Worrying less about the how

Worrying less about the how

Anxiety has this quirky little habit of going, “BUT HOW?! HOW ARE YOU GOING TO GET THERE?!” Anxiety is the intolerance of uncertainty, so of course an anxious brain wants to know exactly how something is going to unfold.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how this obsession with the how really gets in our way and can trip us up. What if instead of wondering about the how, we decide what we want and then do and let things unfold? I’ve noticed that focusing on the how takes us out of flow and out of creativity; it pushes us from curiosity into control. None of those things are conducive to letting ourselves live. You have everything you need. (That’s a Yoda quote, just for the record.)

Let me give you some specific examples. A single person wants to meet a partner and they’re worried about how they’re going to do it. (Dating apps?! Spending copious amounts of time in elevators with the hope of having a meet cute?! Lurking around the weight room at the gym?!) What I recommend doing is instead decide what you want and then let go of the how. Things happen in the most surprising of ways, so let go of the how and focus on the what. Then live your life, do things you like doing, and hold what you want at the forefront of your mind. Allow things to come to you without clenching your brain on the mechanics of how that might happen. Let the world surprise you.

Another example: you are a creative person who wants to write a book but you’re getting hung up on the mechanics and the how of doing so. Again, instead of focusing on the how of writing a book, simply do. Write what you want to write, and let it flow. Choose to simply do and know why you do it, and then go. FLY, LITTLE BIRDY!

I keep thinking about this book that I read called Range by David Epstein. The book covers a lot of territory, but what is relevant here is the people he profiled. He found that people who were successful and ended up in careers they really enjoyed simply picked the next best thing to do. Rather than worrying about a long end point in the future and plotting how to get there, these people stayed in present time and then followed the path by picking the next best thing. That is the key to living: know yourself and what you want to feel, and then allow the path to unfold. (It’s a really good book. I highly recommend.

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