What Do You Worry About? More Importantly, Is It Really Worth It?

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During the past 12 months as I was flat on my back, struggling with some very serious health issues, I found myself with a lot of time on my hands to reflect about life, what we do with our limited time on this planet, and what is (and isn’t) important. It’s been an interesting ride, to say the least.

In the Los Angeles airport a couple of days ago waiting to return home from a weekend seminar I attended, I observed people and wondered about their lives, what they did, where they were going, and what they spent their time on and what their possible concerns, problems, or worries might be. Everyone has a story to tell. Some are more interesting than others; some are downright sad. But for each person, their story is their own and has meaning.

Several years ago, Earl Nightingale wrote an article titled, “The Fog of Worry (Only 8% of Worries are Worth It).” It resonated with me when I first read it, and it does even more today, some 40 years later. Here’s what Earl wrote:

According to the Bureau of Standards, “A dense fog covering seven city blocks, to a depth of 100 feet, is composed of something less than one glass of water.” So, if all the fog covering seven city blocks, 100 feet deep, were collected and held in a single drinking glass, it would not even fill it. And this could be compared to our worries.

If we can see into the future and if we could see our problems in their true light, they wouldn’t tend to blind us to the world, to living itself, but instead could be relegated to their true size and place. And if all the things most people worry about were reduced to their true size, you could probably put them all into a drinking glass, too.

It’s a well-established fact that as we get older, we worry less. With the passing of the years and the problems each of them yields, we learn that most of our worries are not really worth bothering ourselves about too much and that we can manage to solve the important ones.

But to younger people, they often find their lives obscured by the fog of worry. Yet, here’s an authoritative estimate of what most people worry about.

  1. Things that never happen: 40 percent. That is, 40 percent of the things you worry about will never occur anyway.
  2. Things over and past that can’t be changed by all the worry in the world: 30 percent.
  3. Needless worries about our health: 12 percent.
  4. Petty, miscellaneous worries: 10 percent.
  5. Real, legitimate worries: 8 percent. Only 8 percent of your worries are worth concerning yourself about. Ninety-two percent are pure fog with no substance at all.

As the article mentions, and as I’ve experienced in my personal life, as I’ve gotten older I worry a lot less than I used to. I’ve learned that there are things that are “controllable” and things that are not. There’s not a lot (if anything) we can do about the economy, the weather, gas prices, what Congress or the president does, or what our neighbors do. For the most part, those things are beyone our personal abilities to control; they’re what we might call the “uncontrollables.”

What we do have control over, however, are things like our diet, our exercise, our attitude, the way we treat others, the value we provide the marketplace, and our faith; those are the “controllables.”

Far too many people spend way too much time worrying about the uncontrollables… the things they can’t change. But what about those things we do have control over?  Is their any benefit to worrying about them? According to point five in Earl’s list, only 8 percent of our worries are real and legitimate and worth being concerned about. But personally, I’m not convinced that worrying about the controllables is a profitable or wise use of our time or our energy. There are things we can do to get and maintain control… and a little planning can make it much easier and less stressful.

Some time ago, I attended a workshop that walked the attendees through a planning process that helped us identify what is most important to us so we could get more focused on how to spend our time and energy. I thought you might like to see the process yourself.

Step 1: What are three physical or material things that are REALLY important to you?

    1. ______________________________________________

    2. ______________________________________________

    3. ______________________________________________

Step 2: What three experiences would you want to feel if you possessed those three things?

    1. ______________________________________________

    2. ______________________________________________

    3. ______________________________________________

Step 3: Using the three experiences from above, construct what you would consider to be an “ideal” day. Use the following as guidelines:

    If I lived _________________________________________

    ….with a home (or family) like _________________________

    ….with a schedule like _______________________________

    ….and a business like ________________________________

    ….then I would (describe your ideal day) _________________



This exercise is very simple, but working through it helps you get clear on what is and what isn’t important to you, and enables you to think about what an ideal day would be like for you. String seven ideal days together and you have an ideal week. Put four of those together and you have an ideal month. Continue doing that and (ideally) you’d end up with an ideal life. Of course, there will always be interruptions or disruptions… things that aren’t in your plan. But having a vision, a plan and a focus can make dealing with the unexpected much easier when they do arise.

So what about you? How are you doing? What do you worry about? Are you happy with the results you’re getting from your consulting practice? If you haven’t transitioned into full time consulting yet, why not? Are you doing well with your current job? What about the future? Are you secure with it? Is your company providing you with a guarantee of a position? What about your retirement, or your children’s educations… are you secure with how you’re doing there?

Right now, in this very economy with so many businesses hurting, our consultants are doing better than ever before. If there is anything I can do to help you move closer to your goals, please let me know. As always, I’m very interested in your succes!

Martin Howey, CEO
TopLine Business Solutions


4 Comments for this entry

  • Robert says:


    Good perspective on potentially wasting energy on worry about items they do not have control over.


    • Martin Howey says:

      Thank you, Robert, for your comment. It’s so easy to get caught up in the worry syndrome. Just knowing that certain things are going to happen that you have no control over is a big help. No amount of worry in the world, and in many cases, nothing you do can or will change those things. They’re going to happen. Gas prices are going to be high, the economy is upside down, the government is going to continue to do stupid things, people are going to text on their phones while driving, some will attempt to drive after drinking or inducing drugs excessively, and accidents of all kinds are going to happen.

      We’re much better off not worrying about these things, but instead accepting that they will happen, and then learning how to deal with the unexpected when they do happen. It’s a pretty dismal person to be around who always worries or frets about things… especially those that they can’t control. Life is too short to waste time and energy not only worring about things, but being around those who do.


  • Becky A says:

    Great thoughts Martin! Would love to share this with my facebook friends! Is there a facebook ‘button’ or something to do that easily? Hope you are well!

    • Martin Howey says:

      Hi Becky… All is well on this end. Thank you for your thoughts. You are welcome to send this to your Facebook friends, but we don’t have a link to it yet. You can simply copy the address and paste it into your Facebook message and it will work. We’re working on this now, but so far, don’t have it active. I trust you are doing well yourself. Miss talking with you.


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