Turning Worry into Wonder

By Leslie Sann

My life has been filled with terrible misfortune; most of which never happened.
 ~ Michel Montaigne

There are many expressions representing the uselessness of worry. One is that it is a misuse of the imagination. Another is that it is praying for something you don’t want. Yet most folks think worry is beneficial. Will Rogers is quoted as saying, “I know worrying works because none of the stuff I worried about ever happened.” Of course, he was jesting. Yet many consider worrying a rabbit foot keeping them out of harm’s way.

It doesn’t work like that. Worry freezes our brains. We stop thinking of creative solutions and get stuck in thinking about thinking about thinking about the future, which isn’t happening now. It sets our focus on a terrible outcome, and then we believe fretting about it will make it work out. An attempt to control the uncontrollable future that isn’t even here yet. Worry is another way to fuel your journey on the Hamster Wheel of Hades, destination nowhere.

One of my clients, who I adore, has the habit of beginning her sentences with I worry about ___. This often happens when she shares what has happened leading up to our conversation. Then, as she tells me about what she sees next, she begins with phrases like, I worry ___. I worry about ___, or I worry that ___.

We’ve played with choosing another approach. As with most long-term habits, it takes more than just a good idea to make a change. It takes repetition to make a positive difference.
The next time I heard her say, “I worry,” I stopped her. “Let’s say that sentence again. This time replace the word ‘worry’ with ‘wonder.’”
This simple shift made a dramatic difference. Watch this:

  • I worry that my mom is living alone and may fall, and no one will know.
  • I wonder how I can support my mom in practicing her balancing exercises and remembering to wear her Life Alert necklace.
  • •••
  • I worry that I ate too much last night.
  • I wonder how to increase my exercise today.
  • •••
  • I worry that my sister is drifting away and our relationship is eroding.
  • I wonder how I can nurture my connection with my sister and deepen the friendship I cherish.

Got it?

Worry does nothing other than promote more worry, fretting and stress. Worry fosters upset. Wonder leads to creativity. Wonder opens us to possibilities and choices. Choices lead to action. Action leads to results. Results which can be fine-tuned with more action.

Worry never stopped anyone from falling, gaining weight, or eroding relationships. Yet there is evidence that participation in the process with an intention to co-create a preferred outcome has a very high percentage of success.

I wonder how you will train yourself to stop worrying and choose to wonder.


*The above has been excerpted from the book Calm Down Lift Up Into Joy, Peace and Creativity,