Do you worry about the future? In this, the age of anxiety, it’s almost impossible to be completely unconcerned. But worry has a way of taking over and killing the host who feeds it. This Provision will coach you through the process of moving beyond worry to a position of generosity and strength.
In last week’s Provision, Release Anger, I wrote about the distinction between “outrage” and “enrage.” We feel “outrage” when we become aware of justice delayed or denied. We feel “enrage” when we fail to get what we want, when and how we want it. Those who care for infants know “enrage” all too well! Whereas “outrage” is productive, and even has the power to change the world, “enrage” is counterproductive and debilitating to health, wealth, and wisdom.
This week I invite you to think about the distinction between “comprehension” and “apprehension.” Once again, the former is productive and positive while the latter is counterproductive and negative. And again, once we get the distinction, we can develop the strategies and practices that will enable us to be more successful and fulfilled in life and work.
When President Franklin D. Roosevelt, on March 4, 1933, in his first inaugural address spoke those famous words, “we have nothing to fear but fear itself,” he was speaking of “apprehension.” When Roosevelt took office, the Great Depression had really taken hold after a roaring decade of high-flying economics. As many today have watched their retirement funds dwindle in value, many then had watched them disappear altogether. “Apprehension” was in the air; but Roosevelt spoke from a position of “comprehension.” Listen to some of what he had to say:
“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself • nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
“Values have shrunken to fantastic levels; taxes have risen; our ability to pay has fallen; government of all kinds is faced by serious curtailment of income; the means of exchange are frozen in the currents of trade; the withered leaves of industrial enterprise lie on every side; farmers find no markets for their produce; the savings of many years in thousands of families are gone.”
“Yet our distress comes from no failure of substance. Nature still offers her bounty and human efforts have multiplied it. Plenty is at our doorstep, but a generous use of it languishes in the very sight of the supply. Primarily this is because the rulers of the exchange of human goods have failed, through their own stubbornness and incompetence, have admitted their failure, and abdicated. They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish.”
“So the money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. And we may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit.”
“Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort. The joy and moral stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits. These dark days will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves and to others.”
Roosevelt demonstrates the difference between “apprehension” and “comprehension.” “Apprehension” is that “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes.” “Comprehension” is the empowering recognition that “our distress comes from no failure of substance.” The sun still rises! “Nature still offers her bounty and human efforts have multiplied it.” “Happiness still lies in the joy of achievement and in the thrill of creative effort.” “Our true destiny is still to minister to ourselves and others.”
One way to capture this distinction is to recognize that “apprehension” has to do with worrying about the future while “comprehension” has to do with seeing the big picture of the present. There is certainly a time and place for fear: namely, when we face danger in the present moment. That’s when fear can motivate us to constructive action.
But most of the time, fear has nothing to do with a clear and present danger. We worry about what’s going to happen in the future, either tomorrow or ten years from now, provoking not only the paralysis spoken of by Roosevelt in 1933 but also the health problems associated with Type A Behavior as described by Meyer Friedman in 1959 and subsequent decades.
“Type A Behavior individuals,” wrote Dr. Friedman in his last book on the subject, “suffer from a constant apprehension of future disasters that they may encounter. This feeling persists even when such a person has just secured a triumph. Although they can easily manage exigencies, they live in dread of possible contingencies.”
Such fear, combined with the other Type A behaviors, results in a significantly increased risk of coronary artery and heart disease. It also results in less effective action. Worrying about tomorrow is like rocking in a rocking chair. No matter how hard we rock, we never end up getting anywhere.
The antidote? Friedman gets people to replace “apprehension” of the future with “comprehension” of the present and past. “If a vocational career,” writes Friedman, “can be likened to a triangle whose base is composed of remembered past successes and accomplishments and whose apex is composed of new or future enterprises, the Type B person, always consciously remembering his or her past achievements, knows that whatever in the future may damage the apex of his or her triangle, its intact base will prevent its toppling.”
“Not so with the Type A Behavior subject. His or her triangle rests on its apex composed of future enterprises. It is his or her constant fear that if one such enterprise fails, its damage to the apex of his or her triangle will cause its total collapse.”
In many respects, Roosevelt’s address was an attempt to set the triangle back on its base for Americans and others around the world going through the Great Depression. He was able to comprehend the strong foundation upon which civilization in general and American life in particular was based. Although it would be many years before the Great Depression finally ended, Roosevelt’s leadership enabled people to release fear and to capture generosity.
I have written before about the importance of generosity for those who would seek to be healthy, wealthy, and wise. What keeps you from being generous? If anything, it probably has to do with fear. I know one person who told me that he didn’t want to join a church because they ask you to give away too much of your money. And he was afraid that he just might need some of that money down the road.
So the money piles up, as do the worries, until one day death evens the score. Perhaps that’s why Jesus once said, “Do not store up selfish treasures. Do not worry about what you will eat or what you will wear. Can you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? Of course not! So relax. Don’t be so preoccupied with getting. Instead, respond to God’s giving. Be generous. Get yourself a bank that can’t go bankrupt. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Almost two thousand years before anyone had heard about Type A Behavior, Jesus recognized the importance of relaxation to a long and happy life. He also made the connection between fear and generosity. When we live in apprehension of the future, life can never be good and we can never really share ourselves with others. Don’t do that! Instead, comprehend the present and the past, take it all in, recognize the base upon which life sits, and move forward from this position of strength.
Generosity is the mark not only of wealth but of health, and we don’t need to wait until our financial balance sheet reaches a certain threshold before we start giving. On the contrary, such anxious waiting will negatively impact the present moment and keep us from getting where we want to go.
Better to embody the generosity of spirit that both Jesus and Meyer Friedman recognized as critical to health, wealth, and wisdom. Such generosity gives us an open orientation rather than a constrained, clenched, and closed outlook on life.
Friedman used to talk about the importance of “pets, plants, and persons” for those who would seek to break out of their Type A Behavior pattern. Pay attention to these, give them your attention and love, spend your energies nurturing the growth of others, and it won’t be long before your triangle too is sitting solidly on its base.
Coaching Inquiries: Does the triangle of your life sit on a solid base or a precarious point? Do you function more from “apprehension” or “comprehension?” What could you do to anchor yourself in the present moment and to be filled with peace?
Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob.
I am a PDA reader and have become addicted to your positive articles. Over the last 30 years I have found that practicing the martial arts is an excellent way to shed aggressive and angry behavior. The strenuous workout is a practical form of exercise relieving a great deal of stress, and the philosophy opens your mind to the Zen experiences you often describe. I look at this as a life sport. You are never too old to learn something new and there are no seasons. Some think that the martial arts fuels aggression, but actually just the opposite happens as you mature with the responsibilities that come from an awareness of your ability and mortality.
I am definitely a Type A personality but have with age learned some self-discipline and control. I have found that meditation helps. (Ed. Note: It is certainly possible to change our behavior patterns through a variety of techniques. I consider myself a recovering Type A personality as well. Many of my coaching clients would say the same about themselves.)
I enjoyed Christina’s segment on bedtime prayers. I think it’s great that faith-issues are addressed here • keep it up. Blessings to you all!
Just a note to tell you how much your newsletter blesses me (spiritually, mentally, and emotionally). Thanks for giving.
Can you imagine the amount of “good” you are doing?
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 • Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek • Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services