How to Stop Worrying and Start Living: Time-tested methods for conquering worry
How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, Carnegie’s book is filled with practical recipes for success, shared through the real-life stories of famous and ordinary people. It left such a strong impact on me that I wrote a summary of it when I was just fourteen, which I carried with me everywhere.
How to Stop Worrying and Start Living By Dale Carnegie, 1944 (First Edition), 1993 (most recent Edition), 340 pages.
Chronicle and summary of “How to stop worrying and start living”
In 1944, a book called “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living” was first published. It has been reprinted 24 times since then. This book is a bit like the more famous “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” and I think it complements “How to Stop Worrying.”
Dale Carnegie in How to Stop Worrying and Start Living begins with an emotional introduction where he explains why he wrote the book. He talks about how he used practical therapy to overcome his own depression and then taught it to his students. The book is divided into nine parts, each with several detailed and lively sections. It includes quotes from famous people and their inspiring stories.
PART ONE: FUNDAMENTAL FACTS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT WORRY
Live in “Day-tight” compartments
Who do you think wrote these words: “A happy person is someone who can enjoy today and say, ‘I’ve lived today, and I’m not afraid of what tomorrow brings.'” You might think this is modern poetry, but it’s actually from the great Roman poet Horace.
One common thing about people is that we often ignore the present. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said you can’t step into the same river twice. We’re often too focused on the past or the future, so the idea of “Carpe Diem” or “seize the day” was taught in ancient Rome.
In simple terms, if you want a peaceful life, focus on the present, and forget about the past and the future. Live in the here and now.
A magic formula for solving worrying situations
Do you want to know a quick way to deal with a scary situation? A method you can use right now, even before you finish reading this? Well, let me introduce you to the advice of Willis Carrier, an engineer from Buffalo. Here’s what he suggests:
- First, think about and clearly identify the worst things that could happen in the situation.
- Be ready to face those worst-case scenarios if they happen.
- Finally, calmly work on making things better even if the worst happens.
That’s how he and many others handle tough times. They’ve learned that taking an objective and methodical approach to problems helps you overcome them.
What worry may do to you
A while back, I visited a thyroid doctor in Philadelphia with my friend for a checkup. In the waiting room, there was a big poster with an interesting message. I wrote it down for you:
“The best things for feeling completely relaxed are: getting a good night’s sleep, enjoying music, and having a good laugh. Learn to sleep well, enjoy good music, and find humor in life. Doing these things will help you stay healthy and happy.”
As Dr. Alexis Carrel once said, “Businesspeople who can’t deal with worry tend to have shorter lives.”
PART TWO: BASIC TECHNIQUES IN ANALYZING WORRY
How to analyze and solve worrying problems
Mr. Lichtfield told us that when dealing with tough times, we should follow a three-step approach that helped him during the war:
- Find out the facts.
- Think about the facts.
- Make a decision and stick to it, no matter what.
How to eliminate fifty percent of your business worries
When these words were written, Frank Bettger was a top person at the Fidelity company in Philadelphia. But ten years before, he was ready to quit his job when a careful look at his situation changed his path to success. Since then, he’s had a habit of asking himself four questions:
- What’s the problem?
- What’s causing it?
- What are all the ways to solve it?
- Which solution should I go for?
PART THREE: HOW TO BREAK THE WORRY HABIT, BEFORE IT BREAKS YOU
How to crowd worry out of your mind
Ultimately, making yourself feel bad is a habit, and I used to do it whenever I felt anxious. As George Bernard Shaw wisely noted, “The key to feeling unhappy is having the free time to worry about whether you’re happy or not.”
So, when worry starts to consume you, stay active. A person troubled by worries should keep themselves occupied unless they want to be overwhelmed by the difficulties they’re going through.
Don’t let the beetles get you down
Sometimes, it’s the small stuff, the little things, that can really make life difficult. Many arguments at home happen over trivial matters. We’re good at preparing for big disasters, but we often ignore those small problems, and they can wear us down over time, like termites damaging a house.
To prevent continuous worry from overwhelming you, follow Rule No. 2: Don’t let the little troubles bring you down.
A law that will outlaw many of your worries
Do you know how to figure out the chances of something happening? When Al Smith was the governor of New York, he would deal with attacks from his opponents by saying, “Check the numbers, examine the facts,” and then he’d present the clear, objective facts that supported his position without getting too emotional.
So, before your worries overwhelm you, follow Rule No. 3: Ask yourself the question, “What are the odds?” Calculate the probability and see if the thing you’re worried about has a real chance of happening.
Co-operate with the inevitable
Jiu-jitsu instructors give their students this lesson: “Bend like a reed, don’t resist like an oak.” Why do the tires on your car handle friction, wear, shocks, and gravel? It’s because they tolerate these challenges and cooperate with them due to their soft and flexible nature.
So, whenever I start to stress about something I can’t alter, I simply let it go and say, “Don’t dwell on it, accept what you can’t change, and focus on what you can change.”
Put a stop-loss order on your worries
Whenever you feel like you’re about to waste your nervous energy, take a moment to ask yourself these three questions:
- How important is this thing that’s bothering me?
- At what point should I decide to stop worrying about it?
- What’s the most I’m willing to invest in this matter? Have I already spent more than it’s worth?
Don’t try to saw sawdust
Once, I visited the famous Sing Sing prison and was surprised to see that many inmates seemed just as content as free people. The prison warden explained that, over time, most inmates come to terms with their situation and find ways to adapt and make the best of their time behind bars. He shared a story about an inmate who worked as a gardener and sang while tending to vegetables within the prison’s harsh walls.
This prisoner had a lot of common sense. He understood that, no matter what, no amount of wealth could change the past. So, let’s be like him and not waste time trying to change things that are already done.
PART FOUR: SEVEN WAYS TO CULTIVATE A MENTAL ATTITUDE THAT WILL BRING YOU PEACE AND HAPPINESS
Eight words that can transform your life
You don’t need much to have a happy life; it’s mostly about your own thinking, as Emperor Marcus Aurelius said over 1,800 years ago. Norman Vincent Peale said something similar in the 20th century: “You are what you think.”
In simple terms, your thoughts have a big impact on your life. So, if you want to be happy, follow Rule No. 1: Think and act in a happy way, and you’ll become happier.
The high cost of getting even
As Shakespeare wisely said, “Don’t make your anger so intense that it ends up harming you.” To keep a calm approach with those you might not get along with, follow Rule No. 2: Avoid seeking revenge on your enemies because it’ll hurt you more than it hurts them. Take a cue from Eisenhower, who advised not to waste your time thinking about people you dislike.
If you do this, you will never worry about ingratitude
People are often ungrateful by default, and we see this every day. Gratitude? It’s something you need to nurture and maintain. If you want to avoid becoming bitter over ingratitude, follow Rule No. 3:
Instead of expecting thanks or appreciation and getting upset when you don’t receive it, always be ready for complete ingratitude. Remember the story of Christ healing 10 lepers, and only one expressing thanks. Why should you expect more?
Keep in mind that to find happiness, don’t seek gratitude but give because it makes you happy. Gratitude isn’t something we’re born with; it’s a quality we develop. So, if you want your kids to be grateful, set an example by showing gratitude to others.
Would you take a million dollars for what you have?
An American philosopher named Logan Pearsall Smith shared some valuable wisdom in these simple words: “In life, there are two things to strive for: first, to obtain what you desire, and then, to relish it. Only the wisest among us achieve the second part.”
If you genuinely want to conquer your worries and start living fully, follow Rule No. 4: Focus on the reasons to be happy rather than dwelling on your misfortunes.
Find yourself and be yourself
When Charlie Chaplin started his film career, his director told him to copy a popular German comedian. However, Chaplin only truly succeeded when he ignored that advice and created his own unique character, being true to himself.
If you aim for a peaceful mindset, follow Rule No. 5: Don’t copy others. Instead, understand your own personality and be yourself.
Did life hand you a lemon? Then make lemonade.
Dale Carnegie noted that as he studied the lives of brilliant people, he found that many of them became exceptional because they faced early challenges that pushed them to work harder and aim higher. This idea is similar to what William James said: “Our weaknesses sometimes unexpectedly help us.”
So, to follow Rule No. 6, when life gives you a tough situation, try to turn it into something positive, like making lemonade when life hands you a lemon.
How to cure depression in fourteen days
The famous writer Theodore Dreiser liked to make fun of religion, yet he consistently emphasized one of Christianity’s key principles: loving your neighbor. He believed that to find joy in our lives, we should strive to make things better, not just for ourselves but for others too. He thought that our happiness is linked to the happiness we bring to others, and their happiness in us.
So, armed with this belief, follow Rule No. 7: Forget your own troubles by trying to create happiness for others. When you’re kind to others, you’re also being kind to yourself. Aim to do one good deed every day that brings a smile to someone who’s feeling down.
PART FIVE: HOW TO KEEP FROM WORRYING ABOUT CRITICISM
Remember that no-one ever kicks a dead dog
In 1862, General Grant achieved a major victory for the Northern States, becoming a national hero. However, just six weeks later, he was arrested, removed from his position, and faced insults and curses. Why did this happen when he was so celebrated? Mainly because he had stirred up jealousy and envy among his superiors, who were filled with pride and arrogance.
The lesson here is that every time you’re tempted to get upset about unfair criticism, remember Rule No. 1: Unfair criticism can often be a hidden compliment. Remind yourself that criticism may indicate that you’ve triggered jealousy and envy in others.
Do this – and criticism can’t hurt you
Theodore Roosevelt’s niece was one of the most criticized women in her era. How did she handle the barrage of hate from her enemies? She shared that, when she was young and quite shy, she sought advice from her aunt. Her aunt told her, “If you’re sure that what you’re doing is right, don’t worry about what people might say.” Eleanor Roosevelt added that this advice became the foundation of her life.
So, whenever you face unfair criticism, follow Rule No. 2: Do your very best, and then metaphorically shield yourself from the rain of criticism by putting up an umbrella to protect your inner self.
Foolish things I have done
E.H. Little was a salesperson for Colgate soap bars, but he was struggling to sell them. Instead of getting discouraged, he had the courage to revisit the people who had turned him down and asked for their feedback on what he was doing wrong. This approach ultimately made him one of the wealthiest individuals in the United States.
So, if you want to stay composed despite any criticism, follow Rule No. 3: Keep track of your mistakes and self-criticize. Since nobody can be perfect, do what E. H. Little did: seek honest, helpful, and constructive criticism.
PART SIX: SIX WAYS TO PREVENT FATIGUE AND WORRY
How to add one hour a day to your waking life
Did you realize that your heart spends more time at rest than working? In fact, it works for only nine hours out of every twenty-four because of the breaks between each heartbeat. People like John Rockefeller and Eleanor Roosevelt considered their daily rest crucial. They believed it was key to their strength and success.
So, if you want to be at your best and tackle life’s challenges, follow the example of these wise individuals: take a break and rest like your heart does, so you can work more effectively.
What makes you tired – and what you can do about it
Feeling tired is often due to the stress and tension we build up. And guess what? This tension is caused by negative emotions. To fight off this draining fatigue, try to work in a more relaxed manner. Take short breaks between different parts of your day to unwind and regain your energy. It can help you beat the kind of fatigue that can bring you down.
How to avoid fatigue and remain youthful!
To stay energized and avoid fatigue, here’s what you can do:
- Don’t dwell on others’ flaws; focus on their strengths.
- Show interest in your neighbors and those around you.
- Plan your day ahead before going to bed.
- Make time for daily relaxation. Try lying down, taking slow breaths, and letting go of all your stress.
Four good working habits that will help prevent fatigue and worry
- Here’s how to manage your work more efficiently:
- Keep only the papers you need for the task at hand on your desk.
- Prioritize your tasks by importance.
- If you have all the information needed, solve problems as they arise; don’t delay.
- Master the skills of organizing, delegating, and supervising.
How to banish the boredom that produces fatigue, worry, and resentment
Boredom is a major reason for feeling tired, and it’s the main reason for our decreased productivity. Don’t like your job? By making an effort to find something interesting about it or change how you approach it, you’ll start disliking it less and less.
Keep in mind that when you’re interested in your work, it eases your worries and fears. And remember, in the long run, your positive outlook can lead to a promotion and even a pay raise because of the good results it brings.
How to keep from worrying about insomnia, don’t worry too much
If you can’t sleep, don’t stress. Instead, follow these five tips:
- Get out of bed and do some work or read until you feel sleepy.
- Keep in mind that no one has ever died from a lack of sleep. Usually, the fear of not sleeping causes more trouble than the insomnia itself.
- If you’re religious, consider praying.
- Try the Dr. Fink relaxation method to calm your body.
- Do some physical exercises to tire yourself out, making it easier to fall asleep.
PART SEVEN: HOW TO FIND THE KIND OF WORK IN WHICH YOU MAY BE HAPPY AND SUCCESSFUL
The major decision of your life
Picking a job you enjoy is just as important as choosing a life partner.
So, make sure to gather all the information before deciding, because if you don’t, you might end up with lifelong regrets.
And don’t think you’re not suited for a particular profession. Most people can excel in multiple careers, while they might struggle in others.
PART EIGHT: HOW TO LESSEN YOUR FINANCIAL WORRIES
Seventy percent of all our worries…
A big portion of your worries – about 70% – are related to money. To minimize financial stress, here are some budgeting tips:
- Keep a record of what you spend.
- Create a budget that covers all your necessities.
- As your income increases, don’t add more financial stress.
- Get insurance to protect against unexpected events like illness or fires.
- Teach your kids the importance of money.
- Avoid gambling completely.
PART NINE: REAL LIFE STORIES
In “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living,” there are many stories and examples that aim to show us how individuals who followed the book’s advice have greatly benefited from it. These stories are meant to be inspiring and passionate. Here’s a glimpse of some of the most enlightening ones:
- Overcoming Six Major Troubles Simultaneously
- Conquering an Inferiority Complex
- Five Effective Techniques to Eliminate Worry
- From Being a Big Jackass to a Better Self
And so on.
6 activities and tips to combat stress
Here are six activities and tips to combat stress:
- Sports: Regular physical exercise, especially team sports like football or activities for two like tennis, can be a powerful stress-fighting tool. The camaraderie and friendships formed through sports can also help reduce stress.
- Meditation: Despite being seen by some as esoteric, meditation is a proven stress-reliever. Scientific studies from various research centers have shown its effectiveness. Notably, Matthieu Ricard attributes his positive outlook on life to regular meditation in his book, “The Art of Meditation.”
- Good Friendships: Surrounding yourself with supportive friends who share your joys and support your goals is crucial for stress management. Avoid individuals who are hostile to your decisions, as they can be a significant source of stress.
- Mindfulness: Practicing mindfulness involves living in the present moment and observing your thoughts. Many times, our own thoughts are the main cause of our stress. Practicing mindfulness helps us observe our thoughts and redirect them towards a more productive direction.
- Yoga: Yoga is widely recognized as a stress-reducing physical activity. Its meditative nature encourages relaxation, introspection, and a deeper mind-body connection. Yoga combines physical and mental elements, promoting a sense of being present and relaxed.
- Nature: Spending time in nature, whether it’s watching a sunset, gazing at the sea or mountains, taking a forest walk, or simply looking out the window, provides an opportunity to rest and rejuvenate. Kaplan’s attention restoration theory underscores the benefits of nature in reducing stress. Make it a weekly practice to spend time in a natural setting for better psychological balance.
Book critique of “How to stop worrying and start living” :
When I discovered “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living,” it was because my father had obtained it for the purpose of participating in seminars conducted by the Carnegie company during the 1970s. He attended these seminars, whether willingly or with some reluctance, but he never engaged in detailed discussions about them with me. Instead, he simply mentioned that I was free to peruse the book, which I did.
This book was a profound revelation for me as a young teenager at the time. Even though I haven’t consistently applied all the advice due to occasional lapses in perseverance, it’s worth noting that some of the wisdom contained in the book has left a deep impact on me. To this day, certain proverbs from the book continue to serve as a guiding light, providing me with motivation.
In the book “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, Dale Carnegie’s writing style is both practical and concise. Carnegie incorporates numerous real-life examples to illustrate his points, drawing from the experiences of individuals from various walks of life, be they monarchs, manual laborers, or movie stars, each of whom has faced their unique set of challenges.
By delving into “How to Stop Worrying,” readers can immerse themselves in these concepts that, while easy to describe, present valuable insights on practical application in daily life. Enthusiasts of real-life stories are bound to be captivated, motivated, and inspired by this book.
“How to Stop Worrying and Start Living” has its strong points, such as the inclusion of engaging anecdotes by Dale Carnegie. The book’s approach is realistic, clear, and convincing, offering essential and timeless principles that anyone can put into practice. It’s a valuable book that can be revisited multiple times.
On the downside, some of the examples provided by Dale Carnegie in How to Stop Worrying and Start Living may feel outdated, making it challenging for younger readers to relate to stories from a different era. How to Stop Worrying and Start Living might come across as overly moralistic for certain readers, and updating it to align with the values of the 21st century can be a difficult task, given the significant differences in societal norms and expectations.
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