Worry. To give way to anxiety or unease.
Savvy. Knowingness, shrewdness
“I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.” Mark Twain
These days when we discuss distractions and safety, we often refer to cell phones and other mobile devices. Indeed, these external distractions hinder our situational awareness – our understanding of what is happening around us. Driving and texting, for instance, is illegal in many countries.
Distractions also stem from internal sources. One of these is the worry. Some people insist worry demonstrates vigilance and caring. Parents, for instance, might worry that their child will get injured during a soccer game. A person walking down the street might worry about numerous scenarios, things that could or might happen. In other words, they are preoccupied with imaginary events.
Again, some people insist this demonstrates care and promotes safety. The opposite is true. Gavin de Becker, a highly regarded expert on personal and public safety argues that worry is a liability. He writes, that “one of the ironies is that worry enhances risk. That’s because as we worry about some imagined danger, we are distracted from what is happening. Perception and not worry is what serves safety. Perception focuses your attention; worry blurs it.” (15-16)
When you worry about a situation that could happen you are not focused on the actuality of your situation, what is happening. It is analogous to watching a movie or reading a story while you are also trying to assess your surroundings. You are better off focusing on what exists – who is in the area, escape routes, peoples’ behaviour etc. You can project possible outcomes. For example, what if that man with his hand in his pocket walking towards me is holding a weapon? These projections, however, should be based on an actual circumstance.
Being worried is being in a disturbed state of mind. In the picture above, a man is thinking in various directions and oblivious to his real surroundings. Disturbed in the sense that it takes you away or distracts you from the present.
There is enough in the real world to contend with. Don’t worry, be savvy.
Gavin de Becker. Protecting the Gift. Keeping Children and Teenagers Safe. New York: Random House Inc. 1999.