Have you ever lay in bed at night worrying about this, that and the other? Most people have. I certainly have.
The thing is, we don’t usually worry about outcomes that we actually have control over. After all, if we had control over an issue, what we would do is formulate a plan to approach and change what we wanted to suit ourselves. Worry isn’t necessary when the odds are in our favor. So, part of understanding why we worry is considering what we worry about. We worry about outcomes over which we think we have no control.
As I contemplate all the time I’ve spent worrying, I recall Rick Rubin’s idea: If it’s out of your control, it’s none of your concern. The idea is meant to dissuade us from wasting time and energy on worrying about outcomes we can’t affect, and I really appreciate that, as I would like all of us to enjoy restful nights. But I think, if we buy into this too fully, we might be underestimating our own potential.
I believe each of us can wield some level of influence on just about everything that matters to us. This is not to say I want you to worry. No, I’m simply suggesting you plan.
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe” is a quote apocryphally attributed to Abraham Lincoln. In this scenario, those four hours of sharpening represent the time spent planning, which implies that a good plan ensures the desired outcome — in this case, successfully chopping down the tree.
Let’s notice that there’s no mention of the person doing the chopping worrying over whether or not they were strong enough to chop down the tree. Worrying over that would be futile, as the strength of that person could not be changed in such a short timeframe anyway. Let’s also notice that there’s no mention of worrying over whether or not the axe would end up sharp enough to do the job. That, too, would be futile as the axe would only get as sharp as four hours of sharpening could get it.
So, instead of worrying, let’s plan. Let’s dedicate a specific amount of time and a specific amount of energy into influencing the factors we do have control over, and then, knowing we did all that we could, let’s rest easy and let the outcome timber where it may.
William W. Brown is founder and board chair of Legacy Early College. email@example.com