Updated: Jul 2
One of the best books I ever read on managing your worries and stress is “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living” by Dale Carnegie. The book delivers a simple plan to help you analyze what’s worrying you and the action steps that you can take to mitigate this worry. It’s almost like project risk management for your personal life. You analyze risks and develop mitigation plans so that they don’t become issues. If you’re the type of person who continually loses sleep over various worries you have in your life, then this book may be for you.
The main takeaway from the book is that you need to analyze your worries and then produce a plan to mitigate the worry so that you’re not always thinking about it and losing sleep. Basically, the method involved thinking about what is most worrying you right now. Then, think about the absolute worst that could happen if this worry came true. Consider the probability that this worry will come to fruition. Once you’ve done this, develop a mitigation strategy to handle this worry.
There is more that this book offers and I wanted to provide a short summary here.
The book begins by explaining the idea that we all need to live only for today because you cannot physically do anything about yesterday or tomorrow. Carnegie then goes into how potential health problems may arise if you spend too much time worrying. He also explains why you shouldn’t waste your life worrying.
Carnegie offers that one way to avoid worry is to keep you mind active and not to idle. He argues that if you have too much idle time at the end of the day, this will leave your mind focused only on worry.
Worrying about inevitable things (death, taxes, etc) only affects your health. Carnegie says, “cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.” Also, he notes how you cannot change the past and it is critical to learn your lessons from your past mistakes. As project managers, we are constantly coached to take the project lessons learned and have plans in place so those mistakes don’t recur. This concept can be applied to your personal life.
Worrying about your enemies is another topic the book addresses. In this context, Carnegie argues that you need to forgive and forget so that your enemies don’t gain satisfaction from you worrying about them. He also mentions how you should become absorbed with a cause and not waste a minute thinking about people that you don’t like.
How a person can keep from worrying about criticism is another topic the book covers. Carnegie mentions that one should not be bothered by what people say if you know you’re right.
The book continues into ways we can prevent fatigue and worry. Carnegie states that most fatigue stems from our mental and emotional attitudes. Another stressor is disorganization and Carnegie offers ways that a person can become more organized.
Lastly, the book concludes with a discussion on finding the work where you will be happy and successful instead of worried. Also, Carnegie discusses how one should take control of their own financial situation to decrease worry.
There were many nights where I lost sleep due to worry or I was not present in the moment. After reading this book, I developed plans to identify what I was worried about and how to mitigate this worry. The result was that I let go of the things I couldn’t control and made plans to manage the things I can control. Ultimately, I didn’t think about my worries so much and was able to get sound rest.
If you like this article, please see my course, Time Management for Project Managers. This course will help teach you to reduce your stress by staying organized. Strategies are taken in the context of the Project Management profession.