How to Eliminate Worry

Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the Unite...

Image via Wikipedia

I don’t have the time to worry!

- Winston Churchill’s on how he copes with worry and stress

The remedy for worry and all the stress that follows is to get busy with something constructive.

I’m listening to Dale Carnegie’s How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. It’s an amazing audio book. Just as good as How to Win Friends and Influence People. In fact, parts of it are even better and more applicable to my own situation at work and home. If you are going to get either of these books, the audiobooks are better than the print version. The stories really lend themselves well to audio and the narrator is amazing. I subscribe to with an annual plan making it super cheap as well on a per book basis.

Getting busy with productive work is a key tip from this book for dealing with worry. In fact, keeping busy with anything helps! Here’s a quick exercise to prove my point (adapted from the book):

1. Imagine a picture of the Statue of Liberty. Get a nice picture in your mind’s eye. If you need help, here’s a reminder of what she looks like. Gorgeous:

2. Now imagine what you are going to eat tomorrow for breakfast. Below is an image of a typical breakfast, a smoothie, in this case with organic blueberries:

Now try to really focus about both the Statue of Liberty and Breakfast at the same time.

Keep trying….

Ok, that’s enough.

It’s an impossible task. You can’t do it. Despite what we think about humans being great at multitasking, when you really focus on something intently, you cannot focus on something else at the same time.

Applying this knowledge you can see how being busy with constructive things can virtually eradicate worry. The Army used this knowledge to help integrate soldiers coming home from WWII and dealing with severe mental stress, by keeping them productive and busy with public works projects.

We can apply the same tactic to deal with the stresses of life.

Just sitting around at home (or work or school) in boredom is a recipe for trouble.

Find a hobby. Exercise. Read more. Start a blog. Take a new class. Start a project. Write a letter. Clean your house or better yet, purge your home of useless stuff. Do something constructive.

Get busy. Keep busy.

Now it’s time for me to go get busy eating my dinner! Tonight is tofu stir-fry over noodles.

The High Cost of Worry

Drag your thoughts away from your troubles… by the ears, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it. 

-Mark Twain

Worrying has an incredible cost. I estimate that through the course of an average workweek about 80% of waking time is spend worrying about something.

Worry about being late for a meeting. Worry about public speaking. Worry about dealing with a co-worker. Worry about dealing with a manager. Worry about how a project will turn out. Worry about an upcoming performance review.

Worry comes at a cost.

Blood pressure issues. Stomach ulcers and digestive problems. Eating disorders. Insomnia. Worry is no joke. People die young due to stress and anxiety induced health issues.

Beyond the physical I think the biggest cost is that when you worry you miss out on what is actually happening in the world. Worry is only possible when you are dwelling on the past or projecting some situation into the future. If you catch yourself worrying a lot, you are certainly not present to what is really going on.

Your kids. Your co-workers. Your friends. All your relationships become tainted when worry has a grip on you. Mr. Carnegie has a nice tip for dealing with worry if it keeps you from sleeping:

If you can’t sleep, then get up and do something instead of lying there worrying.  It’s the worry that gets you, not the lack of sleep.  ~Dale Carnegie

I like meditation as proactive way to eliminate worry. I believe that like any other skill, freeing yourself from worry is no different that losing a few pounds, learning a language or a new sport. It can be trained. The most powerful training is mediation.

Meditation teaches awareness to what is going on in the present moment.

10 minutes a day of breathing and simple awareness will give you the capacity to let go of worry when it comes, and with continued practice you’ll notice that worry just stops taking root in your mind altogether.

I’ve been meditating daily for over 5 years and am convinced that it has re-wired my brain. I’m not worry-free but close to it.

How To Win Friends And Influence People (Part III)

Listening to the audio book for How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Read Part 1 and Part 2 for insights from the earlier portions of the book. Here are some insights from this evening’s listening:

  • See things always from another person’s point of view – always, try as hard as you can to do this
  • Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires
  • Appeal to people’s nobler motives
  • Use showmanship to get attention – movies do it, TV does it, window displays do it – and it works
  • You can dramatize ideas in business or any other part of life – works great when dealing with adults and kids! Dramatize facts to make a point in a business setting. Use props if necessary to get your point across
  • The way to get things done is to stimulate competition – in a healthy and productive way, throw down a challenge and see what happens!
  • Work is the most motivating force for any worker, not money, benefits or anything else – quality and interesting work is the single biggest tool to keep people interested in their job
  • Let other people do a great deal of the talking in any conversation
  • It’s always easier to listen to criticism after you have given someone some praise – never just criticize, always see the positive aspects and comment on them first – them provide your thoughtful critique
  • Providing criticism after praise is a technique used by many world leaders past and present (Lincoln, Coolidge, McKinley, etc.) in motivating staff an leading without making people feel bad
  • Beginning with praise is like a dentist that begins with Novocaine!
  • There is a way to redirect/correct/criticism without upsetting people – make others feel important (praise) while correcting
  • People judge us by our “letters” – small errors, like spelling errors, make a big impression
  • Humbling oneself and praising another can turn a staunch adversary into a close friend
  • Admitting one’s own mistakes can motivate others to change their behavior for the better. For example, by quitting smoking – parents will set a positive example that children and friends will notice (and potentially follow)
  • A good leader talks about their own mistakes before criticizing others

How To Win Friends – Part II

Listening to “How to Win Friends and Influence People ” by Dale Carnegie again. Here are some stream of conscious nuggets I’m picking up while listening. Read Part I for more nuggets.

  • The best way to win an argument, is to avoid it.
  • Quit telling people they are wrong, after all, how do you really know? You might be the one who is wrong. In other words, get used to admitting that you, in fact, might be wrong. It’s a disarming approach when dealing with people and shows respect for others opinions. Admitting you might be wrong will never get you into trouble.
  • The word “My” has incredible force and impact. Use it carefully.
  • Agree with your adversary quickly! Don’t argue with a customer, spouse or enemy. Use diplomacy.
  • Never say to someone else “you’re wrong”.
  • If you’re wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically!
  • A drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of “gaul”.
  • The more yes’s you can induce from others early in a conversation – the positive momentum you can achieve toward a desired outcome. Saying yes is a powerful thing.
  • Let others do a great deal of talking. Don’t interrupt others. Listen patiently and sincerely.
  • Encourage others to express their ideas fully.

How To Win Friends

Listening to “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie (again). There are thousands of books on self-help and business leadership out there but this is definitely the one that matters. I like listening to the audio book version. It forces me to take in every word whereas in print form I end up reading quickly ahead.

A few insights from listening so far:

  • The ability to properly deal with people is by far the biggest factor in becoming a successful leader.
  • People respond more favorably to praise then criticism.
  • It is far easier to make friends by being genuinely interested in others, than it is to try to get others to be genuinely interested in you.
  • To get someone to pay attention to you, focus on what they care about NOT what you care about. Start from that perspective and they will be motivated to hear what you have to say.
  • Fake it ’till you make it. If you smile even when you aren’t happy, you will begin to feel cheerful.
  • There is only one sure way to find happiness, and that is through controlling your thoughts. It is not what you are doing that makes you happy, it is all about your mental attitude.
  • Do not fear being misunderstood and do not fear your enemies – keep your mind on the great and splendid things you would like to do.
  • All things come through desire, we become the things in which our hearts are fixed.
  • Names are important, if you are genuinely interested in people – you’ll have an easier time remembering. People are more interested in their own name than in all the other names put together.

If you haven’t read or listened to it yet – do it!