Worry Never Works

Mike Robbins
4 min readMar 26, 2024

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Many of us spend a lot of time worrying. About bills, relationships, health, finances, work, the state of the world, and more. Although this is completely understandable, especially these days, and it’s something I find myself struggling with at times in pretty significant ways…I’ve learned throughout my life that worry never works.

Worrying is actually detrimental to our health, well-being, and our ability to experience what we truly want in life. When we worry, we’re simply preparing to be upset in the future — assuming that something bad will happen and creating a dress rehearsal for our anger, disappointment, and/or frustration.

Worry doesn’t work because it keeps us fixated on potential problems without thinking about productive solutions. It amplifies stress, impairs decision-making, and harms our mental and physical health. Often, worries are beyond our control or blown out of proportion, leading to unnecessary distress. Instead, focusing on actionable steps, maintaining perspective, and practicing mindfulness, we stay stuck in the negative trap of imagining all the ways things could go wrong.

Worrying has simply become a habituated and unconscious behavior for many of us. We tend to find ways to justify this — thinking that worrying proves we really care, helps keep us focused, or allows us to stay on top of things in a responsible way.

While this all makes sense, on a deeper level I’ve realized over the years that worrying is just an erroneous attempt to control the uncontrollable — life.

Given that we all know, at least to some degree, that worrying doesn’t really work and actually makes things worse — why do we do it?

If Worry Never Works, Why Do We Do It?

We worry as a natural response to uncertainty, potential threats, or challenges in our lives. It’s a way for our minds to try to anticipate and prepare for problems, but it can also stem from a desire for control or fear of the unknown. While worrying can sometimes serve a protective function, it often becomes excessive and counterproductive, leading to increased stress and anxiety.

Here are some of the main reasons we worry so much…

1. We’re Trained to Worry

We’ve been trained to worry throughout our lives — by our parents, teachers, friends, family members, co-workers, the media, our culture, and more. From the time we were kids, we’re taught (directly and indirectly) that we’re supposed to worry about lots of things — crime, illness, money, our children, being taken advantage of, pollution, and so much more. While some may argue that there are many things we should be concerned and aware about, “worrying” about any of these things doesn’t make them better or help us address them in a specific way.

2. We Don’t Know How to Express Our Real Emotions

We’re not usually encouraged or even all that good at acknowledging, addressing, and expressing our real emotions. Worry is often a suppressed form of fear, anger, shame, or other emotions we find difficult to deal with. Because worrying is much more socially acceptable than expressing our authentic fear (or anger, guilt, helplessness, shame, sadness, confusion, overwhelm, etc.), we tend to actively worry about things all the time. Our inability to express our real emotions, which is usually the source, is what keeps worry in place.

3. We Worry That Something Bad Will Happen

Finally, we worry that if we stop worrying, something really bad will happen. As ironic as it may seem, we continue to worry, somehow thinking we are protecting ourselves. In actuality, when we worry we’re just setting ourselves up for more stress and fear…and in a strange way, sometimes even attracting more negative outcomes and experiences to us by being so fixated on all that could go wrong.

How to Stop Worrying

Here are a few things you can do to let go of worry and operate with a deeper sense of peace and freedom:

1. Notice What You Worry About

Like most aspects of life and growth, the first step is authentic awareness. When we become conscious of our own habits, thoughts, and patterns as it relates to worrying, we can start to make some healthy choices and changes. As you notice your own tendency to worry, have compassion with yourself and see if you’re willing to let it go.

2. Identify and express your real emotions

Worry often originates from underlying emotions such as fear, anger, sadness, shame, or powerlessness. By acknowledging and embracing these emotions, we can navigate through them and release their energy. This process of emotional release enables us to transform our worries and ultimately free ourselves from their grip.

3. Take conscious and courageous action

Worry often renders us inactive; stuck in a state of negative thinking or fear-based reactions. Taking conscious and courageous actions in the face of our fear and worry can be one of the most empowering things for us to do. This is not about frantic, random, erroneous activity (just for the sake of doing something), this is about us taking deliberate action as a way of moving through our fear in a direct and authentic way.

Worrying is a natural aspect of our human experience. It’s important not to criticize ourselves for it, but rather to recognize its presence. Worry can significantly impact our success, well-being, and sense of fulfillment. By acknowledging this and understanding that worry never really works, we can delve into what is really going on within us, transforming it into a force for positive change.

What do you worry about most? Are you willing to let go of worry? If so, what will that take? Share your thoughts, action ideas, insights, and more below.

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Mike Robbins

Mike Robbins is the author of five books including his latest, We’re All in This Together, which released April 2020. He’s an expert in teamwork and leadership.