There are not many things that I worry about. There are many things that I think about a great deal. But I have always tried to differentiate worrying from thinking. Worrying is a cycle. Worry is a cyclical process from which it can be hard to escape. It seldom leads anywhere. Thinking is a logical process. It is about pros and cons. Options and ideas. Priorities and plans. Thinking should always lead to a way forward.
There are three things I do worry about. I worry when employees at airport check-in desks recognise me by name. It is one thing me recognising them – there are only ever a handful of staff who sit on these desks at any particular airport. Them recognising me is much more worrying – they must see hundreds if not thousands of passengers every week.
I worry that I drink too much coffee. Someone told me about a neat App available on iPhones that will tell you how close you are to the nearest Starbucks. Who needs an App when I can smell the coffee from almost any distance? Well OK – this is not exactly true. But when we were in Edinburgh this weekend visiting my daughter at the University, we found ourselves in dire need of a shot of espresso. Before my wife could pull out her iPhone I pronounced there was a Starbucks nearby because I could smell the aroma. And I was right. Although in truth it wasn’t quite so impressive since we were standing downwind of the ventilation fans.
And then I worry about my children. I worry about my daughter at University all the time. I know I have no need to worry about her – she is amazing and is doing amazingly well – but it is in my genes. It’s a truism that we all feel more comfortable when we have influence over what is happening around us, or to us. And this explains it. Ever since my daughter left for University, I feel that I have so much less influence than when she was at home. I worry (slightly) less about my son. Who is equally amazing and who is also doing amazingly well. But he is still at home.
I have also managed to work out that we never have anything like as much influence over anything or anybody (such as my daughter) as we like to think…irrespective whether those events or people are at work or at home. It is just that we all tend to believe we have more control over events in our personal lives.
It’s tough when we feel we have less influence…and that events are happening around us and we are only observing (or hearing on telephone calls or watching on Facetime). The best I have come up with is that sometimes I just have to have faith. To trust. Sometimes there is just only so much planning and preparation, analysis and judgement that can be done. Sometimes we all just have to go for it. Let things happen. We have to experiment and observe. We have to learn and understand.
And maybe this is harder for scientists. Maybe it is harder for me as a scientist? I spend much of my time planning and assessing. Considering scenarios and outcomes. It can be hard to let go. To let things happen. To trust that sometimes our instincts are pretty good guides to follow.
And of course in the case of our children their instincts have – to a significant extent – been learned and developed from us as parents. As have their values and motives.
Even more reason to have faith.