Written by Paul Angone

Do you want to worry less?

Of course you do, right? That’s like me asking if I could send you free bacon (or the tofu equivalent).

Worry is like black mold – it springs up in soggy conditions. Spreads uncontrollably. And often times we don’t realize it’s there until it’s literally killing us.

I’m speaking from experience here because I struggle with worry. Big time.

Each day is full of ripe opportunities to be anxious about something – finances, relationships, my kids, and all the unknowns. I even worry about how much I worry.

But we need to stop. Because…

Worry crushes creativity.

Worry warps wisdom. 

Worry pummels peace.

We must wreck worry before it wrecks us. 

But how?

Here’s seven strategic ways to punch worry where it hurts.

1. Do What You Need to Do 

I can’t tell you how much of my worry comes because I’m simply not doing what I know I should be doing. I’m lost on the Internet when I have a deadline. I’m avoiding projects or hard conversations.

I don’t do what I know I should be doing, and then I spend the rest of the time worried I’m not doing what I should be doing. Even an insane person would tell you that’s crazy.

Often times the angst and anxiety that comes from worrying is much worse than the task we’re worried about.

Photo Credit: Paul Angone

2. Make a “Wow! I’m Insanely Blessed” List

How many times have you come up against something that you thought, this time, without a doubt, you were dead meat. And then out of nowhere, the answer, the open door, the finances, the wisdom you needed arrives and everything works out better than you ever could’ve dreamed.

Your greatest fears that you were sure had no answer usually end up solving themselves.

We’ve been blessed so many times, so why do we continually keep expecting the opposite?

If you keep worrying that you’re in deep crap, that’s exactly how you’re going to feel.

“Most folks are as happy as they have made up their minds to be.” Abraham Lincoln

3. Get Intentional

I think many of us act like we’re puppets in a play and we’re waiting for something or someone to put us in the right place.

We need to stop letting life just happen. We need to live on purpose. Nothing breeds worry like purposelessness.

“About one third of my patients are suffering from no clinically definable neurosis, but from the senselessness and emptiness of their lives.” – Carl Jung

Define what you want from this life and take steps towards it.

The most important thing we can do with this life is actually live it. 

4. Make Plans (then make plans to make new plans)

You can’t have intentionality without making plans.

Yet, don’t place your plans in stone. Make your plans with Play-Doh — malleable, adaptable, and fluid.

Being a twentysomething is often times defined by your plans not going as planned.

But the more comfortable you are with the uncomfortable, the less you will worry when things become worrisome.

Accept change. Make new plans. Then move forward.

5. Stop Smoking Your iPhone

The iPhone is our generation’s cigarette.

We are the Refresh Generation – constantly getting a hit from our phone for the latest update.

Some of us (myself included) need to admit we have a social media and iPhone addiction. And this addiction breeds in us Obsessive Comparison Disorder, worry, and anxiety.

We can’t fill every second where we should be resting and reflecting with frantic refreshing.

The worst way to be refreshed is continually refreshing your phone.

6. Take a Creative Break

There are powerful healing and calming effects in taking time out to create something. The artists at Plumb write that taking an art break “boosts immune system functioning, reduces anxiety and stress reaction, aids healing, and, of course, increases creative growth.”

Worried about something? Maybe it’s time to take out a pencil, water colors or Photoshop and get creative.

7. Serve Others 

Sometimes the best way you can be intentional about your life is being intentional about helping others.

Sometimes the best cure for your problems is by helping someone else solve theirs.

As Dale Carnegie of the famed How to Worry Less and Start Living wrote:

“It is utterly impossible for any human mind, no matter how brilliant, to think of more than one thing at any given time.”

Get out of your own head for a little while and you might find there’s actually light on the outside.

We’d love to hear from you in the comments below: 

What strategy helps you from worrying? 

Paul-Angone-All-Groan-UpAbout Paul

Paul Angone is the author of 101 Secrets for your Twenties and the creator of AllGroanUp.com, a place for those asking “what now?” Snag free chapters from his book and follow him at @PaulAngone.

Written by Rebecca Fraser-Thill


You know what drives me insane? “Under 30″ lists. “Young movers and shakers” awards. “Rub It In Your Face That These People Got Their Acts Together Faster Than You” roll calls.

Under 30 lists are everywhere. Forbes has one, Inc. has one, GQ has one. Even “hot seller” Realtor magazine has one. And how many people are on each list? You guessed it:  30. The lack of originality astounds.

These lists make it seem like doing things younger means doing them better. Like there’s no point in trying when you pass the ripe ol’ 30 mark. Like we might as well throw our diplomas in the shredder and join Dancing With the Losers if we’re not markedly successful one-third of the way into our lifetimes.

Every time I convince one of my students that they don’t have to conquer the world by 25 (or 30, or even – gasp – 35) – heck, every time I convince myself that I don’t have to – one of these damn lists comes out and messes with our heads.

Why else would 86% of twentysomethings say they feel the need to be successful before age 30? It’s the ridiculous lists. And, I suppose, the youth-obsessed culture that eagerly produces and consumes them. But that’s not as much fun to blame.

For our sanity’s sake, let’s get some things straight:

The People on “Young and Successful” Lists are Freaks

The 20somethings lionized on “wow, look at ‘em doing so much so young!” lists are on there precisely because they’re non-normative. If they were like average people – or even like typical above-average people – the lists would be bloated and pointless.

These people are the 0.001% of the population who have managed to do something remarkable early in life. Trying to be like them is like trying to look like Gisele Bundchen or Tom Brady (or, most likely, their offspring…can we say genetics?).

We’ve accepted that we can’t all be gorgeous, or pro athletes, or live a life of luxury. Yet we somehow feel that we all should be making our mark by 25 or 30. How unrealistic is that?

“Earlier” Doesn’t Mean “Better”

Malcolm Gladwell did a pretty convincing job of striking down the “earlier = better” notion in his article Late Bloomers and book Outliers.

“Genius, in the popular conception, is inextricably tied up with precocity—doing something truly creative, we’re inclined to think, requires the freshness and exuberance and energy of youth.” – Malcolm Gladwell

He goes on to assert that someone can be a prodigy – an individual who demonstrates remarkable abilities at a young age – and yet do little with those abilities in the long run. Prodigies simply develop earlier than their peers, that’s what makes them stand out. Once their peers catch up, many prodigies blend into the background.

So those people on the “I’m Young and Awesome” Lists? They better watch out because we’re coming for ‘em.

Age of Success Varies by Field

Another reason Under 30 lists are ridiculous is because what’s remarkable in one field is ho-hum in another.

Physicists, poets and chess masters tend to create their best work early in life. I think I’m safe in saying that most of us are not those things. That means that the fields we’re in have mid-life or later peaks. In fact, the more “ambiguous and unclear” the field’s concepts are, Max Fisher writes in The Atlantic Wire, the later important work is produced.

So figure out what’s the norm for your field, not what’s the remarkable exception for some other field (which is what’s usually portrayed on the youth-centric lists). To focus on the latter is to pile meaninglessness on top of meaninglessness.

Time Pressure Paralyzes

Here’s the true bottomline to the entire “young is amazing!” issue:  the more time pressure a person perceives, the worse their performance is. In other words, our obsession with succeeding young may be the very thing standing in the way of our success.

Granted, time pressure findings are usually found in laboratory psychology studies in which there’s short-term pressure on a concrete task. But I’d argue that these findings are applicable to long-term time pressure, too. As one researcher on the topic, Michael DeDonno, said, “If you feel you don’t have enough time to do something, it’s going to affect you.”

Notably, it’s our perception of not having enough time – not the actual amount of time we have – that makes us perform poorly. To combat this, DeDonno told Science Daily, “Keep your emotions in check. Have confidence in the amount of time you do have to do things. Try to focus on the task and not the time. We don’t control time, but we can control our perception. It’s amazing what you can do with a limited amount of time.”

Stop aiming to be a success by 30 and you just might become one. Or, at the very least, you’ll be freed from a life spent obsessively tracking birthdays, leaving you mental space to instead focus on your life’s work itself.

But, hey, what do I know? I already went over the youth hill. Which is a relief. Life’s much better over here on the “I’ll Never Make a 30 Under 30 List” List.

A little bitter, perhaps. But better.

Want to explore this topic further? Then check out this panel discussion I participated in on HuffPost Live.

We’d love to hear from you in the comments below:

Do you feel like age 30 is a deadline? Why do you think we have that idea in our heads? And how can we fight it?

Photo Credit: bicameral

Fraser-Thill_squareAbout Rebecca

Rebecca Fraser-Thill is the founder of Working Self, a site that helps young adults create meaningful work – that actually pays the bills! She teaches psychology at Bates College and is a career coach. Her work has been featured throughout the media, including on The Huffington Post, The Chelsea Krost Show, and Stacking Benjamins. Follow her @WorkingSelf.

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