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Littler Books cover of How to Stop Worrying and Start Living Summary

How to Stop Worrying and Start Living Summary and Quotes

Dale Carnegie

5.2 minutes to read • Updated May 22, 2024

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“Time-Tested Methods for Conquering Worry”

Bullet Point Summary

  1. The author wrote this book after years of teaching public speaking and human relations classes. He found that a major problem for many adults was worry, and there were no good resources available to help them overcome it. So, he researched the subject extensively by reading philosophers and biographies, interviewing prominent people, and learning from his students' own experiences to create a practical guide for conquering worry.
  2. Worry can be overcome by living one day at a time in “day-tight compartments” instead of dwelling on the past or future. This advice has been given by the likes of Jesus, William Osier, and Edward Evans.
    1. We should focus on making the most of today and handle its tasks one by one, rather than anxiously trying to control things beyond our reach.
    2. “Today is our most precious possession. It is our only sure possession.”
  3. When facing trouble, you can ask what's the worst that could happen, accept it mentally, and calmly take steps to improve upon it.
    1. A man with terminal ulcers accepted his inevitable death. This empowered him to enjoy his remaining time and led to an unexpected recovery.
  4. Worry and emotional stress can lead to real physical illnesses like ulcers, heart disease, arthritis, tooth decay, thyroid problems, as well as mental health issues.
    1. According to experts, up to 70% of doctor visits are related to issues caused or exacerbated by worry rather than direct physical causes. Yet we fail to protect ourselves from the proven damages of worry, even though controlling our thoughts and emotions can help cure or prevent these health conditions.
    2. “Men who do not know how to fight worry die young.”
  5. You can resolve most of worries by employing the following steps:
    1. Get the facts and analyze the facts. “Half the worry in the world is caused by people trying to make decisions before they have sufficient knowledge on which to base a decision."
    2. Write down precisely what you are worrying about. (“What is the problem?”)
    3. Write down what you can do about it. (“What are the possible solutions?”)
    4. Decide what to do. (“What's the best solution?”)
    5. Start immediately to carry out that decision.
  6. To master conquering worry, develop a deep desire for it, practice principles you learned at every opportunity, and evaluate your progress and mistakes often.
  7. Worry can be crowded out of your mind by finding a purposeful activity and staying busy, as keeping occupied does not allow space for anxiety and other negative emotions to take hold.
    1. A businessman overcame worry by staying ultra-busy. He took on more responsibilities, tackling complex problems until exhaustion. After three months, he returned to a normal schedule, free from his anxieties and insomnia. The constant engagement broke his habit of worrying.
  8. Don't allow yourself to be upset by small things.
    1. A man survived a 15 hour submarine attack, during which he realized how absurd it is to have worried about the little things in his life like his boss, the scar on his head, and quarrels with his wife.
  9. Apply the law of averages: What are the chances that what you're worried about will actually happen?
  10. Cooperate with the inevitable. Accept the circumstances that's beyond your power to change.
    1. Despite facing the daunting prospect of leg amputation at 71, actress Sarah Bernhardt gracefully accepted the inevitable. With composure, she comforted her son and even entertained the medical staff before her surgery. Her resilience allowed her to continue her career and captivate audiences.
  11. Put a “stop-loss” order on your worries. Set a boundary of how much worry a problem may be worth and refuse to give it any more.
    1. Stop-loss: Buying a stock and setting a sell order if it falls below a certain price to prevent excessive losses.
  12. You can't change the past. Calmly analyze it, learn from it, and focus your energy on the future.
    1. Worrying about the past is like trying to saw sawdust. You won't get anything useful out of it.
    2. “Acceptance of what has happened is the first step in overcoming the consequences of any misfortune.”
  13. Fill your mind with thoughts of happiness, peace, courage, health, and hope. Think and act cheerfully, and you will feel cheerful.
    1. “Our life is what our thoughts make it.” - Marcus Aurelius
    2. "A man is what he thinks about all day long.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
    3. “What you think, you are.” - Norman Vincent Peale
    4. “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” - Abraham Lincoln
  14. Don't waste effort on getting even. It hurts you more than them. Don't waste a minute thinking about people you don't like.
    1. “When we hate our enemies, we are giving them power over us: power over our sleep, our appetites, our blood pressure, our health, and our happiness.”
  15. Don't fret over ingratitude. Happiness is not from receiving gratitude but from the joy of giving.
    1. Gratitude is cultivated. Express gratitude frequently yourself to set an example for your children.
  16. “Count your blessings, not your troubles.”
  17. Be your authentic self. Don't try to become someone you are not.
    1. “Envy is ignorance; imitation is suicide.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
    2. “Nobody is so miserable as he who longs to be somebody and something other than the person he is in body and mind.” - Angelo Patri
  18. Make lemonade when life gives you lemons.
    1. Embrace a positive mindset focused on learning from failures and finding the opportunities rather than wallowing in the mud of self-pity.
    2. “Two men looked out from prison bars, one saw the mud, the other saw stars.”
    3. “If I had not been so great an invalid, I should not have done so much work as I have accomplished." - Charles Darwin
    4. Dostoevsky and Tolstoy's masterpieces were inspired by their tortured lives.
  19. Forget yourself and your own happiness. Become interested in others and create happiness for others.
    1. “When you are good to others, you are best to yourself.” - Benjamin Franklin
  20. Prayer is a powerful tool for managing worries, even for non-believers. Prayer helps articulate anxieties, creates a sense of connection, and fuels the will to act.
  21. Unwarranted criticism or insults are actually disguised compliments. They're a result of envy or jealousy.
    1. “Nobody kicks a dead dog.”
  22. When faced with criticism, do the very best you can and then "put up your umbrella" to let it roll off you.
    1. "Never be bothered by what people say, as long as you know in your heart you are right." - Eleanor Roosevelt
  23. Keep a record of foolish things you've done and evaluate yourself. Ask for unbiased constructive criticism.
  24. To gain one extra hour to your day, take frequent rests, and rest before you get tired.
  25. Most of our fatigue comes from our mental and emotional attitudes.
    1. “100% of the fatigue of the sedentary worker in good health is due to psychological factors, by which we mean emotional factors.”
    2. To combat fatigue, relax in odd moments, relax completely (mimic a cat), and work in a comfortable position.
    3. “I measure my accomplishments not by how tired I am at the end of the day, but how tired I am not. When I feel particularly tired at the end of the day, or when irritability proves that my nerves are tired, I know beyond question that it has been an inefficient day both as to quantity and quality.”
    4. The death rate from hypertension disease would plummet if we took care to be less tired.
  26. Talk about your anxieties. “Getting it off your chest” works.
  27. Good habits to prevent fatigue and worry:
    1. Keep your desk clear except for items relevant to the immediate task at hand.
    2. Do things in their order of importance.
    3. Solve the problem immediately as soon as you have the necessary info to do so. Don't delay.
    4. Learn to organize, deputize/delegate, and supervise.
  28. Boredom is a major cause of fatigue, worry, and resentment.
    1. If you find your job dull and you can't change the job itself, you can change your attitude towards it to one of enthusiasm, and find ways to make it more engaging and fulfilling. This can lead to reduced fatigue, increased happiness, and improved job performance.
    2. Samuel Vauclain was bored with his repetitive factory job, and he turned it into a game by racing a coworker. Eventually his speed and accuracy impressed his supervisor, leading to a series of promotions. Ultimately he became the president of a major company.
  29. Insomnia itself is not dangerous -- successful people like lawyer Samuel Untermyer still thrived with very little sleep -- but worrying about lack of sleep can be extremely damaging to one's health.
    1. Relaxation techniques, prayer, exhausting physical exercise, accepting wakefulness calmly, and avoiding fretting over sleeplessness can often alleviate insomnia more effectively than sedatives.
    2. Since sleep requirements vary widely between individuals and sleep has many mysteries science can't explain, it's best not to obsess about optimal hours slept but simply find what works for you.
  30. Young adults should carefully consider their career options.
    1. Take the time to research thoroughly before committing to a profession. Consider factors like enjoyment, potential, and the job market.
    2. Conduct informational interviews with professionals in your desired field.
    3. Don't limit yourself to one perceived perfect career.
  31. Survey says 70% of our worries are financial. To lessen them:
    1. Budget and spend wisely.
    2. Build credit by any means.
    3. Protect yourself with medical and fire insurance. Have an emergency fund.
    4. Do not pay life insurance in a lump sum. It'll be spent quickly.
    5. Teach your children fiscal responsibility.
    6. If necessary, have a side gig.
    7. Don't ever gamble.
    8. Be good to yourself and don't resent what can't be changed.

How to Stop Worrying and Start Living: Resources