How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, Dale Carnegie

This is the second most well-known book by Dale Carnegie, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.

And honestly I think it’s even more life-changing than the first.

Stress is a HUGE problem in our world. 75% of adults in America today report feeling physical and psychological consequences of stress. And we also know that stress is a least a factor (if not the main cause) in the most prominent causes of death in the developed world.

But how stressed out are you?

Well, to be frank, I thought I was doing fine until I read this book, and all my attention was put on it.

Needless to say, I still have some work to do on this.

Back to the book.

I like this book’s approach to dealing with worry. It is very practical. Most of the advice comes in the form of mindsets and techniques to adopt.

One of the tips that helped me a lot was the mindset of deciding how much anxiety and stress I was going to give a particular issue, then asking myself is it really worth the amount of emotional pain I’m giving it?

Others include classics like counting your blessings, not your curses, and let the past remain the past.

One tip that I found most original was prayer. Yes, apparently many people have handled worry by turning to God. I can see the value in this for someone who’s on the brink of a breakdown. It gives you something to believe in. It also gives you someone to confide in, which has been shown to be beneficial. Not to mention the physical release you get from things like chanting or singing.

Carnegie also goes into detail about how to handle worries about criticism, how to cure depression, and how to stop worrying about insomnia (which boils down to realizing that worrying about it is more harmful than the thing itself).

Another one of my favorite pieces of advice in the book was RELAX… YOUR….BODY. Even just sitting here reading this article: is your brow furrowed? Go ahead, laugh at yourself if it was. Tension in your stomach? Your jaw? Your shoulders? Do a body check, and keep doing so throughout the day. It is very refreshing, and also gives you more energy.

Unexpected tips like these really stood out and made this book very comprehensive.

For those of you who have read Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, you know he loves to include anecdotes in his work. Real-world examples are what made this book fun to read.

And you know what the weird common these was with all these stories?

When they stopped worrying, their lives started turning around. Even things they had no control over. Coincidence? Try it out for yourself…

The author also goes into much detail about worry’s effects on the body. Some of the accounts given in the book are just horrendous. But here’s a trap: don’t worry about getting these symptoms caused by worry. 😉

The only real criticism of the book I can make is that it doesn’t delve deep enough into the root causes of worry. It’s an excellent fix for living a happier life, but it doesn’t address the underlying psychological roots.

Favorite quote:

“One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon – instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.”

The Verdict:

Definitely a worthwhile book to read for conquering ANY problem related to worry.

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Why Personal Development Books are HURTING you

“Oh shit. That’s all I’ve been doing.”

That’s probably the reaction most of you are having right now.

But that’s the truth. They are.

Well, let me rephrase that: They help you, but only up to a point.

In the beginning, when just starting on your never-ending journey to self-development, I think you MUST immerse yourself in this information and become a student of it. Build a solid foundation to launch from.

But the books will only take you so far. Here’s why:

First off, going to books for answers, at a certain point, is just looking for confirmation of things you already know. You take refuge in the information in the book instead of going inside for answers.

I’ve found that once you bypass the newbie phase, you realize that a lot of the information in the By Me stage is very neurotic. By that I mean it is grounded in thought, not reality.

Eventually, you will learn to trust your inner coach, your intuition, whatever you want to call it. Realize that all these answers come from within. The outside info is just a stage to get you to look inward.

So basically going to books for answers is contrary to the trait of self-reliance that you want to develop.

I’ve found that with myself at least, I often turn to books to fill my need for certainty because I don’t trust myself enough to listen to the answers inside.

Check yourself: are you just using self-help material as an escape? As a way to not face your life?

Along the same lines, I want to bring up the point that by reading books, you aren’t digging into your own psychology yourself and getting your hands dirty. All you have now are concepts about how your mind works, not actual direct experience of it. This makes personal development a lot harder and less tailored to what you need.

Another thing I find is that too many people (myself included) take all personal development advice at face value without question.

The truth is that nobody has the answer.

Not even me 😉

The truth is that the only thing that’s true is your direct experience: so what works for you? What doesn’t? What is YOUR truth?

Personal development is meant to give you tools to grow yourself. But everyone is different, and you have to find which tools actually work.

An example in my own life: one thing that never worked well for me was affirmations. I tried doing them, mainly in the goal to become more authentic, but that in itself felt so inauthentic and forced that it was counter-productive.

Remember, that’s just my experience with affirmations. Yours might be different.

I’m only offering what I’ve learned and have come to realize on my journey of personal growth. Don’t take anything I say as the gospel: question the hell out of it, see what works, what doesn’t, don’t take it on as belief.

Side note: I’ll write a blog post soon about how I’m working on becoming more authentic. These are things that I’ve found work for me, and haven’t found many people talk about them.

Now for the limits and negative things I tend to find in personal growth books.

The first of these is that by only reading self-help books, you kind of become addicted to them. I know because it happened to me.

And this addiction is actually counter-productive to where you want to be going.

What happened with me was that I spend a good few months ONLY reading personal development books without actually doing anything with them. I wasn’t meditating, I wasn’t journaling, I wasn’t making any change to my life.

After you have the ideas, it’s up to you to actively DO something about it, not passively read about them.

Be very careful of that trap.

One of the issues is that it really narrows your vision of the world. There is SO much more beautiful literature in the world that is fantastic to experience!

And guess what? After learning some things about human psychology and then reading books and watching movies make them that much more interesting! I’ve also found that I’ve developed more of an appreciation for things like opera, theater, and poetry.

So try getting a collection of poems and reading one a day before bed. Read a novel. Go to the theater. Anything to broaden your horizons.

Because let’s be honest: self-help books are meant to be useful, not beautiful. ENJOY everything humanity has to offer in the way of art!

Another problem I have with personal development books is that they are often repetitive, and most of them only focus on getting you OUT of a victim mentality. “Take responsibility” and “be optimistic” and “set goals” are all good advice, but you only need to hear it once.

Also, if you get addicted to the By Me personal development material, it’s going to be even more difficult to let go of these ideas when you advance in your journey. Like with exercise, you will hit a plateau with these concepts and will have to move on.

Note that I am NOT advocating for a throwing out of all self-help books! I think they’re still useful in that they give you advice you won’t find on your own, especially when first starting out. I still read about one a month.

The bottom line is don’t become addicted to personal development books, because they are addictive.

Just check yourself: Are the books you’re reading just rehashing the same old advice? When was the last time you read a fiction novel? Are you using personal development books as an escape? Are you doing the actual work?