None of us is a stranger to worry—our minds are clouded by ambitions and goals, relationships, work obligations, concerns about the future, generalized anxiety, and so on. Left unchecked, worry and stress can easily consume you. But, with the right mindset and skills, you can start cutting unnecessary worry from your life.
In How To Stop Worrying and Start Living, Dale Carnegie offers timeless advice for stopping worry from ruling your life. You’ll learn how imagining a worst-case scenario can stop your anxiety, why criticism is a compliment, and why smart spending is better than a raise—and you’ll come away with the right tools to build a happier, less worried mindset.
Here are my 3 favorite lessons:
- Use a 3-step approach to deal with confusion and you’ll eliminate the worry caused by it.
- Put a stop-loss on stress and grief.
- Take criticism as compliments.
Ready to let go of your worries so you can start focusing on doing your best today? Let’s see what Dale’s got up his sleeve!
Lesson 1: Clear confusion with a 3-step approach and you’ll eliminate the worry it causes.
When you’re worried you’re not busy doing things, but since taking action is the only thing that can improve your situation, every minute spent worrying is a minute that doesn’t make your life better.
But to reduce the amount of worrying in your life, you first have to find its cause. There are several, of course, but one of the biggest ones is confusion. We never know what’s going to happen next and it drives us insane.
Take Galen Litchfield, for example, who was a civilian and later prisoner of war stuck in Shanghai during WWII, when it was occupied by the Japanese. He’d hidden a few valuable items from them, so when he heard that a Japanese admiral had found out on a Sunday night, he freaked out. He knew what he could expect to be thrown inside the notorious torture chamber of the Japanese secret police on Monday – but he didn’t know what that would look like, which caused him a great deal of stress.
He used this three-step approach to deal with it:
- Get your facts straight by writing down what you know and what you’re worried about.
- Analyze those facts to figure out your options.
- Make a decision and stick to it.
Galen wrote down that he was worried about being tortured to death, and when he asked himself what he could do about it, he came up with either fleeing, explaining himself or acting like nothing happened. He picked the last option and stuck with it, only to find out the next day that his Japanese admiral had calmed down and made nothing more than an angry remark to him.
There’s nothing like some good old common sense to disarm your worries.
Lesson 2: Put a stop-loss on the things in your life that cause you stress, grief and anxiety.
One thing that’s crucial when applying the above strategy is timing. If you spend all of your time analyzing the facts and trying to make a decision, until the thing you’re worried about actually happens, you won’t have won much.
That’s where a time limit can help. To implement this, you can adapt an idea from trading and investing: the stop-loss. A stop-loss is used to limit your financial downside. For example, if you buy 200 stocks for $10 and set your stop-loss at $8, your trading software will automatically sell all of your stocks if they fall to $8 or below, ensuring your maximum total loss is capped at $400 ($2*200).
If something causes you stress, grief or anxiety, like a friend picking a fight over a stupid topic, a relationship falling apart or your boss telling you you did a bad job, put your foot down and set a limit. Say “this far, and not one step further, am I going to allow myself to worry about this.”
This can be a time-limit or a general rule, like Hal Elrod’s 5-minute rule or a guideline to forgive others instantly after a fight, instead of holding grudges.
Lesson 3: Think of criticism as compliments, instead of obsessing about negative feedback.
Critical thinking is important. Feedback is an essential part of doing great work. However, not all criticism is constructive. You have to be careful in deciding who to listen to, and who to ignore.
One thing you can do with all criticism though, is take it as a compliment. 90% of the time, people throw around their opinions to make them feel better about themselves, because they see you doing something right and are threatened by it. We always critique those we envy, so we can feel better by comparison, not so they can do a better job.
If anything, the more you’re being criticized, the more you know you’re doing something right.
So hear their comments, nod, thank them, take it as indication you’re on the right track, and if there’s no constructive feedback in it, just move on.
Good thinking deals with causes and effects, which leads to logical, constructive planning. Whereas, bad thinking frequently leads to tensions and nervous breakdowns.
When worrying about a problem: Ask yourself the following: What is the worst that can possibly happen? Prepare to accept the worst-case scenario if you have to. Then calmly proceed to improve on the worst outcome which you have already mentally agreed to accept.
“Half the worry in the world is caused by people trying to make decisions before they have sufficient knowledge on which to base a decision.” Tips to assist in arriving at a decision include: Gathering facts, analysing, understanding facts and ultimately arriving at a decision and acting on that decision.
Writing down your troubles helps much in clarifying them. Write the following about your problems: What am I worried about? What can I do about it? Deciding what to do and starting immediately to carry out that decision.
Problem-solving: What is the problem? What is the cause of the problem? What are ALL the possible solutions to the problem? Pick the best solution out of all possible solutions.
Keep busy. Although in this day of the hustle and bustle, “The worried person must lose him/herself in action lest be wither in despair.” AKA: Keep yourself occupied by doing something productive or beneficial for your growth.
“Life is too short to belittle and to be upset by trivial things we should forget about.” Do the issues occurring now affect or matter to you in the next 5 minutes, days, months, years, and so on?
Let’s ask ourselves: “What are the chances, according to the law of averages, that this event I am worrying about will ever occur?” Where the law of averages = the supposed principle that future events are likely to turn out so that they balance any past deviation from a presumed average.
If something is inevitable, unavoidable or out of your control, forget the worry and accept the outcome. E.g., Death
So why waste the tears? Of course, we have all been guilty of blunders and absurdities. So what? Who has not? AKA: What has happened, happened. You can’t change the past, but you can change your future.
Our mental attitude is the factor that determines our fate. “A man is what he thinks about all day long.”
Eight words that can determine your destiny: “Our life is what our thoughts make it.” When faced with difficulties, assume a positive attitude instead of a negative one.
Concern VS Worry: Concern = Realising what the problems are and calmly taking steps to meet them. Worry = Going around in futile circles.
“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of Hell, a hell of Heaven.”
When we try to seek revenge to get even with our enemies, we will hurt ourselves far more than we hurt them. Never waste a minute thinking about people we don’t like.
“An angry man is always full of poison.”
Gratitude is a cultivated trait and must be trained. The way of happiness is to not expect gratitude but to help or give for the joy of it.
“All the days of our years we have been living in a fairyland of beauty, but we have been too blind to see, too satiated to enjoy.” AKA: Count your blessings and not your troubles.
Find yourself and be yourself, there is no-one else on earth like you. Avoid misery on yourself by avoiding fitting a pattern which you don’t conform to.
Instead of indulging in self-pity, learn from your mistakes or misfortunes. Train your mind to think of turning a minus into a plus.
Forget yourself by becoming interested in others. Do every day a good deed that will put joy on someone’s face.
“When you are good to others, you are best to yourself.”
Very often, when you are being criticised unreasonably, it is because it gives the other party a feeling of importance. It usually means that others are jealous that you are accomplishing something worthy of their attention to belittle you.
Many people get a sense of satisfaction for denouncing those who are better or more successful than them.
To improve continuously, since we can’t hope to be perfect, learn to ask for honest, helpful and constructive criticism.
Fatigue often produces worry, to prevent fatigue and worry: rest often and rest before you get tired. AKA: “Resting is the most underrated life hack.”
Emotional exertion usually has far more to do with producing worry, frustration and resentment, compared to physical exertion.
If you enjoy what you are doing, you may work long hours, but it won’t seem like work at all. It will look like play.
“A man can succeed at almost anything for which he has unlimited enthusiasm.”
Stay out of work or activities where the chances are only one out of ten of being able to make a living.
Ask individuals or friends working in the industry you are interested in joining to obtain further information before deciding to devote your life to it.
Problems which leads to financial worries:
- Lack of tracking and keeping tabs on your expenses
- No budget set in place or living out of your budget
- Not spending money wisely
- Lifestyle inflation (In the long run, would you choose to live within a tight budget and having unnecessary debts?)
- No insurance or protection against illness, emergencies etc…
- No responsibility for money (Not managing your personal finances)
- No passive or alternate sources of income
- Gambling (Why bother playing when the odds, machines and games are already created or rigged against the player)