Stop Worrying and Start Living

Posted on February 17, 2017 by Robert Ringer


More than fifty years ago, the legendary Dale Carnegie wrote one of the biggest-selling motivational books of all time, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. The book is a bit dated now, both in writing style and content, but many of the points Carnegie are as applicable today as they were then.

Carnegie focused a great deal on the acceptance of the inevitable as a key to eliminating stress and worry. Though I agree with him on this point to some extent, it’s a bit more complicated than he made it sound. The reason I say this is because what some people think of as inevitable, others see as a challenge that can be overcome.

For example, a person might believe that failure is inevitable for him and thus resign himself to a life of frustration. Unfortunately, this is precisely what millions of people do. Yet, the reality is that failure is not inevitable in anyone’s life.

But what about things that really can’t be changed, such as blindness and quadriplegia? Thousands of people have endured major physical handicaps, yet found the mental and physical strength to accomplish great things. By accepting the reality of their physical handicaps, such people were able to rise above their handicaps.

The challenge is to be able to determine what is and is not inevitable. When I use the word inevitable, I think of it in the future tense — as something that has not yet happened. Carnegie, however, seemed to be referring to the inevitable in the present tense. (It’s already a fact of life, so learn to accept it.) Thus, it could be that his oversimplification of the subject was simply a matter of semantics.

Technically speaking, the only thing that is 100 percent certain to occur in the future is death. Frank Sinatra expressed his view of this certainty with typical candor when said, “You better enjoy livin’ baby, ’cause dying is a pain in the ass.”

I wouldn’t exactly compare Sinatra to Shakespeare from a linguistic standpoint, but in reality he summed up perfectly the solution to dealing with the inevitability of death: Become so focused on life that you don’t have time to think about it.

When you direct your energy away from the inevitability of death, it paves the way for focusing on constructive living. The least expensive medication for worry and stress is activity.

While death stands alone as the one fact of life that is truly inevitable, many other things come close. Even so, none of them deserve your stress or worry.

So, yes, Dale Carnegie was right when he preached resignation of the inevitable, but it’s important to be able to differentiate between what is and is not inevitable. The reality is that most perceived problems can be overcome through a combination of (1) relentlessness, (2) resourcefulness, which opens the mind to new possibilities that people with a low awareness level cannot see, (3) the law of averages, and, above all, (4) being conscious of your connection to the Universal Power Source.

Any way you slice it, and whatever your spiritual beliefs may be, what it all boils down to is focusing on constructive thoughts that will better your existence and the existence of your loved ones. It’s okay to plan for the future, but worrying about the future can actually get in the way of sound planning.

Above all, exerting mental energy to worry about the inevitable is illogical. We’re all familiar with the Serenity Prayer, which includes the words: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.” If something is truly inevitable, that means there is nothing you can do about it. And if there’s nothing you can do about it, what’s the point in worrying?

Just make certain that you don’t cavalierly apply the term inevitable to a situation that doesn’t warrant it. As I pointed out, very few things in life are inevitable, and only one — death — is 100 percent certain. And since, as Sinatra put it, death is “a pain in the ass,” why spend time thinking about it?

A better idea is to invest your mental and physical energy in thinking about how to be the best spouse you can possibly be, the best parent you can possibly be, the best son or daughter you can possibly be, the best sibling you can possibly be, the best friend you can possibly be, the best employee or employer you can possibly be, and the best overall person you can possibly be.

Which is more than enough to keep you busy. However, as a bonus, to the extent you are successful in these pursuits, that other little issue we worry so much about — financial success — somehow works itself out without your having to fret and stew about it.

Robert Ringer

Robert Ringer is an American icon whose unique insights into life have helped millions of readers worldwide. He is also the author of two New York Times #1 bestselling books, both of which have been listed by The New York Times among the 15 best-selling motivational books of all time.

25 responses to “Stop Worrying and Start Living”

  1. Andy Andy says:

    Robert, I read this book nearly 40 years ago, when my mentor tried to help me stop worrying about everything out of my control. I was young, cocky, arrogant at 22, and thought I'd be master of the universe at 35. When reality smacked me in the face, I worried…..about everything. One day, my mentor handed me a "worry stone". He told me that everytime I worried about something out of my control, to take the coin out of my pocket, look at it while thinking "I'll worry about that on Wednesday", then put the coin in the other pants pocket. It sounded stupid, but I took his coin, and followed his lead for about 3-4 days. I realized that most of what worried me was either out of my control or worked itself out long before Wednesday ever came along. I've told my sons this story many times over the years. Every time they call, worried about something, I tell them to grab their worry stone, and call me Wednesday night. They laugh, I laugh, and the message is reinforced.
    As the great Alfred E. Newman would say, "What, me worry?!"

  2. Jack Turk says:

    Excellent advice good sir! Put every energy into each moment, as it only passes by one time only. Savor every breath and keep moving forward. Thank you for this message.

  3. Rick G says:

    I have read a long while back many decades ago and I cannot remember if it is from Carnegie's book or not, that 95 percent of what you worry about never ends up happening. I think about this time and again when I begin worrying about something that could turn out badly or happen. And when it does not happen, I think to myself, "See? The worst didn't happen after all!" One other point. It seems that mankind is the only mammal that worries. Other animals do not. Dogs don't. Birds don't. Fish don't. They may experience anxiety and frustration, but they do not worry. They live in the present moment, which most of mankind does not do. I believe that humans worry because they do not live in the present moment unlike other animals. And our thinking capacity is more highly developed and sophisticated than other animals. Humans live in the future, and this causes worry and anxiety.

  4. Jim says:

    If people would just follow the Serenity Prayer. Worry would be easy and simple for them.

  5. TheLookOut says:

    Another very insightful article RR. I have always tried to hand
    over my inevitable situations to God (my higher power). It
    seems to have worked pretty good so far.

  6. Mike B says:

    I read the book in my 20's and then had the added life changing opportunity to attend Bob Proctor's then called Xoces Seminars. Both planted seeds that continued, and will always continue, to grow. I believe that just as God put everything on earth that we need, and left it to us to find them, He put a beautiful and powerful human spirit within us to tap into to solve and overcome problems. It's all within us. We just have to look inside and find it. To me, nothing is more beautiful than to see that unfold whether it's in sports or serious life challenges. Thank you for another great article

  7. larajf says:

    I liked how Napoleon Hill put it in Think and Grow Rich. It kind of cracked me up with the thought that it's pointless to worry about something that will happen.
    And I genuinely believe that since we are energy and it's neither created nor destroyed, we will never truly die.
    Like Prufrock, we end up where we started knowing it for the first time.
    (sorry for all the flubbings instead of direct quotes…hopefully you all know what I mean)

  8. Reality Seeker says:

    "Life is a great big canvas, so throw all the paint you can at it" –. Danny Kaye.

  9. Oiler says:

    "Worrying is for people with strong intellect or weak character."

    – Nelson Bunker Hunt

  10. Serge says:

    All good stuff from Carnegie. Reminds me of the Shawshank Redemption movie quote, "Get busy living or get busy dying". Another quote from the movie was " Hope is a good thing. Maybe even the best of things, and a good thing never dies". I see a lot of rewording from Carnegie's ideas, in his book he also recommended to stay busy to drive out the worry habit.

  11. Richard Van Der says:

    Yes but… when one is ill and feels ill for an extended period, all the rah rah is a bit of a turn off. On the other hand… etc. & so forth…

    • John John says:

      Ya, I know! Take care and press on anyway. I think some worrying about major issues is quite normal but what is, is what is. So, the best thing to do is try to find a solution to the problem if it's in your control, and if you can't, just accept it and move on. Sometimes, the moving on part requires help and management over a lifetime. Life can be unforgiving at times but as a former military commander of mine said, "Nobody said it was going to be easy." Unfortunately he was quite correct. God bless and carry on!

  12. TN Ray says:

    I enjoyed this article. It reminded me of Robert's book Million Dollar Habits (MDH). I scanned MDH and read again the chapter titled "The Present Living Habit". Great insights for finding satisfaction and purpose in life. MDH was my favorite Ringer book. I read it many times. The insights were lessons worth repeating. Ringer's other books (WTI and LOF#1) were very educational for a young salesman like myself and aided my survival and success in the business world, but, MDH provided not only guideposts for success in business, but also an appreciation for the journey called life.

  13. Sean Baltz says:

    Everything Mr. Ringer writes is invaluable and applicable to our lives in some form, and this great writing is certainly no exception.

  14. cspkeynes says:

    I have found that giving imparts a great meaning in my life and moves me towards a conscious living .

    By giving, I do not mean altruism . By giving , I mean transferring something and expecting something to be done with that " something " . For example, just last night I shared a wonderful discussion with my grandson . He is 7 years old and his teacher asked to speak with one of his parents because his performance was moving downhill . I shared the wisdom of his great grandfather who passed away before the little man was born. I explained that his great grandfather was a farmer in Italy many years ago . He did not go to school , could not read , and was often silent . And he also never complained ! He came to America with his family because he wanted to give his children a better chance to succeed . Finally , I told my grandson that his great grandfather would also want his great grandchildren to do well in school so they could achieve success through their own accomplishments and efforts . Throughout the discussion , the little guy was asking questions. I reminded the little guy that had his great grandfather not come to America, he would not be with us today . So the little guy understood that his great grandfather came to America for him too !
    At the end, he said " thank you grandpa for talking to me " and I said I was only the messenger for his great grandfather who incidentally has the same name as the little guy.
    I am looking for to receiving a gift from my little guy !

  15. Jose says:

    The Boy Scout motto of be prepared and have a plan B and plan C in case your current situation goes south quickly is always a good thing. I had that book and the take home message was if things are beyond my control, let it go and let God.

  16. Dennis says:

    After 40 years of following you, I've always wanted to tell you, I bet your kids are mighty proud of their father. Thanks for all the quality advice through the decades!

  17. Marc says:

    Worrying is not a solution for any problem and we can’t attain anything through perturbing. So try to enjoy each day in your life. Try to find out happiness everywhere then your life become more beautiful than now.addition contractors Los Angeles

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