“There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.”
If anyone has ever told you to stop worrying about something, you’ll know that it’s easier said than done.
At the same time, worrying about the future can be counterproductive. Instead, the best thing to do is to do everything you can to provide for the future, and then stop worrying about things you can’t control.
Unfortunately, lots of us worry about things we really shouldn’t, and neglect to give enough for the things we should.
Unfortunately, this is one of many areas where our brains work against us.
Humans are hardwired to worry about rare, dramatic threats like violence, rather than worrying about things which are much more likely to do us harm, such as poor health.
Lots of people are scared to fly in a plane, where they are in far more danger driving to the airport.
The thing is, you’re probably going to worry about something anyway. So make sure you’re focusing on things that are worthy of worrying about.
Here are the things you should be worrying about, instead of things that may never happen.
1) Your health
Have you ever heard the saying, health is wealth? Well, it happens to be true.
I’m at an age now where health is starting to become something I think about. When you’re young, your body more or less takes care of itself. In fact, the punishment you can take as a teenager and young adult is astonishing.
But as you get older, that changes. Injuries don’t heal like they used to. New issues start to crop up.
And if you’re not healthy, it doesn’t matter what else is going right in your life. You won’t be able to enjoy it the way you should.
Look, I get it. Nobody needs another article lecturing them about how they need to eat more leafy greens and get more exercise. But sometimes, things become cliché because they are true.
When you’re generally healthy, it’s easy to be complacent about your health. It’s easy to think that you’ll feel fine forever. But time catches up with all of us sooner or later. If you want to be happy in the future, you need to do everything in your power now to ensure you maintain as much health and capability as possible.
Yes, that means eating better. Yes, it means getting more exercise. Yes, it may mean dropping unhealthy habits such as smoking or drinking – or at least cutting back.
Because while you worry about landing that promotion at work or what someone is saying about you behind your back, time is doing its invisible work on your body, gradually eroding your quality of life.
Taking care of your health is how you fight back.
2) Your finances
All of us worry about money from time to time. But if you want to secure the best possible quality of life for yourself, you may need to worry about your finances from a more long-term perspective.
Again, maybe it’s the agent I’m currently at. But it’s weighing on my mind more and more that I have nothing saved for retirement.
When I was young, I didn’t have any spare money to put aside. Then, when I started making more, I had other priorities, like buying a house. Now, I’m at least halfway through my working life, and it feels too late to start.
But late is better than never.
First, you need to get your money to make sure you can cover your day-to-day expenses and, ideally, have a little fun. Once that’s taking care of, you need to think of the future when you won’t be able to work any longer.
How will you support yourself then?
Author and former financial advisor E. Napoletano writes that, “almost 40% of Americans have less than $5,000 in retirement savings, Social Security’s future keeps growing increasingly uncertain and people are living longer than ever before.”
There is no point stressing yourself out over this. After all, it would be silly to ruin your enjoyment of today for fear of what might come tomorrow. But it’s also foolish not to think about it at all.
Get a plan in place for how you will make money in the future. Because ultimately, it’s much more important than worrying about the clothes you wear or the car you drive today.
3) The environment
I don’t want this article to turn into a lecture. I’m sure you’ve heard this before.
The truth is, the damage we are doing to the planet is dangerous. And the more we harm the world we live in, the more we lower our own quality-of-life, both now and in the future.
You’re just one person, and there’s only so much you can do to stop climate change and environmental degradation. But as a stoic philosopher like Epictetus might’ve said, if something lies within your power to do, you should certainly do it.
Walk instead of driving where you can. Eat food grown locally. Recycle.
You can probably recite the things you ought to be doing for the environment just as well as I can, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do them.
Yes, it may only be a minuscule drop in the ocean compared to the pollution and destruction caused by massive corporations and nations. But ultimately, the world is made up of individuals like you. It matters what you do, even if only on a small scale.
4) How you spend your time
So far, we’ve talked about money, health, and the environment. But there are also small things you probably don’t give much thought to, but you really should.
How you spend your time is one of them.
I get it. After a long day at work, we’re all tired and worn out. All you want to do is stretch out on the sofa and give your brain a rest by binge-watching TV or scrolling on your phone.
And that’s fine, when it’s just a few days here and there. The trouble is, days soon add up to months, years, and decades of your life.
You don’t want to be looking back at how you spent your time on this earth and regretting any of it. So try to think about how you spend your time from that perspective.
Ask yourself, is this something you will remember fondly when you look back on in years to come?
If not, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it.
“Leisure doesn’t improve quality of life unless one knows how to use it effectively,” says James Wallman, author of the book Time and How To Spend It. He also suggests asking yourself the following questions about how you spend your time:
- Does it leave you with a story?
- Does it change you?
- Does it allow you to unplug from electric notifications?
- Does it improve your relationships?
- Does it feel challenging?
- Does it give you a sense of awe?
- Does it improve your social status?
If the way you spend your free time doesn’t allow you to answer yes to any of those questions, it’s probably time to find a better way to enjoy yourself.
5) Your personal growth
Anything that isn’t growing is dying.
That might sound harsh. But the truth is, if you’re not growing as a person and striving to become all you can be, you’re not living your life to the fullest.
The thing about personal growth is that it looks different for everyone. That’s why it’s personal. But ultimately, if life has a goal, it’s to become the best possible version of yourself you have it in you to be.
You can do that by following a spiritual practice. You can do it by engaging in philosophy. You can do it by reflecting on your psychology to harness your skills, abilities, and even past trauma to fuel you into a better version of yourself.
But however you do it, prioritizing your personal growth is something very few people do, but more of us should.
6) Your happiness
Finally, don’t forget to be happy.
That might sound strange after warning you about your health, your money, and the destruction of the planet we live on. But worry is only useful insofar as it propels us to make positive change. Beyond that, you need to let go.
You need to prioritize your own happiness. Do the things that bring you joy, even if they don’t make you money.
Hospice worker Grace Bluerock writes that one of the biggest regrets of dying people is that they wish they had been happier and enjoyed life more. But it’s too late to do that when you reach the end.
Be careful what you worry about
Worry is part of all our lives. And sometimes, it’s entirely justified.
Just make sure you’re worrying about the right things, instead of wasting your energy on things that don’t matter.