Don't Worry, Anticipate!
"Face your worry and
see it as an illusion.
It cannot exist unless you give it power and
give it life." ~Robert Anthony
When I tell my kids that we're going to do
something new, like attend a minor league
baseball game in my city's new baseball stadium,
their reaction is, "Cool! Let's go!"
They can't get out of the door fast enough,
and nothing but eager anticipation is on their
fresh minds. They have no idea what to expect,
and that doesn't bother them in the least.
When I saddle up to go to a new baseball
stadium, responsibility and anxiety play much
bigger roles in my mind than eager anticipation.
I worry about what time I need to arrive and
when I should leave to get a good parking
spot. I check my wallet to make sure that
I have sufficient resources to cover anticipated
and unanticipated activities. I wonder if
I will enjoy the experience, at least enough
to justify the hassle.
While my kids enjoy the experience from the
moment they learn of it, I withhold judgment
and enjoyment, and that keeps me from completely
enjoying new experiences. Research has shown
that the strongest psychological benefits
of a vacation don't occur during the vacation,
but rather in the time leading up to the vacation.
It's as we eagerly anticipate something fulfilling
like a vacation that we find peace and happiness.
If we don't eagerly anticipate something,
we rob ourselves of those feelings.
Recently, I was invited to participate in
a charity golf tournament for the school in
which I taught 17 years ago. When I left my
career as a teacher, I was also the school's
golf coach. If anyone should participate in
the school's golf tournament, it's the school's
former golf coach. Ironically, but through
no small coincidence, I've been away from
golf almost as long as I've been a parent.
I intended to get back into golf, but it never
happened, and I learned from just a few swings
the week before the tournament that my body
was no longer suited for golf. Not only that,
I didn't feel comfortable even walking to
and from tee boxes and greens any longer.
Seventeen years had done nothing to improve
my mobility on uneven terrain.
In the days leading up to the tournament,
I worried about my limited level of participation,
and if I should even bother going if all I
was going to do was ride around in the golf
cart. One of my former golfers had invited
me, and his company had graciously picked
up the tab for our foursome. I didn't want
them to waste an entry on me, if I wasn't
going to be able to contribute to the foursome's
score. He told me that it didn't matter; they
just wanted me along for the company. Still,
I contemplated backing out, even as I drove
into the golf course parking lot.
I'm very happy that I didn't. I spent a beautiful
sunny afternoon with three former students,
learning about their careers and families.
Four former students were in the foursome
in front of me, and genuinely seemed happy
to see the old coach/teacher as well. At the
dinner afterward, I was reunited with former
colleagues and more former students. No one
really knew that I didn't golf. In fact, I
walked away with a box of brand-new golf balls
that my foursome won.
Had I not attended, I would have missed out
on everything. As it was, because of my anxiety,
I only cheated myself out of the happiness
of eager anticipation in the days leading
up to the tournament.
How often do we let our anxiety rob us of
eager anticipation? We worry about things
that usually don't happen, and even if they
do happen, they're not as bad as we feared.
So, we're a couple of minutes late for the
baseball game or we parked in the wrong spot,
is it all that bad - bad enough to worry about?
Challenge yourself to eagerly anticipate
an upcoming event or activity. Conscientiously
resolve to minimize anxiety. Bring out that
inner child and see if your mood doesn't improve.