Five hundred years ago, Michel de Montaigne said: “My life has been filled with terrible misfortune; most of which never happened.”
Now there are studies that support this. The studies looked into how many of our imagined calamities never materialize. In this study, subjects were asked to write down their worries over an extended period of time and then identify which of their imagined misfortunes did not actually happen. It turns out that 85% of what subjects worried about never happened, and with the 15 percent that did happen, 79% of subjects discovered either they could handle the difficulty better than expected, or the difficulty taught them a lesson worth learning. This means that 97 percent of what you worry over is not much more than a fearful mind punishing you with exaggerations and misperceptions.
Montaigne’s quote has made people laugh for five centuries, but worry is no joke. The stress it generates causes serious problems. The stress hormones that worry dumps into your brain have been linked to shrinking brain mass, lowering your IQ, being prone to heart disease, cancer and premature aging. Add to that martial problems, family dysfunction, clinical depression, and about the time you hit the “golden years” there is the added risk of developing dementia.
The simple answer to the problem is it starts with the decision not to believe the misfortune that your worried thoughts see in your future. Go to any book store and go on line and the self-help books are a dime a dozen. Without sounding too cynical, many of the authors behind these books have ulterior motives, hoping your money will replace their own stress levels.
As a tour manager or, for that matter, anyone in leadership, it is always wise to have some contingencies in place, because things are going to change, count on that. But the key is separating what is a legit contingency from some abstract worry. The old adage that “the devil is in the details” is probably apropos here, details that are hypothetical and never become a reality (97 percent).
It is the common trait in all of us to want to see the future laid out clearly – as long as it is a positive future, but a negative future – that is a different story. No one wants to see misfortune in their future, real or imagined.
It is amazing to me the number of talk shows that talk about retirement and planning for the future as if that is the highlight of our existence. The reality of death at the end of the road and preparation for that event, is not a real popular subject, but a fact that is a stronger reality than any other event.
I am a strong believer in living for today, but as I get older, the reality of something on the other side of the curtain becomes a little more interesting – having a contingency plan for this event is more important to me now, while taking care of the business of today as the Scrooge found out in “A Christmas Carol.”