62 things you can stop worrying about right now

A woman relaxing on a chair, her legs up on a fence.

Imagine how much lighter you’d feel if you stopped worrying about:

  1. Whether others approve of your behavior.
  2. What others think, at all.
  3. Whether you’ve gotten enough done so far today/this week/in your life.
  4. Whether you’re good enough.
  5. Whether you’re ready.
  6. Whether you’ll miss the bus.
  7. What’s the right decision.
  8. Whether you’ve made the right decision.
  9. Why you had to have a brain fart just then.
  10. How much longer you could put up with this.
  11. Where you’ll get new ideas from.
  12. Why you don’t have things figured out yet.
  13. Why you keep having those annoying thoughts.
  14. Why you don’t know what you want.
  15. When you’ll get what you want.
  16. The fact that you’re getting older every second.
  17. The fact that you are constantly moving closer towards the end of your life.
  18. Why you’re not as successful as you’d like to be.
  19. Whether you’re doing everything right.
  20. How you’ll manage to work your way through your huge to-do list.
  21. When your good habits will start paying off.
  22. Why you don’t feel like it.
  23. Whether you’ll ever feel like it.
  24. Whether you’ll miss it.
  25. Whether you’ll forget this.
  26. Whether you’ve earned a break yet.
  27. How many people have liked your latest Instagram/Twitter/Facebook post.
  28. Whether you’re working fast enough.
  29. Why there isn’t enough time.
  30. What would have happened if…
  31. Whether thinking more will make the decision easier.
  32. Whether you’ll have more opportunities for happiness in the future.
  33. Why your thoughts won’t stop.
  34. When you’ll finally get a better result (doing the same exact thing). 
  35. Why you can’t sleep.
  36. Why everything is so difficult today.
  37. Why it’s so hard to get others to change their minds.
  38. Why not everyone thinks x is as cool as you think it is.
  39. Whether you’ll ever get lucky.
  40. Why others are more talented or genetically gifted than you are.
  41. Whether a tree that topples in a forest makes a sound on impact when there is nobody there.
  42. Why today is such a shitty day.
  43. Whether you have what it takes to start your own business.
  44. How much your hairline will end up receding.
  45. Why you have a bald spot on your head at such a young age.
  46. Whether you should travel more.
  47. Whether you should anything, really.
  48. Why you don’t like x more.
  49. Why on Earth you’re so into x!
  50. Why others appear to be so much more successful than you.
  51. Whether others are as successful as they seem.
  52. Why things aren’t fair.
  53. How much longer you’ll have to try to achieve inner peace.
  54. Why you had to be so unlucky to have a screaming child seated next to you on the plane.
  55. Why you lack discipline.
  56. Whether you should be reading more books.
  57. What others would say if you quit your job.
  58. Why you’re having so much trouble sitting in an office all day (when others seem fine with it).
  59. Whether you’re just a whiny person for not liking your work.
  60. Whether you need more skills before you start your own business.
  61. When your bad mood will end.
  62. Whether you’re just lazy.

The truth is that you don’t have to worry about anything at all. When you are concerned about something, either let it go or think about it. But don’t worry.

Yours,

— Peter

P.S. “Stop worrying about it” is easier said than done. Need help? Try my coaching program. You can sign up for a free 30-minute introductory session right now.

You’re not lazy (just change the inputs!)

A cat yawning.

Do you find it difficult to get your work done?

What if that isn’t because you’re lazy, because you lack discipline, or anything like that?

What if your work output is simply a function of inputs?

Let’s go over two key inputs. First, when you work.

Consider:

  • 40% of people are “morning types”, who prefer to wake at or around dawn.
  • 30% of people are “evening types”, who prefer to wake up late in the morning or even in the afternoon.
  • The remaining 30% of people are somewhere in between.

Why does this matter?

If you try to work at a time of day that doesn’t fit your chronotype, you’ll have a hard time. For example:

When a night owl is forced to wake up too early, their prefrontal cortex remains in a disabled, ‘offline’ state. Like a cold engine after an early-morning start, it takes a long time before it warms up to operating temperature, and before that will not function efficiently.

And it’s not like you have a choice in the matter:

[N]ight owls are not night owls by choice. They are bound to a delayed schedule by unavoidable DNA hardwiring. It is not their conscious fault, but rather their genetic fate.

(Statistics and quotes from Matthew Walker, Why We Sleep, p. 20.)

So, if you are an evening person, why would you force yourself to get up early and to try to work in the morning? Or, if you are a morning person, why would you force yourself to stay at the office until late in the day?

And why would you let someone else, like your boss or the company’s upper management, force you to do this?

Maybe the reason that you don’t get much done in the morning (or in the evening) isn’t that you’re lazy, or that you don’t care—but simply that you’re trying to resist your genetics. What if you changed the input “time of the day”?

Here’s the second input: where you work.

Do you like to work in a busier space? Do you appreciate the energy of others around you who are also being productive? Or, by contrast, do you prefer to work in a quiet space where nobody will disturb you?

I don’t have trustworthy statistics on hand to demonstrate that some people work better in environments with some buzz, while others need a quiet space to thrive. But it sure does seem that way.

So, what if you changed the input “work location” and found that your work output is much higher when you work somewhere else? Would it matter, then, that we lack reliable statistics on this subject? If you are more productive in a quiet space, do you need to understand why? Do you need to fight it?

In fact, if you care about your work, don’t you owe it to yourself to work when and where you are most productive?

Let’s say you need to focus on your work for hours at a stretch. Perhaps you are a lawyer and you write and edit documents that will be scrutinized in court. It takes a while to wrap your head around the complex problems involved, so working efficiently requires you to be in a quiet space for a while.

If your boss is worth her salt, she will make sure that you have that quiet space available to you. And she will not interrupt your workday with superfluous meetings. Because your boss should care about your output, not about your input.

Not everyone has a boss like this, though. If your boss—or the rest of the management—does not make sure that you can work when and where it is efficient for you to do so, then you need to take responsibility. Guard your own productivity.

This might look like having a conversation with your boss and asking for more flexibility in when and where you work. It might also look like finding a job with a different company, where the management recognizes the value of letting you work in the way that you are most productive.

Don’t resist your genetics. Don’t resist reality. Work when and where it is productive for you

Yours,

— Peter

Not sure? What if you tried it for three months?

A notebook calendar with an uncapped pen on top of it.

Are you considering a major change, but are you having trouble pulling the trigger? Do you keep weighing the pros and cons to try to arrive at a definitive choice?

For example:

  • You’re considering starting a business, but you’re not sure whether you’ve got what it takes.
  • You’re considering traveling indefinitely, but you worry that it would be too exhausting.
  • You’re considering moving to a different city, but you worry that you’d miss your existing social circle too much.

Often, more thinking won’t bring you more clarity. What does bring clarity is action. But to get that clarity, you do have to commit to the action.

If you make a change while you hesitate, you might constantly second-guess yourself. That second-guessing can slow you down or, worse, it can cause you to give up the very first time you encounter some difficulty. (This is what Seth Godin calls The Dip.)

So, what if you tried this thing that you’re contemplating—but tried it for a fixed amount of time? Treat it as an experiment.

Let’s say you commit to making the change for three months. Or one, or six, if you think that makes more sense. Any substantial, fixed period of time. You commit yourself to taking action on this new thing and you commit to evaluating at the end (so you don’t sabotage yourself by second-guessing). 

What’s the downside? If you don’t take action, you might spend more time debating the pros and cons than it would take to run the experiment—and mental debate won’t offer you any clarity at all. 

Yours,

— Peter

Why try to change minds when there’s an easier solution?

A fork in the road on a forest path.

It’s usually easier to find people who already think like you than to change the minds of people who don’t.

Not a good fit within the company culture? Are people always staying late and do they expect the same of you, while you want to enjoy your time off?

Is a corporate reorganization threatening to give you new responsibilities you don’t want?

You could lobby and use your political skills to try to obtain favorable treatment. You could try to convince others not to work overtime. You could try to postpone the reorganization.

Or you could just find a job elsewhere. You could work in an organization that respects its employees’ personal lives and that gives them a say when reorganizing.

Follow the path of least resistance unless there is a compelling reason not to.

Yours,

— Peter

“I should have things figured out by now”

A couple with their son standing in front of a lake. The son is sitting on his dad's shoulders.

Whether we’re 22, 28, 34, or 40 years old, we might tell ourselves:

“I should have figured things out by now. I should have a steady job or a successful business and I should have some stability in my personal life.”

What if this isn’t the case? What if we’re still searching for what we want? Does that mean we’re a failure? Does that mean we will never figure things out?

First, let’s reframe the situation. When we think “I should have figured things out by now”, that’s just a thought. We don’t have to believe this thought and we don’t have to engage with it. Instead, we can just observe it. We can notice that the thought is there. It doesn’t matter why it’s there. It just is. If we like, we can thank our brain for trying to protect us, and then let the thought go.

Second, it’s perfectly okay not to have things figured out. There is no schedule of things we should have achieved by a certain age. And because there is no schedule, we cannot be behind schedule. Even if it is common to have a “steady job” and perhaps kids by a certain age, that doesn’t mean that we have to do what’s common. Many people are happy running their lives in many different ways at many different ages.

Third, what does it even mean to have things figured out? There is no state of ultimate happiness that we can achieve. Even if we were to have a great relationship and steady work we love, that doesn’t mean we’d be done and that we could just sit back and enjoy happiness for the rest of our lives. It doesn’t work that way. If we achieved those things, we’d still have problems. They’d be better problems, sure, but we would still have problems and we would still feel sadness, anger, fear, and shame from time to time. 

Finally, when we look at other people who appear to have things figured out, we can realize that appearances can be deceiving. Think of someone you know who you think has things figured out. Maybe they have a dream job. But what if they actually are bored with their job? Or maybe they genuinely do love their work, but they invest so much energy in it that they have little time to spend with their partner. The point isn’t to find flaws in someone else’s life; the point is that comparisons are not that useful, if only because we don’t know the full circumstances.

Even though we don’t need to have things figured out by any particular age, these thoughts may pop up from time to time. I get them too. For me, a thought might be “I should be an accomplished public speaker by now” or “I’m getting better at climbing, but I should be even better than I am—I’ve been doing this for years now”. We can either let such thoughts go immediately, or if we do want to entertain them, then we can challenge any premises they might be based on.

Which thoughts do you notice? What do you think you should have figured out by now?

Yours,

— Peter

What to tell yourself on a shitty day

Some days are pretty shitty. There’s no two ways about it.

Whether it’s because you stepped in some dog poop, or because someone was mean to you, or for some other reason—some days are just shitty.

It helps to accept this. But how?

I’ve had my share of shitty days, particularly when I was in the middle of burnout. For example, I used to have a lot of trouble deciding. Apparently indecision is a common stress symptom. I’d be biking to the coffee shop and I’d wonder, “Don’t I feel like heading to the bookstore instead?” So I would change direction and head to the bookstore.

On the way to the bookstore, I would change my mind again, thinking, “No, actually, I do feel like going to the coffee shop more.” Sometimes I would change my mind three or four times, reversing direction on my bike each time.

It was frustrating! The simplest decision was extraordinarily difficult for me. Not all days were like this; some days were simply filled with indecision, for whatever reason. But at one point, I had a realization. And I want to share it with you today:

The difficulty is all in your head.

Well, it probably is.

The external world doesn’t change much from day to day. Sure, sometimes it changes dramatically, but in general the external world is pretty stable.

If you find that one day is pretty shitty for you—shittier than usual—that is most likely because of something in your head, rather than because of something in the external world.

Realizing this is so powerful. Telling yourself, “Hey—this is going on in my head!” can make all the difference. Why? First of all, it means you can do something about it. For example, you can take a nap or get a good night’s sleep. The rest of the day, or the next day, is then usually not as shitty!

Second, difficulties in your head come and go naturally. Sometimes you feel great; sometimes you feel miserable. This is a normal part of the human experience. Because it’s normal, you don’t have to resist it. You can just accept it and trust that better times are coming your way.

Now, when you’re having a bad time, it’s not always easy to remember that the difficulty is probably because of a storm of sorts in your head. But try to remember anyway. When something isn’t going right, tell yourself, “Hey, I am currently perceiving things in a way that makes me stressed, frustrated, or angry.”

It just might make your shitty day slightly better.

Yours,

— Peter