How To Stop Worrying And Start Living is a self-help classic which addresses one of the leading causes of physical illness, worry, by showing you simple and actionable techniques to eliminate it from your life..
You might never have heard the name of this book before (I didn’t until yesterday) and yet, it has sold six million (!) copies. However, once I tell you who the author is, this’ll make instant sense: Dale Carnegie. Born in 1888, Carnegie was one of the first published authors in self-improvement, having written over ten books on topics like behavior change, habits, interpersonal skills, public speaking and applying all of those in a business context.
He believed that the best way to change others is to change oneself, a principle that underpinned most of the ideas in his evergreen bestseller How To Win Friends And Influence People, which has sold over 30 million copies to date.
This book was published 12 years later (1948) and describes several ways to deal with worry, one of the leading causes of illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, stomach ulcers and high blood pressure. Carnegie delivers several tactics and backs them up with case studies.
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.
My personal take-aways
One thing I liked in particular as I was reading these blinks is that Dale backed up every single one of his tactics with a specific example of someone who applied it to reduce their worry. That made them more actionable. I could’ve easily shared three more, so I highly recommend you check out the blinks to get the full pool of ideas. Simple, straightforward, and useful, thumbs up!
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