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Last Updated on October 16, 2018

How to Stop Worrying About the Future: 8 Practical Techniques

How to Stop Worrying About the Future: 8 Practical Techniques

Have you ever lost sleep worrying about something that has yet to happen?

Has worrying about the future interrupted your productivity? Your flow? Your day? Your mood?

If you answered “yes”, you are not alone.

Worry happens to all of us, particularly when it comes to events, people, and things that are important.

The trouble with worry is it is a complete and total waste of our valuable time and energy. We all know that on a logical level, and yet we still worry.

Here’s the good news:

While we may never learn how to stop worrying about the future completely, there are ways to help us better manage that worry, so we can save ourselves some time. In this article, we’ll go over exactly how to do just that.

How Worrying Wastes Time and Energy

“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.” –Leo F. Buscaglia

Part of managing worry is being aware of the costs. When we create awareness we are better able to create proactive solutions to minimize or eliminate that cost.

What does worrying about the future cost you?

  • Cost #1: Worrying about what has yet to happen uses up valuable mental real estate and time.
  • Cost #2: While worry may give you something to do, you most likely have better things to do with your time and your energy. For example, you could instead focus on your to-do list or notice the multitude of opportunities waiting for you. Focusing on worry not only makes it difficult to handle your to-do list, it also blocks you from seeing those opportunities or the steps that lead to them.
  • Cost #3: Worrying about the future is also an energy drain leaving you susceptible to more worry. Did you know that worry takes advantage of the times when your energy is low? That is when worry is at its most powerful.
  • Cost #4: It is a present moment joy crusher that can lower not just your energy but also your mood.
  • Cost #5: Speaking of mood; worry never gets you anywhere. Worry does not get you to a place where everything is OK. It does not make sure that everything is taken care of. Actually it does the opposite.
  • Cost #6: Worrying about the future creates a vicious loop of more worry about the future.

8 Tried and True Worry Busting Techniques

When I find myself worrying about the future, I use the following techniques to manage the worry.

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Just a little side note: I like to switch it up a bit. I use a different technique each time I find myself worried about the future, or worried about anything for that matter.

1. Practice Mindfulness

Since worrying about the future pulls us into the future, nothing busts worry faster than some good old fashion present moment mindfulness.

Take a look around and notice what is surrounding you. What do you see? What do you feel? What do you taste? What do you hear? What do you smell?

Taking note of your surroundings by using your senses is an awesome way to pull yourself into the present moment where future-related worry cannot bother you.

Here is a simple guide on mindfulness for beginners.

2. Do Deep Breathing

Have you ever noticed your breathing when you are worrying? If not, the next time you are worried about a future-related event check in with your breathing.

Worrying causes our breathing to become shallow. And deep breathing can help us to relax, decrease our anxiety levels and get us out of worry mode.

Here are two techniques to use to engage those deep breathes and cue the relaxation:

The 4,4,and 4 technique

Give it a try right now by taking a deep breath in through your nose to a count of four. Then let the breath out through your nose or mouth to a count of four. Do that four times.

Another side note: Be sure to do this technique slowly so you do not hyperventilate or make yourself dizzy.

Oxytocin Breathing

It actually releases the powerful hormone oxytocin into your brain. This is the same hormone that is released when you are hugging or kissing someone you love or after making love.

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Just a word of caution: you may not want to do this breathing technique in the middle of your busy office or a crowded street. It is best to do it some place private.

Here’s how to do Oxytocin Breathing:

Take a REALLY deep breath so that you are filling up your belly with air. Once you feel your belly expand to the point that you can no longer take in any more air, release it slowly by letting out an audible “Haaaaaaaaaaaahhh”.

Repeat this technique a few times until you feel yourself relaxing. Check out this video to see the technique in action:

By the way, worry hates deep breathing so this is one of the quickest and the easiest techniques to use.

3. Express Extra Gratitude

As you are probably already aware, worry creates negative thoughts and feelings. Gratitude does the exact opposite.

Since your brain cannot think positive and negative thoughts at the same time, gratitude is an awesome worry buster. Not to mention, it’s something you can do any where, any time, especially when you are short on time.

I actually use gratitude when worry wakes me up in the middle of the night. When this happens, I begin listing all the things I am grateful for until I fall back to sleep. It works like a charm.

Similar to the present moment exercise, take a look around.

Really quickly begin listing at least three things or more that you are grateful for. It could be the chair you are sitting in or the sleeping pet at your feet.

Just start listing and before you know it, the feeling of gratitude will replace the negative feeling that worry causes.

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You can get more ideas from this list of 40 simple ways to practice gratitude.

4. Lean Into “What Ifs”

It is all too common to want to shove worry aside or try and stuff it. Especially when you have a tight project deadline or a calendar full of obligations. Doing so, however, is just an invitation for the worry to stick around even longer.

Rather than try to ignore the worry, lean into by asking yourself the following question, “What if what I’m worrying about were to actually happen?”

Once you have your answer then ask yourself this follow-up question, “Then what would happen?” Keep asking the follow-up question until you have run out of “then what’s”.

I always find that doing this exercise takes the bite out of worry. I also walk away with a plan should what I’m worrying about actually happen. Which, by the way, usually does not happen.

5. Take Back Control

“If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry. If it’s not fixable, then there is no help in worrying. There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever.” — The Dalai Lama

What do you have control over? What can you fix? What can you do to prevent whatever you are worrying about from happening?

For many of us, worry creates a feeling of being out of control and not safe. Doing things that are within our control helps us to regain those feelings of control and safety.

6. Tighten and Release

When you are worried, do you often feel a tightness in your stomach or your neck? Use that tightness to help you relax.

It sounds funny, but go ahead and tighten every muscle in your body.

Tighten your legs, suck in your stomach, clench your bottom, tighten your arms, and make fists. Hold your muscles in that tight position for just a moment, and then release all your muscles.

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This technique is called Progressive Muscle Relaxation. It combats worry and even stress by creating awareness around what the body feels like when it is in a relaxed state. And when you are in a relaxed state you are not in a state of worry.

7. Use Worry as a Gauge

Worry serves as a great gauge to let us know what is important and what is not. When you are worrying about something, tune-in to the gauge.

How important is what you are worrying about on a scale of 1-10? If you gave it a 5 or less, ask yourself this question,”Since this thing I’m worried about isn’t super important, what is really driving the worry?”

If you gave it a 5 or higher, then it’s time to turn worry into a motivator to start taking action. To help, go back to #5 the Take Back Control technique and ask yourself those questions.

8. Write or Talk It Out

Getting worry out of your head diminishes it. It is like the old analogy that if you shine a light on bacteria it dies. But if you keep it in the dark, it grows.

If you do not feel comfortable talking your worry thoughts and emotions out with a friend, family member, coach, or another trusted professional, try writing about it. Get it all out on paper and then throw the paper away.

Writing about your future-related worry takes the charge out of it and creates more clarity and awareness.

Final Thoughts

Worrying has nothing on you. The next time you find yourself worrying about the future:

  • Create awareness around what the worry is costing you.
  • Use one or more of the worry busting techniques.
  • Remember that you are not alone when it comes to worrying (we all do it).

So, there you have it. By following the steps above you’ll be able to have a more worry-free life so that you can reclaim your precious time and get stuff done!

Featured photo credit: Freely via freelyphotos.com

More by this author

Pam Thomas

Chief Change Officer @What's Within U; Helping people dig out from the ruts that keep them stuck personally and professionally.

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Last Updated on February 15, 2019

How SMART Goal Setting Makes Lasting Changes in Your Life

How SMART Goal Setting Makes Lasting Changes in Your Life

SMART goal setting is one of the most valuable methods used by high achievers today to actualize their life goals time after time. SMART goal setting is the inverse of random or carefree goal setting without strategy.

Perhaps, you’ve always wished to get back in shape but failed to act; or wished to get an annuity in place but failed to act; or wished to have control over your finances but failed to act. When you approach your goals with a carefree and nonchalant attitude you’re less likely to achieve them.

You should have a strategic goal setting method in place. It ought to be a time-tested and proven one. It ought to be purposeful. Without any of these considerations in view a person is likely to continue in a vicious cycle of failed goal realization.

To achieve your goals consistently and join the pack of high achievers out there who have consistently achieved much of their goals you must be prepared to do what these set of persons have been doing, and be ready to do the right thing: SMART goal setting.

What is SMART goal setting?

SMART goal setting is a goal setting method that considers certain factors about a goal relative to the person setting it. These factors are simply the five different letters in the SMART acronym.

It is relative to the person setting the goal because what is true for A may not be true for B; or what is possible for A or within A’s ability to achieve may not be possible for B or within B’s ability to achieve.

The acronym SMART can be broken down thus:

  • S—Specific
  • M—Measurable
  • A—Achievable
  • R—Realistic
  • T—Time bound

Is it possible that this acronym can make a long lasting impact in your life?

Is it possible that a mere goal setting metric like SMART can help you achieve so many of your unfulfilled goals?

Is it possible that if you practice SMART goal setting you would be able to have faster results, understand your goals better, overcome the habit of procrastination, and achieve a lot?

The power to achieve your goals is in your hands.

It is important to extend the enquiry by asking:

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  • How many times have you said you’ll read two books every week but failed to do so?
  • How many times have you said you’ll cut down on your expenses so you can save enough money to make a down payment for that apartment building you said you’ll buy five years ago but failed to do so?
  • How many times have you failed to keep to your diet routine even after all the tears you shed realising you keep adding pound upon pound every day?

We all have goals and we all have twenty four hours at our disposal and no one has more or less of it. While some people find it easy to achieve their goals without procrastinating. some find it difficult doing so.

For some people who have succeeded again and again in achieving their goals they have simply found out an easy way of doing this. Is there something they know that you don’t?

How SMART goals make a lasting impact in your life

Through SMART goal setting, Stephen Cooley was able to grow his real estate business to the point of closing at $110 million in sales when the average price point of homes was between $100, 000 – $200, 000 in South Carolina.[1]

Through SMART goal setting Steve Jobs was able to improve the fortunes of Apple and prevent the company from going bankrupt even when it had barely 90 days left before being declared bankrupt.

SMART goals setting can make a lasting impact in your life:

1. Make your goal clearer

When you use SMART goal setting it is easier for you to understand the various phases of your goal.

By using SMART you’re able to ask yourself relevant questions pertaining to your goal.

2. Motivate you into acting on your goals

When you use SMART goal setting and break down the goal into smaller goals or milestones, the bigger goal no longer looks intimidating or impossible.

Jack Canfield, co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul wrote in his book How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be about how they applied the rule of five in marketing their book, Chicken Soup and were able to make the book a best seller after some months. The rule of five simply means doing five specific things every day that will move you closer to achieving your goal.

In order not to be overwhelmed too, you would have to measure your performance using the right metrics. Here we are considering the Measurable and Achievable aspects of the SMART acronym. It is critical that you measure yourself in terms of lead measures.

What are lead measures? They are the things you do that leads you closer to your goals. On the other hand you would have to avoid “lag measures.”

While lag measures mean a successful outcome that you wished for and got, they can be emotionally draining and deceitful because whenever they don’t happen, you can become discouraged and so leg measures do not necessarily mean that you are getting closer to your bigger goal.

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So it is better to stick to lead measures.

3. Help you save you time

You can achieve more when you’re strategic with your goal setting task.

To be strategic, your goal would have to be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time framed. If you can’t identify any of these points in your goal, you probably will be wasting your time on a wild goose chase.

When your goals are written down, it’s easier for you to go into action mode.

4. Improve your self-discipline

Self improvement is an important thing for everyone to do periodically. When you set SMART goals, it makes you realize that you have to sit up and work on achieving them.

How to set a SMART goal

To make your SMART goal works, follow the following tips:

Specific

Every goal ought to be specific. It is important to guard against making vague goals because even when they are achieved you may not know. This is because you weren’t specific enough.

For instance “I will start planning toward retirement” is vague. Rather than write that you could say, “I will start planning toward retirement by starting an annuity plan.” This is more specific.

So when you are specific on your goal it’s easier for you to identify all its components and work accordingly toward achieving it.

Measurable

Your goals must be measurable. When they are measurable, it’s easier for you to follow through.

A goal like this is not measurable, “I want to make millions of Dollars.” You can make it more measurable by saying, “I want to make one million Dollars selling one hundred thousand copies of my book at ten Dollars each.”

Also, using our example while explaining the Specific acronym, you can make the goal more measurable by saying, “I will start planning toward retirement by starting an annuity plan and saving $500 every month.”

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Achievable

How realistic or actionable is your goal? Is it practical enough to fit into a given time frame? Is it something you are able to achieve in your capacity?

A man would only be setting himself up for failure if he sets goals that are not reasonable.

A goal like this is highly unrealistic and therefore not achievable: “I want to be the Governor of Texas in six months” meanwhile the elections will be coming up in the next three years.

Goals must be written down relative to the experiences of the one setting them. They must resonate with you. It is important that you have at least some of the resources needed to actualise this goal.

It is also important that you consider your time frame. When the time frame to achieve a complex goal is too short it is rare that such goal will be actualised.

Thus, using our previous example if you write “I want to make one million Dollars in ten days selling one hundred thousand copies of my book at ten Dollars each,” you would only be setting up yourself for failure.

This is especially true if you’re not a popular author or if you’ve never sold even up to one thousand copies of any of your previous books whether e-copy or in print.

Realistic

Before you proceed to making the commitment toward that goal you need think about how realistic it is.

Being realistic means you should be willing to make all the commitments required for that goal to be achieved.

Time framed

Every goal must have a commencement date and an end date written down. It is also important that you break down your goals into phases, chunks, bits, or milestones.

The act of having deadlines set to your goals is ample motivation that drives you into action. Without a deadline, it is not possible for you to know if you’re making headway with your goals.

“I will start planning toward retirement by starting an annuity plan and saving $500 every month for the next twenty five years” is a time framed goal.

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Remember that some goals are short term while some are long term. It is important to always bear this in mind because this will help you in making a clearer and realistic strategy for your SMART goal setting.

Without SMART goal setting in view, much of our goals may likely end in our minds or on paper or just midway into implementation. SMART goal setting reveals to us all the action points of our goals and helps us to have an awareness of every aspect of our goals.

Over to you: Time for you to act now

I could go on and on. What matters at the end of the day is what you do with the contents of this article because the power to achieve your goals is in your hands.

It is not enough having a goal. It is not enough putting it down in writing. It is important having a strategy in mind while putting it down. This strategy is a guideline or set of rules that guide you. It is SMART goal setting in the given circumstance.

After writing down your goals you would have to be ready to take action. There should be a clear action point. Write down what you need to do on daily, weekly, or monthly basis.

As a matter of practice, it is important that you begin by putting down a single statement that captures best your goal. For instance, “I want to own a $200, 000 worth duplex by 1st of August, 2019.”

Now, you can break this goal into smaller goals by saving $17, 000 per month for the next twelve months. You would have to ask yourself if this $17, 000 is within your reach on a monthly basis. If you make up to $25, 000 per month and you spend $5000 for monthly upkeep then it is possible setting aside $17, 000 every month for this purchase.

When your goals are realistic, they make them worth the chase. One of the things to bear in mind is that in order not to be overwhelmed by the daunting nature of your goals remember to always break them into milestones, chunks, or bits. In fact, take one day at a time.

Do not bother yourself with the one year, three year, five year or ten year plan as this may likely overwhelm you with fear and doubt. Let your focus be on each day. What will I be doing today? Consider this and go for it.

More Resources About Setting & Achieving Goals

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

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