How to Stop Worrying and Start Living (Book Notes)

April 13, 2021

Here we have a classic from Dale Carnegie.

I remember reading this for the first time when I was 18, immediately after reading his other renowned work "How to Win Friends and Influence People".

At the time I thought both books were wonderful and really helped me to get over anxiety and social issues that I had as teenager devoid of confidence lost in this world...

All I can say is...Perhaps my tastes have changed?

This time round I really found the book to be a struggle.  LOTS of anecdotes, a lot of them quite clichéic (curing stomach ulcers was a particular favorite).  Honestly it got to a point where I couldn't read another story and just wanted it to end.  

Nevertheless, beneath the storytelling lie some practical tips for dealing with worry and anxiety.  

Here are my full book notes.  Or read on for the main takeaways...

1. Live in Day Tight Compartments

Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand

William Osier

There's a lot of value into living in the present and focusing on the here and now.

 It's true that the source of a lot of anxiety and worry is for fear of the future or regrets from the past.

This tip is all about having the awareness to catch yourself when ruminating about past or future events and redirecting that focus to what's happening in the moment.

"Your life is like an hourglass; there's nothing you or I could do that would make more than one grain of sand pass through this narrow neck without imparing the hourglass."

In my daily writing practice, I remind myself to live my best day possible.  It's a reminder to just pay attention what I do today with the belief that a string of consistently positive days leads to a better life.  

As a sidenote: I find this thought particularly effective when taking on huge and overwhelming tasks for which no end is in sight.  Focusing on the 2 hours of contribution you're going to give just today is far more paletable than thinking about the 3 months of solid work needed to finish the project.

Take away:- shut the iron doors on the past and the future.  Live in day-tight compartments.  Everyday is a new life to a wise man.

2. A Practical Formula for Solving Worry Situations

Acceptance of what has happened is the first step in overcoming the consequences of any misfortune

Professor William James

Your mind has the tendency to run away with itself during periods of worry.

This practical technique below is a tool to be used during these times of anxiety.

Grab a piece of paper, or laptop, and write the answers to the following three questions:-

  1. What's the worst that can possibly happen?
  2. Accept it. 
  3. Calmly devote time and energy to trying to improve upon the worsth which I had already accepted mentally

Acceptance is really the key part to this exercise.  Worry is often a side effect of attempting to battle against reality;  a psychological protest against what is.

"Acceptance of what has happened is the first step in overcoming the consequences of any misfortune" 

Writing down the situation in an analytical way, and accepting it for what it is, can bring quick relief to a mind that's feeding off itself in a downward anxiety spiral.  

I can personally testify that this works...

I commonly delve into my Evernote and write through my anxieties to bring clarity during times of despair.  There's something about writing issues down on paper that clears the mind and redirects that energy into finding solutions.

Take away:- catch yourself during periods of worry and anxiety.  Write down what's the worst that can happen, accept it and calmly devote time and energy in trying to improve upon the worst which you have already accepted mentally

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