidemic of worry, new tunes and more


Arts & Culture

Twenty-five years after the Fab Five, big-time colleges still short-change their stars

They never won anything but the Fab Five – the so-called greatest recruiting class of all time — broke fashion trends. They took after Michael Jordan and wore baggy shorts, shaved their heads, and replaced their white socks with black. The players doubled revenues for their school but received nothing in return until officials found out a booster paid Chris Webber $200,000. The NCAA banned the Michigan basketball program for a decade. In 2015, the school’s football team inked a $170 million deal with the Jordan brand. It raises the question: when do schools start splitting some of the profits it earns from its athletes?

John Berger’s Ways of Seeing (1972)

The challenge isn’t knowing what to see. The challenge is learning how to see. As soon as you learn what to look for, your originality dwindles. Your interpretation becomes someone else’s. Watch John Berger’s Ways of Seeing, and you’ll never look at a picture the same way again.

“The process of seeing paintings, or seeing anything else, is less spontaneous and natural than we tend to believe.”


Philosophy & Productivity

What’s Up With Those Voices in Your Head?

What is your inner dialogue? If it’s like most people, it’s chaotic and uncontrollable. Perhaps one of the reasons we tug away at our phones is because we’re too afraid to play with the chorus of our thoughts. In his new book The Voices Within: The History and Science of How We Talk to Ourselves, author, and Durham University psychology professor Charles Fernyhough writes about the tug of war we have with our internal expressions, and how we use creativity as an outlet to express these thoughts and frustrations.

“A solitary mind is actually a chorus,” he writes. Tune into yours right now: What are you hearing? Who’s speaking, and when did the conversation begin? This is ambiguous territory. Measuring one’s own private soundtrack is hard enough.

The Epidemic of Worry

It was Mark Twain who said “I’ve suffered a great many catastrophes in my life. Most of them never happened.” Worrying goads the Zeigarnik Effect, leading us to take to get rid of anticipation by replacing it with unnecessary action.

Worry alters the atmosphere of the mind. It shrinks your awareness of the present and your ability to enjoy what’s around you right now. It cycles possible bad futures around in your head and forces you to live in dreadful future scenarios, 90 percent of which will never come true.


Social Media & Tech

Inside the secret meeting that changed the fate of Vine forever

Social networks come and go (re: Myspace). The latest victim is Vine, who never did anything to improve the tools for its best creators, so they moved on to other platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat. On Friday, Vine announced that it was shutting down.

“We were driving billions of views — billions — before we left,” Vine star DeStorm Power said Thursday. “The word Vine became shorthand for short sketch-comedy videos. We did that. Vine didn’t do that. We changed culture by making videos on this six-second app.”

What’s next?

What’s next? Are we over the smartphone boom and the newest social networking app already? We live in a ‘next’ society. We need something new every couple months. As the chips get faster, so too do our consumption habits.


New Music

 

Episode 106 | Tunes of the Week
  1. Chaos in the CBD – Subterranean Storm
  2. Jay Daniel – Paradise Valley
  3. Throwing Snow – One for the Booth
  4. Ensemble Entendu – Peel Back
  5. Pavel Dovgal – Floating Beams

🎵 Listen here


Thought of the Week

“The best way to verify that you are alive is by checking if you like variations.” — @nntaleb

 

Save the worry for later


Instapaper your worries. That is, save them for later. By the time you come back to them, they’ll only be important if they’re still on your mind.

Anxiety is a trigger, one that works to benefit you. You’ll continue to think about the exam if you do nothing about it. Studying builds up your confidence and reduces your nervousness. Nevertheless, some worries are like inbox zero are excessive. Overthinking can often lead to overdoing, which falsely prioritizes unimportant things like answering every email.

Allay the fear by doing something about it (image from Thin Slices of Anxiety)

The longer you wait to tackle apprehension, the more anxious you’ll get. In fact, the feeling of procrastination is often worse than doing the actual work. Everything fades away once you get started, paving the way for a clearer future ahead.

“The map is not the territory”


"The map is not the territory'
Abstract thought

The human head consists of a left brain and a right brain, each with distinct cognitive functions. The left hemisphere is known for processing logic and doing verbal and mathematical analysis while the right half excels in creativity and imagination, the visual stuff.

But the left brain holds responsibility for how we react since it’s the one that interprets. As we think, so are we. As neuroscience writer Eric Barker points out, “anxiety and depression are caused by thinking problems.” In other words, we tend to exaggerate and jump to conclusions when there’s none to be drawn. Exhibit A:

Right Brain: The boss seems agitated.

Left Brain: Better get the resume together. We’re getting fired.

Mindfulness acts as the parent-guardian to a brain in flux. It helps people take a step back from the false information they design in their heads. Polish-American scientist Alfred Korzybski once said that “the map is not the territory.” In other words, a map is an abstraction of land, a mere model of reality just as skeuomorphism makes an icon for trash look like a garbage can. Similarly, the medium is the message.

There is no such thing as the left-right lateralization of brain function; there’s only one brain that works with the sum of its parts. Designers can be mathematicians and vice versa, as the brain may be partial to skills but impartial to sidedness. It’s how we think about ourselves and our surroundings that usually gets in the way.

Neuroscience Of Mindfulness: How To Make Your Mind Happy


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Thin Slices of Anxiety


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From the book Thin Slices of Anxiety

The troubled mind can turn doubters into doers. Anxiety is a tool for action, prompting us to do something about our nagging worries. The longer we wait to tackle anxiety, the more uneasy we get.

Anxiety creates a fear that doesn’t exist. Yet we can be assured that there will always be some sort of change.

Read more on Anxiety

7 articles to read this weekend


Every Saturday I like to share 7 articles on art, creativity, productivity, and tech. Below are my recommendations from this week’s reading.

1. So what?

Follow My Logic? A Connective Word Takes the Lead

“So” may be the new “well,” “um,” “oh” and “like.” No longer content to lurk in the middle of sentences, it has jumped to the beginning, where it can portend many things: transition, certitude, logic, attentiveness, a major insight.

“So” is the modern way to get to the point, to hammer out a conclusion even if it hangs on the veracity of a Google search.

So…what?

2. ‘Responsible’ aggregation

We’re all aggregators now

If you’re a good aggregator, you want people to click through to the source to get the whole story. Don’t copy-paste the best eight paragraphs out of a 12-paragraph piece and call it aggregating. That’s a reprint.

Aggregation is the art of discovering good content, paraphrasing, and linking out to the primary source.

3. “Poor” state of media

Why is Mike Hudack so mad at media?

The social web amplifies what is essentially human nature, and most (if not all) of us want a momentary titilation, a quick dopamine hit that comes from a listicle or some random set of photos.

Social media amplifies unimportant news, which of course is the irony behind Facebook executive Mike Huckack’s rant this week on Facebook about the poor quality of journalism today. It’s partly his fault since the unessential content makes Facebook money. But it’s also the publishers’ fault for caving in to snackable, viral stories that give people a laugh but don’t make them any smarter.

4. Process > Goals

Forget About Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead

When you focus on the practice instead of the performance, you can enjoy the present moment and improve at the same time.

The game of goal-setting is actually more of a game about consistency. Achievement flows from the ability to show up and do the best you can every day. When you get better at doing the work, success should meet you half-way.

5. Multiple takes

10 Things Garry Winogrand Can Teach You About Street Photography

“When in doubt, click”

The more pictures you take, the more you have to choose from. Same is true for writing. Re-read recommended article #4 this week on practice.

Note: I had no idea who Garry Winogrand was until Teju Cole tweeted out about him.

6. Notebooks = Brain Dumps

Writers’ notebooks: ‘A junkyard of the mind’

A full notebook potentially contains the rest of your writing life. Or nothing of value at all. It is transitional. Work passes through it on the way to becoming something else.

Notebooks are brain dumps. It’s hard to make sense of what’s in there until you see how it all connects. Hindsight is 20/20.

7. Anxiety Thwarts Creativity

Seth Godin on Vulnerability, Creative Courage, and How to Dance with the Fear: A Children’s Book for Grownups

Anxiety is experiencing failure in advance. Tell yourself enough vivid stories about the worst possible outcome of your work and you’ll soon come to believe them. Worry is not preparation, and anxiety doesn’t make you better.

If you’re going to do the work, you might as well do it confidently and laugh at failure for what it is, an impediment to making what you think matters. Seth is such a poker.