Less Worry, More Wonder

Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.
— Corrie ten Boom

A long time ago I had the thought: what would my life look like if I didn’t worry at all? How amazing would that be? I thought about how free I would feel, how easy, how peaceful. I wanted to write a blog post about it, to try to inspire myself and others to do our best to live that way, without worrying…and then of course, life got busy. It was like my head, which had peeked above the clouds for a second and glimpsed another way, sank back down into the murk of my usual stress level, and it just felt hypocritical to write about worrying less when I was actually worrying every day. So I tabled the idea and continued on.

Then one morning last week, I was feeling OK. Despite it being a busy few weeks, everything on the near horizon was under control. And yet, I realized, my mind was actively scanning the future for possible problems and I was beginning to feel stressed. I got PISSED. Here I was feeling fine, with no real reason to be anxious, and yet my mind was trying to find one??

As I considered this, I realized that I do it all the time. It occurred to me that some part of me must think it’s my job to worry constantly. It seems to be my default setting, even after all these years of trying to be more peaceful and positive-minded.

Here’s what happens: I’m always thinking ahead to make sure that I’m prepared for whatever is coming up. I make notes and write stuff on my calendar and figure out what I need to do when, etc. That is fine and actually necessary to make sure our lives run smoothly. And if I stopped there, it would just be a positive, helpful behavior.

But I don’t. Once I’ve made sure that everything in the immediate future is considered and planned for, instead of relaxing and focusing on the present, I keep going. I look further and further ahead to responsibilities down the road, and to potential conflicts and possible problems.

And then, when I think about all of that on top of what is currently going on, I feel overwhelmed and anxious—especially since most of what I’m worrying over is either something I can’t do anything about right now or something that might not even happen. I get either extremely jittery or super tired—but either way I want to run away! Which is not exactly helpful or conducive to managing my current responsibilities, and it feels awful.

So after I got some clarity on this pattern the other morning, I sat down to think about why it might be so. Why would I feel like my job is to constantly think ahead and worry about the future? And why does it feel like if I don’t do this, something terrible will happen? Like I’m shirking my duty?

I thought about my son, who just started high school, and how we’re teaching him to plan ahead so that he gets all his schoolwork done on time. It’s not something that comes naturally to him, and I remembered that it didn’t come naturally to me either when I was his age. In fact, I remembered, I would actually get in trouble for not planning ahead or not thinking about the consequences of my actions, and would often get punished. Boom! Lightbulb moment! When I was younger, if I didn’t think ahead, something terrible WOULD happen! I would get punished! I got the message that I had to always be thinking ahead—and so like any good and obedient girl, that is what I do. Wow.

Once I realized that, I realized I had the power to start retraining myself, and that “less worry, more wonder” might actually be possible for me. I first saw that phrase about five years ago on life coach Carla Robertson’s website and it really appealed to me.  It has been part of my mission on this “joy detective” journey—to feel more open to wonder, and less constrained by worry. Now I think I might have made a breakthrough in how to do that.

Of course I still need to plan ahead, and will always do that—you can’t be a successful adult without that ability. But the key is in stopping myself from going further. Once I am sure that I have thought through what’s important for now, I can rest. It is no longer my job to constantly scan the horizon for potential problems. There is a LOT of trust involved in this, and it’s something I’m going to have to practice over and over. But so far here is what I do:

 I realize I’m worrying about something unnecessarily.  (That’s actually a big first step, to become aware of what I’m doing.) Then I tell my mind that it’s not my job to think about that right now, and that in fact, worrying about the future is harmful to me in the present.

I make a conscious decision to let the worry go, and trust that it will be OK. I’ve even got a mantra to repeat: “I don’t know how it’s going to work out, but I trust that it will all work out for the best.” Some people recommend writing down whatever you are worrying about, putting it in a special box or jar, and giving it over to God or the Universe or whatever higher power you believe in. I’ve done this before with big issues that I had no control over, and it really does help.

Anxiety and fear are so draining. If I can relax about the future, and trust that everything will in fact work out (without my needing to obsess over it constantly), it will free up so much energy! And it will give me an expansive feeling of peace and ease, which is much more conducive to everyday happiness.

So that’s my goal: to go through this process whenever I find myself worrying, and return my thoughts to the present. My hope is that the process will get easier over time, and I will in fact have less worry, which will make room for more wonder. I’ll let you know how it goes! And if you have any tips for worrying less, I’d love to hear them!


Lighthouses: People + Books That Have Lit the Way for Me (Part 1)

When I began this quest for joy, I wandered all over the map, metaphorically speaking. At first I was stumbling along in the dark, but the books, classes, and coaches I’ve found as I searched have lit up the path like little lighthouses guiding me forward. Here are some of my favorites, in no particular order:

(This is Part 1 of the book list, because if I tried to list each one that I’ve read and loved, we’d be here all day.)


“Wherever You Go, There You Are,” by Jon Kabat-Zinn: the first book I remember reading on this path. It introduced me to the concept of mindfulness, which was radical to me at the time. Very gentle and straightforward.

“The Joy Diet,” Martha Beck: such simple, clear instructions for finding joy—and lots of great humor, too.

“Expecting Adam,” Martha Beck: the magic!! Oh, the magic. And the love.

Actually, you know what, I should just put “Everything ever written by Martha Beck,” including all of her columns in “O” magazine! They each have had a real impact on me. Other books are: “Finding Your Own North Star,” “Finding Your Way in a Wild New World,” “Steering by Starlight,” “Leaving the Saints,” and “Diana, Herself.”

“Loving What Is,” Byron Katie: Man, she’s tough. And so right: “It’s not the problem that causes our suffering, it’s our thinking about the problem.” This is a book I need to read over and over, because “The Work” really does work, but I have trouble consistently practicing it.

“The Gifts of Imperfection,” Brené Brown: I love me some Brené Brown! She is so smart and funny. If you haven’t watched her TED talk on vulnerability, do it now! As a dyed-in-the-wool perfectionist, I really appreciated this book’s advice about owning and embracing who we are.

“The Power of Now,” Eckhart Tolle: I’m still working my way through this one. Brilliantly simple yet also kind of a lot to wrap your mind around. Hmmm … funny I wrote that, seeing as how the whole premise is that you are not your mind; you can only connect with your true nature when your mind is still. See what I mean?

“The Untethered Soul,” Michael A. Singer: I read this just before I started “The Power of Now,” and it was an excellent introduction to the concept Tolle expounds upon. It’s very easy to read and presents the idea that we are not our minds clearly and concisely. It also presents some fascinating thoughts on opening your heart, energy, nonresistance, etc.

“Eat, Pray, Love” and “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear,” Elizabeth Gilbert: The first book inspired me to live my life more fully and the second inspired me to be more creative. Her concept that ideas come to you, and if you don’t want to or can’t bring them to life, they move on to someone else—and the story she tells about her personal experience with that—wow!! It will definitely motivate you to take action! Her practical advice is wonderful, and her honesty and compassion shine off of every page.

 “A Gift from the Sea,” Anne Morrow Lindbergh: I first read this as a young girl, and was struck by the beauty of the writing. I’ve re-read it countless times, and each time something new speaks to me. It’s like a little handbook for living. She compares the phases of a woman’s life to different seashells, and she’s just spot on with every observation.


Carla Robertson: Carla is a life coach who specializes in nature-based coaching. I discovered her as a fellow participant in an online class several years ago. When I went to her website (www.livingwildandprecious.com), I immediately connected with a tagline that was on there at the time: “Less worry, more wonder.” Yes!  I had a magical weekend retreat with her and several other women in St. Francisville, LA a few years ago, where I discovered quite a few things about myself. She has also helped me cut to the core of some practical issues and figure out a way to handle them.  Her blog is very insightful, and her Instagram feed is beautiful—so many tiny miracles in nature!

Sonia Sommer: Sonia is a Master Healer who, as she puts it on her website (www.soniasommer.com) “bridges the gap between woo woo and doable.” She combines physical, mental, and spiritual tools to help people feel their best in all of those aspects. Her Feel Awesome Again online course taught me all sorts of techniques I’d never heard of before—and they really worked. Her newsletters are full of helpful ideas and fascinating exercises. She has some great tip-filled videos, made even better by her wonderful Australian accent!

Anna Kunnecke: Anna is a life coach who helps women “declare dominion over their gorgeous lives” (www.declaredominion.com). I’ve taken several of her courses and subscribe to her weekly newsletter. She has excellent practical advice about how to improve your life by getting organized, adding beauty and bliss to your day, and making wise decisions. Also, as a “heathen mystic,” she can teach you how to protect your tender parts. Her guidance on how to be an EFBA (Epic Fucking Badass) is just awesome.

Martha Beck: As you’ve probably guessed by now, I really, really like Martha Beck (www.marthabeck.com). Her books opened the door for me into the world I’m now exploring, and the teleclasses I’ve taken have been transformative.  She combines clarity and integrity with extraordinary compassion and snort-milk-up-your-nose humor. Just listening to her talk soothes my soul, and when I actually implement her advice—wow. Life-changing.

Koelle Simpson: Koelle is a life coach and “horse whisperer” who offers Equus Coaching®: “a unique experience with horses that offers an individual the opportunity to gain a visceral understanding of how their inner dialogue affects their relationships and everyday life.” (www.koelleinstitute.com) I haven’t had a chance to work with her yet, but attending one of her Equus workshops is one of the top items on my wish list. For now, I just enjoy reading her newsletter, but she is up ahead on the path, giving me something to look forward to!

I highly recommend all of these people and books. I hope that one or more of them will help light your way, too.