The Book in Three Sentences
In this summary of How to Stop Worrying & Start Living, Carnegie proposes a series of lessons to tackle worry head-on. The seminal non-fiction book helps you deal with stressful thinking and anxiety. The fact that this book is dated and some chapters deal with religion might rub some people the wrong way, but it offers great tips nonetheless.
How to Stop Worrying & Start Living Summary
Part One: Fundamental Facts You Should Know About Worry
Chapter 1: Live in “Day-Tight Compartments”
One of the best lessons you can learn is to focus on the present moment because that’s the only thing we have. To better prepare for the future, focus on doing today’s work as well as possible. Good thinking leads to constructive planning, but bad thinking leads to tension. When you feel overwhelmed by the number of things you have to do, focus on doing one task at a time. Live one day at a time too. Forget about yesterday and ignore tomorrow. The problem with focusing on the future is that it’s uncertain. The only thing that’s certain is today. Focus on today and make the most of it.
Chapter 2: A Magic Formula for Solving Worry Situations
There are three steps you can use to stop worrying about something:
- Step I: Analyze the situation and think about the worst possible outcome
- Step II: Accept the worst possible outcome if it happens
- Step III: Spend your time and energy improving the worst outcome
Worrying is destructive because it doesn’t let you concentrate. When you accept the worst, you remove vague possibilities and this allows you to focus on the problem. To overcome the consequences of a problem, you first need to accept it.
Chapter 3: What Worry May Do You
There are serious side effects to worrying. Worrying too much can lead to stomach ulcers, heart problems, insomnia, headaches, and indigestion, to name a few. Having a positive mental attitude can help the body fight a disease or medical condition.
Part Two: Basic Techniques in Analyzing Worry
Chapter 4: How to Analyze and Solve Worry Problems
To deal with different kinds of worries, use the three steps of problem analysis.
- Get the facts
- Analyze the facts
- Take a decision and act upon it
To solve a problem intelligently, we must gather the facts first. Confusion often leads to worry and we’re confused when we don’t have all the facts. To make a decision, you need information first, so delay a decision as long as possible and use that time to gather many objective facts as possible to make an informed decision.
Gathering the facts while worrying can be difficult, so try to:
- Pretend the information you’re collecting is for someone else.
- Write down the information that’s helpful to you, but that also damages you. The answer lies between both extremes.
On its own, gathering facts isn’t enough, you also need to analyze and interpret them. To banish your worries, you can try the following:
- Write down what worries you
- Write down what you can do about it
- Decide what to do
- Carry out a decision as soon as possible
Chapter 5: How to Eliminate Fifty Per Cent of Your Business Worries
When it comes to business, worrying can be exhausting. The author suggests a four-step system to deal with business-related problems:
- What’s the problem?
- What is the cause of the problem?
- What are the possible solutions?
- What’s the best solution?
Part Three: How to Break the Worry Habit Before It Breaks You
Chapter 6: How to Crowd Worry Out of Your Mind
Spend time in mental relaxation. It’s difficult to worry when you’re planning and thinking about something enjoyable. Be too busy to worry. It’s impossible to think about more than one thing at a time. When there’s nothing in our minds, emotions such as worry, fear, hate, jealousy, and envy rush in. As long as you’re busy doing something, you won’t worry.
Rule 1: To break the worry habit, keep busy.
Chapter 7: Don’t Let the Beetles Get You Down
It’s the little things that drive people insane. Life’s too short to be upset by unimportant problems, so ignore them.
Rule 2: To break the worry habit, don’t allow yourself to be upset by small things.
Chapter 8: A Law that Will Outlaw Many of Your Worries
Your worst worries are a waste of time because chances are they’ll never happen.
Rule 3: To break the worry habit, ask yourself what are the chances that the event you worry about will happen.
Chapter 9: Co-operate with the Inevitable
When something happens, whether good or bad, accept it. We can adjust to almost anything if we have to. When you can’t do something about a situation, simply forget it.
Rule 4: To break the worry habit, accept what’s inevitable.
Chapter 10: Put a “Stop-Loss” Order on Your Worries
The stop-loss principle is a concept from the investment world. According to this principle, should a stock drop five percent of its cost, you sell it, limiting the potential loss. This concept is useful outside the stock market as well. Define what’s acceptable and when something goes beyond that, take action. For example, when you’re waiting for someone, define what amount of time’s acceptable to you and let them know. If the person arrives later than the time you discussed, don’t wait for them. This is called putting a stop-loss on your worries.
Rule 5: To break the worry habit, ask yourself these questions:
- Is what you worry about important to you?
- At what precise point should you forget it?
- What price are you willing to pay? Have you paid too much for that problem already?
Chapter 11: Don’t Try to Saw Sawdust
Don’t try to change what can’t be changed. The only way in which the past can be constructive is by analyzing your mistakes, learning from them, and forgetting them.
Rule 6: Let the past stay in the past. Learn from your mistakes and move on.
Part Four: Seven Ways to Cultivate a Mental Attitude that Will Bring You Peace and Happiness
Chapter 12: Eight Words that Can Transform Your Life
Your thoughts make you who you are. Marcus Aurelius used eight words to describe this conundrum: “Our life is what our thoughts make it.” In simpler terms, think happy thoughts and you’ll be happy, and think sad thoughts and you’ll be sad. Adopt a positive attitude rather than a negative one. Be concerned, not worried. The difference between the two is that being concerned means realizing that there are problems and taking steps to address them. Worrying means going around in circles without finding a solution. Thoughts have tremendous power, you can banish emotions and certain illnesses by changing your thoughts. Your actions are important too. By acting happy, you’ll soon feel happy.
Rule 1: To develop a mental attitude of peace and happiness, think and act cheerfully so that you’ll feel cheerful.
Chapter 13: The High Cost of Getting Even
Our hate towards our enemies isn’t hurting them, it’s hurting us. Hate affects how you look, it doesn’t let you enjoy food, it’s exhausting, and it’s a waste of time. Forgive and forget your enemies.
Rule 2: To develop a mental attitude of peace and happiness: never get even with your enemies. It’ll hurt you more than it’ll hurt them. Thinking about people you don’t like is a waste of time.
Chapter 14: If You Do This, You Will Never Worry About Ingratitude
Bitterness about something that happened is a waste of time. When you don’t get appreciation from others, think about why. Remember that gratitude is something you cultivate over time. A wise man doesn’t expect gratitude in the first place because, to a certain extent, ingratitude is human nature. When you receive gratitude, it should come as a surprise. You can’t demand gratitude or love, The only way to get them is to stop asking for them and give for the sole joy of giving. Teach your children to express gratitude. To raise grateful children, we have to be grateful ourselves.
Rule 3: To avoid resentment and ingratitude:
- Expect ingratitude
- Happiness is not expecting gratitude but giving
- Gratitude is a trait you cultivate over time
Chapter 15: Would You Take a Million Dollars for What You Have?
What you worry about is usually unimportant and insignificant. To be happy, focus on the things that are right and ignore what’s wrong. The truth is most people would never sell their blessings (their family, their bodies, or their ability to hear) for a fortune, so stop thinking about what you lack rather than what you have. Identifying the positive side of an event is one of the best habits one can develop.
Rule 4: To stop worrying and start living focus on your blessings rather than on your problems.
Chapter 16: Find Yourself and Be Yourself: Remember There Is No One Else on Earth Like You
Never try to fit into a pattern that’s not a good fit for you. Study your own personality, and behave in a way that reflects who you are. Nothing will make you as miserable as trying to be someone you’re not. Don’t try to be someone else, especially your heroes. By acting in a way that’s dishonest, you’re headed for failure. You can’t be someone else because you’re the sum of your experiences, your environment, and your heredity. Envy is ignorance and imitation is suicide.
Rule 5: To develop a mental attitude of peace and freedom don’t imitate others. Be yourself.
Chapter 17: If You Have a Lemon, Make a Lemonade
Try to find lessons in misfortunes and don’t use those misfortunes as an excuse for self-pity. Happiness isn’t about pleasure, but about achievements and triumph, especially after a setback. Learn how to take a minus into a plus. When you feel discouraged, there are two reasons you have in your favor:
- You may succeed
- The mere attempt of trying to change the situation will make you forget about the past and focus on the future
Rule 6: To develop a mental attitude of peace and happiness try to find lessons in misfortunes.
Chapter 18: How to Cure Melancholy in Fourteen Days
Help people on a daily basis. Pleasing others means that you won’t think about yourself and your problems. To receive, you must first give.
Rule 7: To develop peace and happiness become interested in others and do things for them.
Part Five: The Perfect Way to Conquer Worry
Chapter 19: How My Mother and Father Conquered Worry
In the author’s opinion, religion leads to a richer and happier life with no worries. When you’re going through the lowest point in your life, you can come out from that bad situation as someone hopeful and confident with the help of religion. Praying can help people put into words, the problems they’re having. Praying also allows them to share their burdens and it can lead to action.
Part Six: How to Keep from Worrying About Criticism
Chapter 20: Remember that No One Kicks a Dead Dog
When someone attacks you in some form, that’s because the attacker gets a feeling of importance. The attacker feels satisfied, accomplished, and entitled, but also envious and inferior.
Rule 1: Unjust criticism is often disguised as a compliment.
Chapter 21: Do This and Criticism Can’t Hurt You
People will always criticize, but you can always choose if it’ll affect you or not. This doesn’t mean ignoring all criticism, but only unjust criticism. Sometimes, an appropriate response to unjust criticism is laughter.
Rule 2: When you are unjustly criticized, ignore it.
Chapter 22: Fool Things I have Done
Reflect on your past mistakes so that you don’t commit those mistakes again. The author suggests having a weekly review, a system of self-analysis. By identifying bad habits, you can work on them and replace them with good habits over time.
Rule 3: To stop worrying about criticism write the mistakes you’ve committed and learn from them.
Part Seven: Six Ways to Prevent Fatigue and Worry and Keep Your Energy and Spirits High
Chapter 23: How to Add One Hour a Day to Your Waking Life
Fatigue often leads to worry. By relaxing, you won’t be able to worry. So rest often and before you get tired. Sit, close your eyes, take naps, sit down when possible, stretch, or lie down.
Chapter 24: What Makes You Tired and What to Do About It
Most of our fatigue comes from mental and emotional attitudes. You can be sitting down and be exhausted from resentment, worry, or anxiety. Most people believe that hard work requires physical effort, but this isn’t true. Learn to relax while working.
Chapter 25: How to Avoid Fatigue and Keep Looking Young!
Catharsis is talking about your problems with someone you trust. Keeping your problems to yourself causes tension, but by sharing your worries, you’re not burdened by them anymore. Although you won’t solve these issues by simply talking about them, you’ll get a better perspective to face them and get some sort of relief.
Chapter 26: Four Good Working Habits That Will Help Prevent Fatigue and Worry
- Good working habit 1: clear your desk of papers unless you’re working on a problem at this very moment.
- Good working habit 2: prioritize
- Good working habit 3: solve problems as they surface when possible
- Good working habit 4: organize, delegate, and supervise
Chapter 27: How to Banish the Boredom that Produces Fatigue, Worry, and Resentment
Boredom also causes fatigue. Your emotions can make you more fatigued than physical effort. We rarely get tired of doing something we like. What interested you, energizes you. You can always act “as if”. This means acting as if you’re happy, as if you’re brave, and so on.
Chapter 28: How to Keep from Worrying about Insomnia
If you suffer from insomnia, get up and read, study, or work. Worrying about insomnia is worse than having insomnia in the first place. People having trouble sleeping can try to pray, relax their bodies, or exercise during the day.
Part Eight: How to Find the Kind of Work in Which You May Be Happy and Successful
Chapter 29: The Major Decision of Your Life
One of the most important decisions you’ll take when you’re young is the work you do. Try to find the work you enjoy. Remember that work should feel like play.
Part Nine: How to Lessen Your Financial Worries
Chapter 30: “Seventy Per Cent of All Our Worries…”
Most worries are money-related. People expect their worries to go away if they had more money, but this isn’t the answer. Having more money means spending more money which usually leads to even more problems.
To manage your money:
- Keep a record of your expenses
- Create a budget that fits your needs
- Spend wisely
- More money shouldn’t translate into more problems
- Build credit in case you need to borrow
- Have insurance
- Don’t have your life insurance paid in one large sum
- Teach your children to use money responsibly
- Consider having a side hustle
- Don’t gamble
- If you can’t improve your financial situation, accept it