Worrying is a bad habit, and we know it is not good for our health. Dale Carnegie wrote a book over a half century ago entitled: “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.” When you think about the things you worry about, you have to ask yourself: “Is this even rationale?” At least 80% of what most people worry about never happens (applying the principle of the law of averages). So, like a bad habit, there are ways to change and reduce worrying.
Many of the principles that Carnegie wrote about are now familiar to us since many others have addressed them over the decades, but it’s always good to go back to the basics. For instance, we have all heard the cliché, “Live for today,” but what does that really mean as it pertains to worry? In Carnegie’s book, he suggests that we stop trying to live in two eternities: the past and future. Instead, try to live where those two eternities meet, which is “today.” If you think of it this way, it makes sense: The past will be forever the “dead yesterdays,” which you can never change, and the future can be thought of as the “unborn tomorrows,” which you do not know about and lies dimly at a distance.
But handling worry doesn’t mean to be in denial. One basic principle for eliminating worry is to replace it with thought: “Shut the iron doors on the past & future. Live in day-tight compartments” (Carnegie, D. How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, 1941). One approach to worry is tackling it with the basics of problem solving:
1. What is the problem?
2. What is the cause?
3. What are some solutions?
4. Select a solution and start working on it ASAP
Related to problem-solving is analyzing the worst-case scenario:
1. What is the worst that can happen?
2. Although this is not always easy to think about, accept the worst that can happen and try to process this calmly.
3. Calmly proceed to improve the worst: Work on solutions to the worst-case scenario and you just might prevent it from happening or actually be able to manage it.
Some other basic principles, techniques, and means to think about for conquering worry are:
One of the chief causes of worry is confusion, so taking time to analyze your worry by gathering the facts, analyzing the facts, and then doing something about it will help bring clarity, answers, and lessen anxiety.
Many of us still have issues from the past, which affect us today. So, what do we do? Well, there is no sense in trying to “saw sawdust” (Carnegie, D., 1941). We do have to recognize our mistakes and forgive ourselves because we cannot fix the past, and then it’s time to move on and learn from the mistakes.
Cultivate a better attitude by trying to bring peace to yourself. No one else can do it but you. One way to approach this on a daily basis is to try to be cheerful, even if you don’t feel it. You just might actually feel cheerful and others will start responding to you differently.
When worrying we are often comparing ourselves to others, but remember that “envy is ignorance “ and “imitation is suicide” (Carnegie, D., 1941).
Don’t give little annoyances any power. Another way Carnegie describes this is to put a “stop-loss” on your worries. Like a financial investment, ask yourself: How much anxiety is this worth?
Restore your faith. Sometimes we just have to know when to hand things over to a higher power.
Don’t expect too much, especially gratitude. Being grateful is something that is learned and many people have just not learned it, so there is no sense in being disappointed when it doesn’t happen.
Accept constructive criticism and ignore unjust criticism. Most of all, learn to make the distinction.
Get moving. Exercise helps to relieve anxiety and worry.
Get rest and prevent fatigue.
In this last principle of Carnegie’s, he emphasizes that simplifying life can help to reduce fatigue. We need energy to conquer our worries and fatigue can drain our abilities. Simplifying life is a concept that many others have explored since Carnegie’s teaching:
Simplifying life is a popular concept and not new. Previously, I wrote about this concept – in its relationship to health – in my article about a Japanese term called wabi-sabi. One way to describe wabi-sabi is elegant or rustic simplicity.
Sam Davidson, an interesting speaker, author and social entrepreneur, addresses simplifying life as it pertains to our work and careers. He calls it the “Revolution of Less.” Some of his concepts, which can help lessen worry in our careers, include: “Cool people care”….. “Live out your passion”…… “Ask for help”…. and “Seek balance,” which is static and always changing, of your heart (passion), mind (talent), and soul (purpose).
Thus, we can see that worrying is a bad habit that we have control over and can change by being mindful and taking the steps to conquer it.