I remember my smug dismissal of the advice when my friend first mentioned it. She said she saw it on Oprah. “Don’t worry about paying the bills. Pay the bills.”
It seemed ridiculous. But I kept thinking about it in the following weeks and months. I started to see how much time I spent worrying instead of doing, and how that was a major source of unhappiness for me. I also started to see how to change that.
Who says such things?
The advice came from Eckhart Tolle, whose acclaims include being listed as “the most spiritually influential person in the world.” It came up in response to a question from a viewer during Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday. Here’s a two-minute video clip.
My friend's pithy recounting of his advice wasn’t an exact quote, but she captured the essence of it.
“It is true that you need to take action. It is not true that you have to worry to take action….You don’t need worry. You need action.”
New age wisdom isn’t so new
Once I was attuned to the idea of replacing worrying with action, I saw that the idea wasn’t new. Leaders throughout the ages have all given advice similar to Pay the bills.
Let our advance worrying become advance thinking and planning.
- Winston Churchill
Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.
- Marcus Aurelius
If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry. If it's not fixable, then there is no help in worrying. There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever.
- His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, also wrote about helping people live richer, fuller lives. This is from his Scrapbook:
“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”
In writing this post today, I learned Dale Carnegie also wrote another popular book: How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.
How I use this advice all the time
Just this week, when an issue arose at work, I worried. When I was feeling overwhelmed with things to do to finish the book, I worried. When the cough I’ve had for 5 weeks wasn’t going away, I worried. Each time, I told myself:
Don’t worry about paying the bills. Pay the bills.
I knew that I didn’t need worry. I needed action. So I organized a response to the issue at work and focused on it all week. I mapped out all the remaining book tasks and asked for help for those things I didn’t know how to do. I went to see my doctor.
I was happier. And I'll be sure to listen to my friend's advice more often.