Welcome to the College Prep Confidential Podcast
Dec. 2, 2019

CPC Episode #31 - Attack Anxiety Using Temporal Tricks

Anxiety is a national nuisance. Can your interpretation of time affect anxiety? Yes, and you'll discover nuggets like: 6 steps to evaporate anxiety Use this time trick to reduce anxiety The two saddest words in the English language How the Power of...

Anxiety is a national nuisance. Can your interpretation of time affect anxiety? Yes, and you'll discover nuggets like:

  • 6 steps to evaporate anxiety
  • Use this time trick to reduce anxiety
  • The two saddest words in the English language
  • How the Power of One can help you conquer your task list and reduce anxiety

Irritability. Restlessness. Fear of Losing Control. Churning feeling in the belly. Hot flashes. Racing heart rate. Teeth grinding. Do you ever feel like the walls are closing in on you? These are just a few of the symptoms for a big health problem hitting this country...Anxiety.

National prevalence data indicates that nearly 40 million people in the United States (18%) experience an anxiety disorder in any given year. We hear this more and more in the news. And while anxiety comes from various causes, some of it comes from overwhelm. Too much to do, too much to think about.

I'd like to talk about a few root causes for anxiety, and how you may be able to alleviate some of the crippling pressure and symptoms...

I've noticed from personal experience and reading through anxiety forums that certain people with anxiety fret over the past or plan for things in the future. So today, I want to talk about eliminating or alleviating 2 root causes for anxiety. 

  1. Living and worrying about the past
  2. And obsessing or worrying about future events.

And after that, I'll show you a few ways to change your focus to help alleviate some of the symptoms...

I understand anxiety has other causes, such as hearing or seeing things which trigger anxiety, as well as worrying about what other's think for evens such as public speaking. I won't be covering those today, as those are more complex topics.

Today, I want to cover living and worrying about the past, and obsessing about the future as those can be controlled easier and the changes can be measured quicker.

First, let's talk about the past. We'll define the past as anything 1 second before right now.


  • You can’t change the past
  • You can’t relive the past
  • Worrying about the past does nothing but harm
  • In prior episodes, I talked about failure is only feedback. It’s not the end. It’s a new piece of data in your journey
  • “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards” - Soren Kierkegaard
  • If you let it, living in the past turns you into a prisoner with invisible walls. Sure, you get 3 meals a day and recreation time, but you never get out. It’s a life sentence.

Do you know what the heaviest object in the universe is?

 - Not the Sun

 - Not the Moon

- Not even a Black Hole

The heaviest object in the universe is Regret.

By carrying it around, you wear an invisible weight around your neck.

You see, dragging regret around slows you down and tires you out.

If you want to experience the fastest "weight loss" you've ever seen, try this:

1) Acknowledge your mistake

2) Learn from it

3) Forgive yourself and move on

Remember, you aren't Marty McFly, you can't go back in time and undo the past.

What you can do is move to the future making wiser choices.

So as you wake up this morning and start your day, see if you aren't feeling a bit sluggish.

And then ask yourself, am I dragging around regret like a ball and chain?

If so, acknowledge, learn, and move on. 

I promise you, your day will improve immediately.

And it reminds me of a quote by Mercedes Lackey, “If only. These must be the two saddest words in the world.”

The Cherokee Indians have a saying: Don’t let yesterday use up too much of today. – Cherokee

So that’s the past, and what can happen with anxiety if you focus on the past too much. Next, we'll focus on the future. We'll define the future as anything 1 second or more later than right now. and I'll frame the future so that you can identify anxiety triggers and perhaps show you a way to alleviate them...


  • Not yet happened
  • Not guaranteed, no matter how much you plan and practice
  • We don’t even know if there is a future. 
  • In Ancient Rome, the generals would have somebody follow them around who would continuously whisper "Memento Mori" in the ears of victorious generals as they were paraded through the streets after coming home, triumphant, from battle. Translated, it means you are mortal. This was done to remind them not to get a big head. Because the next day, or battle could mean their demise.
  • The future is a fairy tale. It makes for good reading, and mental movies, but it’s not guaranteed
  • Living in the future takes away from the past. It takes your attention, time, and energy.
  • While you worry about the future, the present, the now passes you by. And then it goes to the past, and you’ve lost the now forever.
  • Want a better future? Work on the present
  • You could plan for something in the future, only to have something change and your goal or dream is altered.
  • The future thinking gives you some benefits. You can imagine a better life in the future to motivate your present behavior. A powerful word I love to use is “imagine”. Imagine what a future you could build if you focused on the right things in the here and now.

In the Back to the Future movies, you'll find some interesting symbolism and setup for the folly of looking too far into the future. At the beginning of Back To the Future, the first movie in the series, Marty plugs in his guitar to a giant speaker modified to the max. He strums the first chord and the speaker blows him across the room.

Now I've read some fascinating analysis on this moment, and the speaker blowing up is a nod to Marty's tendency to hurt the present by dreaming about the future. He wants to be a rock star. he also wants to meddle with time by warning Doc Brown about future events. But when he does so, by focusing on meddling with the future, he ignores the present. he ignores what is, and what may happen if tampers.

Later in the movie when Marty goes back in time, he's wearing a vest which Biff calls a "life preserver." The same analysis from Shmoop suggest this was a symbol for Marty feeling like he's drowning, since his parents might not ever get back together. And if they don't get together, then Marty is never born. Again, Marty's worrying about the future instead of focusing on the here and now.

Now that we’ve covered living in the past and daydreaming about the future, let’s talk about the present, and how this helps reduce “time-based” anxiety..


  • Live in the now
  • Focus all your energy on the now
  • “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” - Mother Theresa
  • In the movie Scrooged, the Ghost tells Bill Murray, “If you continue mistakes of the past, your future will become your past” - Scrooged in the Spirit World
  • Think about the changes we’ve had in the last 20 years… You aren’t chained to a 9-5 job anymore if you play your cards right. The internet eliminated most, almost all of the gate keepers. You can create, publish a blog, video, podcast, article, and with the right promotion, you can beam your message out to millions of people. If you live in the present and focus on the right material to learn
  • If every you find yourself in the past, or stuck pondering the future for too long, just stop, breathe, and meditate or focus on the now. Embrace stillness. Try mindfulness. Absorb your surroundings.
  • Set up anchors to happy things. What’s an anchor? It’s a trigger to bring back certain memories or feelings. Like any time you smell a new car smell, it brings you back to when you bought your new car.

In the modern age, people feel that business is accomplishment. Or the need to always be doing something. Sometimes, the right move, is not to do anything. This is brilliantly portrayed in the show Boardwalk Empire...

Atlantic City boss Nucky Thompson finds himself besieged by rival mobsters and the US district attorney’s investigators. He meets with Chicago gangster Johnny Torrio and Manhattan’s gambling kingpin Arnold Rothstein to plot his next move…

  • Rothstein: “Do Nothing.”
  • Nucky: “I beg your pardon?”
  • Rothstein: “You have no move, Mr. Thompson. You do nothing,”
  • Torrio: “He’s under attack, Arnold.”
  • Rothstein: “All the more reason for patience. I’ve made my living, Mr. Thompson, in large part as a gambler. Some days I make 20 bets. Some days I make none. Weeks, sometimes months in fact, when I make no bets at all because there simply is no play. So I wait, plan, marshal my resources and when I finally see an opportunity and there is a bet to make, I bet it all.”

Here's (n) steps to focus on being in the present:

  1. Cultivate unselfconsciousness: let go and stop thinking about your performance.
  2. Practice savoring: avoid worrying about the future by fully experiencing the present.
  3. Focus on your breath: allow mindfulness to make you more peaceful and smooth your interactions with others.
  4. Find your flow: make the most of your time by losing track of it. Find yourself by losing yourself.
  5. Improve your ability to accept: move toward what is bothering you rather than denying or running away from it.
  6. If you have things you must remember or think about which pop in your head, "download them" by writing them down on a list. Then you can empty your brain and not forget them later. AS you clear out thoughts on paper, you're free to focus on the present.

Solution: The power of one

I’ve been asked before what I do to have a job, run a business, have a family, and so-on in a day. So take this advice as you wish. But I want to give you the gift I discovered... And I want to address anxiety which comes from overwhelm. Because I've experienced it as well. And what really helped me was focusing on one thing at a time. I call this the Power of One. 

Here's an example. Suppose I have a to-do list of 15 things to do for the day. By the way, I noticed various people look at a list that size, and immediately feel anxiety. Or they immediately feel overwhelm. And a lot of times, the comments I hear are along the lines of, "I don't even know where to start."

The Power of One solves this. So lets' start with a to-do list of 15 things. I like to pick the low hanging fruit. I do this for two reasons...

1) An easy or quick task helps me get momentum. So I can finish it and check it off

2) After checking one off, I've got the momentum moving, which builds my confidence.

So with the Power of One, we start with an easy or quick task on our list of 15. We knock that out. Now, when we choose the next task, we want to focus only on this task. Nothing else. Drown out everything else. Forget about it. Our only focus should laser it, full blast on this one task.

For instance let's say the next task on my list is washing the dishes. What I do is, either put on headphones or quiet the room, whatever my mood requires. and for the next 10 minutes, all I care about, all I think about is ripping through the dishes. Nothing else matters.

Now, if I have a thought which may be important, I keep a notepad near me to write down. But any other thoughts which pass through my head during dishwashing time, I let them pass and pay them no mind. I don't think about my to-do list. I don't worry about how many tasks I have left. All I care about is finishing the dishes. Each dish runs through a process, it becomes it's own little universe. Hot water soak for 3 seconds, scrub horizontal then scrub vertical, quick rinse, throw it in the drying rack. Rinse and repeat (no pun intended).

Once the dishes are washed, I check off this task on my to-do list application. Now what I found with the power of one is, as you focus deeply on one and only one task, then move to the next one, you start ripping through them faster. So I'll lower my head like a bull and after 2 hours a large portion of my todo list is done. And I'm not stressing about it, I'm not overwhelmed. 

Here's another example...grocery shopping. I don't ship my groceries...yet. And sometimes, I have to go to the store for my kids. Anyway, once the decision is made

William James, dean of Psychologists, in a little essay called the Gospel of Relaxation, said it best...

When once a decision is reached and execution is the order of the day, dismiss absolutely all responsibility and care about the outcome. Unclamp, in a word, your intellectual and practical machinery, and let it run free; and the service it will do you will be twice as good.

Or stated more briefly by Napoleon...

If you start to take Vienna...Take Vienna

This may seem ordinary or boring, the idea of doing one task and nothing else, but the momentum you build from eliminating distractions is life changing. I've had to-do lists of 8,9, 10 things and it doesn't bother me anymore. I will pound the table until I'm blue in the face about this, one thing at a time with full blast focus will destroy in productivity terms any multi-tasker.

Let's close with something called Temporal Focus. It's a way people view time in their life


  • Certainty
  • people who like safety
  • They don’t like change
  • Limiting beliefs


  • Probability focused
  • Living in the moment


  • Possibility
  • Innovation
  • “The past is a foreign country” - Anonymous
  • “You can’t step in the same river twice” - Heraclitus
  • Language clues: Put the past behind you
  • Look forward to a brighter future

Just remember, no matter where you are on the temporal focus scale, make it a priority to come back to the present...especially in times or strife, anxiety, or despair.

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And this includes college prep. If you're feeling anxiety about college prep, why not let us help? We'll help you focus on the power of one. Whether it's financial aid, exam prep, or general questions. We've got resources for you. Check out cpcshow.com. That's cpcshow.com.

Thank you for listening...and here's to the power of productivity and no anxiety!