M.A. Psychology, Oxford. McKinsey Alum. Founder & Editor at TAoL.
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How to Stop Worrying and Start Living Review
Enjoyed Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People?
You’ll LOVE How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.
And even if you haven’t read either, this is one book you don’t want to miss.
As self help books go, it’s a masterpiece. It’s practical, simple and easy to read. It’ll teach you to appreciate the little things, improve your mental health, build your self-confidence and lead a stress-free, happy life.
Note: In the How to Stop Worrying and Start Living summary below, I’ll focus on distilling Carnegie’s main ideas. One of the most powerful parts of his style, however, are the huge numbers of real-life stories and case studies in the book. You won’t find those here, so if you need more detail, or you’re serious about putting these principles into action, you’ll benefit from reading the original.
TLDR; This best seller is one of the best books on mindset ever written.
If you’ve struggled with anxiety (or know someone who has/does) you should pick up a copy today.
For now though, let’s dive into this book summary.
How to Stop Worrying and Start Living Summary
One-Sentence SummaryNo matter how powerful or entrenched they may feel, anxiety, worry and depression are unnecessary, self-inflicted and conquerable with the right mindset and knowledge and toolkit. This book will show you EXACTLY how to stop worrying and start living with 42 practical common-sense rules (and stories from people just like you) to help you conquer the fears holding you back.
Let’s jump into the full summary below…
Dale Carnegie’s 42 Rules (Contents & Chapter Overview)
Here’s a breakdown of the 11 sections and 42 rules for conquering worrying and anxiety that we’ll cover in this this How to Stop Worrying and Start Living summary…
Section 1: Fundamental Facts You Should Know About Worry
- Rule 1: Live in day-tight compartments.
- Rule 2: Identify and accept then mitigate the worst-case scenario.
- Rule 3: Remember the high cost of worry.
Section 2: Basic Techniques in Analysing Worry
- Rule 4: Don’t make (or worry about) decisions without data.
- Rule 5: Analyse the facts and make a decision.
- Rule 6: Take action on your decision.
- Rule 7: Break down the problem and solutions.
Section 3: How to Break The Worry Habit Before It Breaks You
- Rule 8: Be so busy you don’t have time to worry.
- Rule 9: Don’t let trifles get you down.
- Rule 10: Work out how (un)likely things really are.
- Rule 11: Accept what can’t be changed.
- Rule 12: Put a stop-loss order on anxiety.
- Rule 13: Don’t worry about what’s done.
Section 4: Seven Ways to Cultivate a Mental Attitude For Peace and Happiness
- Rule 14: Fill your mind with happy thoughts.
- Rule 15: Don’t waste time worrying about people you don’t like.
- Rule 16: Don’t expect gratitude. (But cultivate it in yourself.)
- Rule 17: Count the good things, forget the bad ones.
- Rule 18: Don’t waste energy envying others.
- Rule 19: Make the best of unfortunate events.
- Rule 20: Focus on making other people happy.
Section 5: The Golden Rule for Conquering Worry
Section 6: How to Keep From Worrying About Criticism
- Rule 22: Recast unjust criticism as disguised compliments.
- Rule 23: Have confidence in doing the best that you can.
- Rule 24: Keep a record of and reflect on your foolishness.
Section 7: Six Ways to Prevent Fatigue and Worry and Keep Your Energy and Spirits High
- Rule 25: Rest before you get tired.
- Rule 26: Learn to relax at work.
- Rule 27: Learn to relax at home.
- Rule 28: Develop good working habits.
- Rule 29: Approach your work with enthusiasm.
- Rule 30: Stop worrying about sleep.
Section 8: How to Find the Kind of Work in Which You May Be Happy and Successful
Section 9: How to Lessen Your Financial Worries
- Rule 32: Track where your money goes on paper.
- Rule 33: Make a personalised budget.
- Rule 34: Learn to get the most from your money.
- Rule 35: Don’t spend more as you earn more.
- Rule 36: Build good credit (in case you need it).
- Rule 37: Buy insurance.
- Rule 38: Pay life-insurance out in instalments.
- Rule 39: Teach your children financial literacy.
- Rule 40: Start a side-hustle (from your kitchen).
- Rule 41: Never gamble.
- Rule 42: Accept what can’t be changed.
Section 10: “How I Conquered Worry”
9 Suggestions on How to Get the Most Out of This Book
Something I love about this book and How to Win Friends and Influence People are Carnegie’s up-front suggestions for getting the most from your reading.
I’ve written about reading well and putting what you read into action, here and here. But here are Carnegie’s top tips for making the 42 rules in How to Stop Worrying and Start Living stick…
- Make conquering worry a priority – Change is hard. To make it happen remind yourself constantly that conquering your worries will transform your health, happiness, income and peace of mind.
- Read each chapter twice – Get a birds-eye view first, then revisit the chapter more thoroughly. This might feel slow but it’ll pay dividends long-term.
- Look for practical ways to apply lessons – Stop frequently to think through how and when you can apply each suggestion in your life.
- Highlight/underline the important ideas – Physically mark (or digitally highlight) the sentences that stand out to you most in your book.
- Review the book every month – The best way to remember what you read is repetition. You can’t act on ideas you can’t remember.
- Apply the principles at every opportunity – Learn by doing. Pause before (re)acting. Review your highlights. Practice these principles whenever and however you can.
- Gamify mastering its principles – Offer your partner or friends a dollar every time they catch you violating one of the principles in the book.
- Review your progress every week – Ask yourself what you learned and what you can do differently every week. Self-reflection is the cornerstone of self-improvement.
- Keep a journal of your efforts – Track the dates and details of your triumphs as a way to inspire you and celebrate your success.
So with those tips in mind, let’s dive into…
Section 1: Fundamental Facts You Should Know About Worry
Rule 1: Live in day-tight compartments.
Don’t ruminate on the past.
And don’t worry about the future. Plan and prepare for it, sure. But don’t worry about it.
Instead, live every day – every moment – as it comes. Be confident that the best preparation for tomorrow is to focus on one task as a time.
To help put this rule into action, ask yourself:
- Do I often put off living in the present by worrying about the past or the future?
- Do I often poison the present by worrying about things in the past?
- How often do I get up determined to “sieze the day“; to live each day on purpose?
- If only rarely, can I get more from life by living in day-tight compartments?
- If so, when should I start this? Tomorrow? Next week? Or today?
Rule 2: Identify and accept then mitigate the worst-case scenario.
I first learned about fear-setting from Tim Ferriss’s 4-Hour Work Week but it turns out Carnegie had mapped out a very similar process in How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.
Here’s his simple 3-step process for conquering your fears:
- Analyse any situation fearlessly and identify the worst-case scenario;
- Accept that worst-case scenario as if it had already taken place; and
- Work on mitigating and/or improving the worst case you’ve already accepted.
Crystallising and accepting the worst-case, even if it never happens, allows you to let go of worry and focus on taking useful action. It allows you to take back control.
Rule 3: Remember the high cost of worry.
Anxiety is mentally and physically debilitating – from stomach ulcers to insomnia to heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis, thyroid issues and nervous breakdowns.
That’s why people who don’t know how to fight worry die young!
So, whenever you catch yourself worrying, just remember: The price of worry is high and it’s likely that whatever you’re worrying about isn’t worth the price that it’s costing you.
Section 2: Basic Techniques in Analysing Worry
Here’s are 3-steps to analyse (and solve) any problem:
- Get the facts;
- Analyse the facts; and
- Make a decision then act on it.
Jumping to step 3, without gathering and analysing the facts, is a recipe for trouble.
So don’t do it! Instead…
Rule 4: Don’t make (or worry about) decisions without data.
Refuse to worry about (or try to solve) any problem until you’ve:
- Gathered all the facts that you need/can; and/or
- Run out of time and must act on the facts that you have.
Worrying before either of those points is pointless.
So, avoid jumping to conclusions. Avoid worrying about decisions.
Instead, devote your energy to gathering as many impartial and objective facts as you can.
To help you stay impartial (and avoid confirmation bias):
- Imagine you’re collecting the facts for somebody else;
- Try collecting the best evidence you can for the other side of the argument; then
- Write down all the fact you’ve collected – get them out of your head and on paper.
Remember, “A problem well-stated is a problem half solved.”
Because with as many facts as possible down in front of you, you’ll find it far easier to…
Rule 5: Analyse the facts and make a decision.
Once you have all the facts, here are four questions to ask yourself:
- What am I worried about?
- What can I do about it?
- What am I going to do about it? and
- When am I going to take action?
Write all the possible solutions and consequences to the problem down on paper.
Decide which of the solutions you’ve identified you’ll take action on.
Rule 6: Take action on your decision.
Once you have made a careful decision based on facts…
- Don’t stop to reconsider;
- Don’t hesitate; and
- Don’t worry and retrace your steps.
Just take action.
Thinking about a problem after you’ve solved it leads only to confusion and worry.
So don’t do it.
Get busy taking action and stop worrying about the problem or the outcome.
Rule 7: Break down the problem and solutions.
To extend this type of problem solving to your work, insist that anyone who brings a problem to a meeting brings their answers to the following questions:
- What is the problem?
- What is causing the problem? (Don’t forget to gather all the facts!)
- What are all the possible solutions to the problem? and
- What solution do you suggest?
This will radically refocus your energy (and that of your colleagues and employees) away from discussing what’s wrong and towards taking action to make those things right.
Note: This was very common practice at McKinsey where there was a strong mandate to be “solution oriented” at every level of the firm. For bonus points, anticipate the first 3-4 questions/problems your team will likely raise about your suggestion, pre-solve those queries in advance and you’ll blow people’s expectations away.
Section 3: How to Break The Worry Habit Before It Breaks You
Rule 8: Be so busy you don’t have time to worry.
The mind is bad at multitasking. That’s why it’s hard to waste time and energy worrying if you’re too busy thinking or planning or taking action.
Implication? If you find yourself ruminating and worrying, try occupational therapy.
Take a second job. Fill the day with meaningful tasks. Keep your imagination working. Lose yourself in action. Get busy getting busy and you won’t worry about worrying again.
Rule 9: Don’t let trifles get you down.
It’s more often small problems than big ones that lead to arguments and irreconcilable differences. Even though the small ones should be easiest to let go.
The best way to not let small things worry you?
- Remind yourself how much worry is wasted on trivialities;
- Compare the problem to a truly serious (e.g., life-threatening) problem; and
- Resolve to be a bigger person than the problem that’s in front of you.
To a size 3 person, a size 4 problem feels insurmountable.
To a size 10 person, a size 4 problem feels negligible.
So be a size 10 person, or at least put your size 4 problems into context.
Don’t stress about problems of little, passing consequence.
And remember, “life is too short to be little”.
Rule 10: Work out how (un)likely things really are.
Many things we all waste time worrying about are vanishingly unlikely to happen.
Carnegie gives some interesting statistics for preventable deaths but you’ll find a more up-to-date list on the NSC’s website.
The point here is NOT to start worrying about probabilities.
The point is to realise how unlikely our nightmares really are.
So get the facts. Understand the tiny probabilities of whatever you’re worried about occurring. Find solace in the law of averages.
And in the unlikely event that those probabilities turn out to be meaningful…
Rule 11: Accept what can’t be changed.
There’s no point in fighting the inevitable.
It is so. It cannot be otherwise. And it too shall pass.
The good news? You can survive and adapt to almost anything.
Don’t believe it? Consider the huge numbers of people who’ve been through hell or faced life-changing disabilities and come out fine (or even stronger) on the other side.
If they can do it, so can you.
Of course, if there’s still a chance of saving a situation, you should fight for it.
But the moment something’s clearly inescapable: surrender, adapt and make the most of it.
Remember, you are stronger and more resourceful than you think.
So, have faith in your ability to adapt and endure and survive.
Do the best you can. Leave the results up to fate. Absorb life’s jolts, shocks and surprises.
Remember Reinhold Niebuhr’s famous prayer:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.
Cooperate with the inevitable.
And you won’t just reap the benefits of less worry, you’ll lead a happier, more meaningful life.
Rule 12: Put a stop-loss order on anxiety.
A stop-loss is an order to sell a security (e.g., a share in a company) at a given price in order to limit a loss (e.g., if you buy a security at 50 USD you set a stop-loss to automatically sell if the price goes to, or below, 45 USD).
How is that relevant to worry? Great question.
To put a stop-loss order on anxiety, simply decide, in advance, how much worry, time and/or energy a situation is worth before it starts taking them from you.
Repeat the same exercise for any worries or grudges from your past.
And when you reach those limits (or if you realise you’ve already passed them)? Stop worrying, walk away from them and get on with the rest of your life.
Don’t overpay with anxiety. Decide proactively how much energy to invest in any situation and refuse to give more than those limits.
Rule 13: Don’t worry about what’s done.
The only way to profit from past mistakes is to learn from then quickly forget them.
Don’t cry over spilt milk. Don’t waste your time trying to saw sawdust.
Remember rule 11: It is so. It cannot be otherwise. It too has passed.
So, unless there’s still something of value to learn there, let go of the past and be present.
Section 4: 7 Ways to Cultivate a Mental Attitude That Will Bring You Peace and Happiness
Rule 14: Fill your mind with happy thoughts.
You are what you think about most of the time.
That doesn’t mean you should become irrationally positive.
Think positive, courageous thoughts. Even if it’s just for today.
Remember: “Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.” Emerson
Remember: “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Lincoln
Master your thoughts and your life will look after itself.
Rule 15: Don’t waste time worrying about people you don’t like.
The act of getting even with your enemies only drags you down to their level.
It forces your to compromise on your character.
It can lead to them escalating even further.
Even attempting to get even hurts you more than it hurts them.
Devote yourself to something bigger than your ego. Find and focus on a cause that’s worth fighting for. This will help put pettiness of your disputes into perspective.
And remember: People can’t help who they are. They’re the products of their circumstances. If you’d been on the same journey you’d probably have turned out the same way.
So, let go of your grudges. Forgive, pity and pray for your enemies. Kill them with kindness.
And you’ll lead a much happier, less anxious life.
Rule 16: Don’t expect gratitude. (But cultivate it in yourself.)
Ingratitude (eve if only through forgetfulness) is a fact of human nature.
There’s as much sense in getting upset about it as in feeling indignant about the weather.
And condemning or reminding people of their ingratitude is a quick way to drive others away.
Give for no reason more than then joy of giving; expect nothing in return.
And make sure you and yours aren’t just as guilty of taking others for granted.
Take time to cultivate the skill and habit of giving gratitude in yourself and your children.
Lead by example. Be always “lavish in your approbation and hearty in your praise“.
Remember the joy it brings you to know how much joy a favour brings to someone else.
Express gratitude, without expecting it.
And you won’t just BE happier, you’ll make the world feel a happier, more grateful place.
Rule 17: Count the good things, forget the bad ones.
You can spend life focussing on the good things others have that you lack.
Or you can spend life reflecting on the good things you have that others lack.
One path leads to misery. The other to a life filled with gratitude.
No matter how much you lose, there are always folks out there with bigger problems.
People less fortunate and yet happy, despite their apparent misfortune.
Reflect on those people whenever you’re tempted to self-pity.
Put your lot always in perspective.
Be grateful for and enjoy what you have.
Look for the learning opportunity in every obstacle.
Count your blessings, not your troubles.
And you’ll find it much easier to stop worrying and start living.
Rule 18: Don’t waste energy envying others.
The most amazing thing about all of us is that each of us is totally unique.
Nobody has or will ever be born like or go through your journey again.
And yet, many of us waste good time and energy envying or imitating what we’re not.
The truth? You might (at best) make a convincing second-rate version of someone else.
But you’ll never find as much success, happiness and peace of mind as if you focus on being a first-rate version of yourself.
So, don’t waste your time envying others.
Don’t give the answers you think others want to hear.
Don’t try to be somebody else.
Embrace your looks. Embrace your personality. Embrace your life, flaws and experiences.
Embrace being a crew-member, not the captain, if that’s who you really are inside.
Find ways to succeed and be happy that capitalise on your unique set of strengths.
Give the world the gift of finding and being who you are.
And no matter what happens, be yourself.
Rule 19: Make the best of unfortunate events.
A wise man doesn’t give up in the face of misfortune. He asks:
- What lesson can I learn here?
- How can I improve my situation?
- How can I use this lemon to make lemonade?
It is so. It cannot be otherwise. It too shall pass.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t still make the most of even the worst situations.
The best things in life are the most difficult.
“Happiness is not mostly pleasure, it’s mostly victory.”
And some of the greatest writers, thinkers and politicians who ever lived (from Milton, to Darwin, to Roosevelt) succeeded because early handicaps spurred them to greater efforts and endeavours.
So next time you’re facing a seemingly impossible situation don’t surrender to it.
Change your perspective on the situation entirely.
Turn your minuses into pluses. Turn your liabilities into assets.
At worst, it will keep you thinking forward. At best, you may find a way to succeed.
Take those lemons, like the wise man, and make lemonade.
Best How to Stop Worrying and Start Living Quotes
These How to Stop Worrying and Start Living quotes come from The Art of Living's ever-growing central library of thoughts, anecdotes, notes, and inspirational quotes.
"The best possible way to prepare for tomorrow is to concentrate with all your intelligence, all your enthusiasm, on doing today's work superbly today. That is the only possible way you can prepare for the future."- Dale Carnegie, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living
"Let's never try to get even with our enemies, because if we do we will hurt ourselves far more than we hurt them. Let's do as General Eisenhower does: let's never waste a minute thinking about people we don't like."- Dale Carnegie, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living
"You can sing only what you are. You can paint only what you are. You must be what your experiences, your environment, and your heredity have made you. For better or for worse, you must play your own little instrument in the orchestra of life."- Dale Carnegie, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living
"A good deed is one that brings a smile of joy to the face of another. Why will doing a good deed every day produce such astounding efforts on the doer? Because trying to please others will cause us to stop thinking of ourselves: the very thing that produces worry and fear and melancholia."- Dale Carnegie, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living
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