The Best Stress Eliminator, EVER!

For most people the majority of the stress in their lives is self-inflected. We worry about stuff that hasn’t happened and likely never will. We imagine unlikely possibilities over and over until we are convinced they are almost certain to happen.

Nothing eliminates stress and worry better than action. The most effective action you can take to eliminate stress from your life is to make decisions.

Sitting around wondering what to do and when to do it mixes life into a toxic combination of fear, worry and stress. Making a decision and acting on it becomes a powerful elixir of motivating control over your life. 

You may be thinking that if the whole decision making and taking action thing was as easy as I make it sound you would have already done it. Well, I’ll admit that sometimes it’s not so easy but I’ve never seen a time where it wasn’t possible. So I’ll share with you now 7 “mini actions” that by themselves are far easier to do. When done together and in order they lead to nothing less than freedom from that toxic combination.

First resolve to do something about the situation that is causing you the stress. If that seems simplistic it isn’t. Many many people dwell on their problems with the assumption that “there is nothing they can do.” The first little baby step is deciding that you will try something to free yourself from that situation. You MUST know that every situation is temporary, the question is will you control your future or allow circumstances to control it for you.

Next gather information. Some of the information you’ll need to make a good decision will come from self-reflection. What are your strengths, what are your weaknesses. Some of the information will come from outside sources. Books, online research that pertains to your situation and trusted friends. Be sure to talk only to friends and family that care enough about you to be honest and that have your best interests in mind.

The information you collect will likely lead to several possible action steps. Make a list of all the possible alternations. Use your desired outcome to create additional alternatives if none of the alternatives you see take you where you want to go.

Now you’ll need to weigh the alternatives against your desired outcome using your personal values to guide you to choosing the best one. List the alternatives in priority order with the one most likely to help you achieve your goal as number one. Number one will become Plan A but plans don’t always work so you’ll want a Plan B and C. That eliminates the stress of worrying about what happens if Plan A doesn’t work. You’ll know exactly what you will do next.

Choose your alternative. If you can’t decide between two alternatives then flip a coin. If that sounds like a ridiculous way to determine your future then consider this…in the moment that coin is in the air you’ll know exactly which way you hope it falls. You will have made your decision! 

The most important step is acting on your decision. Action defeats stress and worry. Even if the decision turns out to be the wrong decision you will have made progress. Even a little progress, maybe even in the not so right direction, is better than sitting still wallowing in stress. 

Share your decision and plan with people who care about you. Ask them for help with accountability to stick with your plan. Ask them to make sure your action is constant until the stress inducing situation is resolved. 

You do not need stress in your life. Decisions and the actions that follow eliminates stress. Now, stop thinking about this post and DO something.

Day-tight Compartments

The world is being overtaken with worry. Well…that’s not exactly right, it would be more accurate to say the world has been overtaken with worry. We have more to worry about than ever before. 

Or do we?

I think it’s good to keep “things” in perspective so let’s look at a few numbers. 40% of the things most people worry about never happen. 30% of the things people worry about are completely out of their control. They couldn’t change them if they tried. 20% of our worries come straight out of someone else’s opinion and have nothing to do with fact. 

If I’m counting my fingers and toes correctly that adds up to 90%! 90% of our worrying is a complete waste of time and energy. 90% of our worrying does nothing but pummel our joy and enthusiasm. We receive no return on that investment of time and energy so stop investing in worry. 

So what about the other 10%?

In Dale Carnegie’s book “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living” (the greatest book every written on the subject of controlling worry) he provides a set of principles that are life changing. One of them has served me particularly well. It’s one of the first principles in the book and it says to “live in day-tight compartments.” 

That principle simply says don’t worry about what happened yesterday or what might happen tomorrow. It says to focus all your energy on what is happening right now because that’s what you have the greatest chance of controlling. 

Take the pandemic for instance. I have no idea (does anybody?) how this ends. I have no idea what happens tomorrow or next week. I just know what I can do today to give myself and my family the best chance of staying healthy…so that’s where I’m focusing my energy. 

I have a bunch of big presentations coming up in the next few weeks. If I tried to focus on all of them I’d probably go crazy. So I’m only focused on my next one. That’s the presentation that has to be the best. Once I’m done with that one then it’s the next one that must be the best. The fact that some of these are on the same day or consecutive days makes no difference, they are all in their own “tight compartments” and they will happen one at a time. So why worry about one a couple weeks away?

I know the first thought of many people when they hear “don’t worry” is “easier said than done.” Well EVERYTHING worth doing is easier said than done. But here’s another bit of advice from Mr. Carnegie’s book that might help.

He says when facing trouble to do these three things:

  • Ask yourself what the worst possible outcome is if you can’t solve your problem.
  • Mentally prepare to accept the worst if necessary.
  • Then calmly work to improve upon the worst possible outcome.

I’ve found very few antidotes to worry that are more effective than using your time and energy to solve the issue that’s causing the worry. Even if you’re unsuccessful you’ll have eliminated a great deal of worry from your life. 

So worry if you must but don’t worry about yesterday, that’s now completely out of your control. And don’t borrow worry from tomorrow, just deal with it as it comes. There is at least a 40% chance that it never does. 

What Are You Worried About?

It seems as if no matter where you live in the world there are plenty of things to worry about. I suppose many of those things are worth worrying about. Many of the things we worry about however are not worth the worry and stress we put into them. 

 

One of the things that many people worry about that they shouldn’t is other people’s opinion of them. Don’t get me wrong, there are people who’s opinion matters to me… a lot. There’s just not very many of them. Not very many at all. 

 

Popeye said “I am what I am and that’s all that I am.” I’m like Popeye, (except for the spinach part) I am what I am. I’m pretty comfortable with that. I’m also comfortable with the fact that there are  people who won’t like that. That’s their concern not mine. 

 

If you’re like me there are lots of areas of your life you could improve. You could be a better spouse, a better parent, a better friend, a better leader. Those are areas where change is required in order for improvement to take place. But I won’t change my beliefs or sacrifice my principles to try and be something or someone that more people might like. I’d gladly accept the respect of a handful of people over the “likes” of a roomful. 

 

You can’t control other people’s opinions of you without giving up at least part of what makes you the person you are. So don’t waste time trying. Simply be the very best version of you that you can be. 

 

I do not believe it’s possible to experience true success when you’re trying to be what other people want you to be. Get used to the fact that there will be people who do not like the genuine version of you. It is far far far more important that YOU like the genuine version of you. If you’re okay with you then the people who are supposed to matter in your life will be okay with you too. 

 

Stress and worry will creep into your life, there is just too much happening today to block worry completely out of your life. But do not fuel your worry fire by adding the opinions of people who don’t know you, don’t really care about you and don’t respect you to the gas can. 


I’ve always liked the Bobby McFerrin song “Don’t Worry be Happy” but if you really want to be happy just be you!


Submarine Your Stress!

Most people have at least heard the phase “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” It’s not just a saying, it’s actually the title of one of the greatest books ever written. It was written in 1936 by the legendary Dale Carnegie. It has been a best seller forever, translated into more languages than virtually any other book. 

It is truly a life changing book, to this very day. 

But many people who know Dale Carnegie’s work well would tell you it’s not his most impactful book. They would say it’s the book Carnegie people call “the worry book.” It’s official title is “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.” 

It is truly a masterpiece of tactical insights into how to control worry in your life. 

The insight, or principle as Mr. Carnegie called them, that has made the biggest difference for me is the very first one discussed in the book. 

The principle says that to avoid worry we should “live in day-tight compartments.”

A submarine is divided into compartments so that when a problem develops in one compartment the other compartments can be sealed off from the trouble. Dale Carnegie suggested that we live our lives as a submarine is constructed. 

Live each day as a separate compartment. Don’t let yesterday’s troubles seep into today and never let tomorrow’s potential worries (which often never happen anyway) leak into today’s opportunity for success.

As simple and as easy as that sounds it is anything but. It requires a steely discipline and faith that today’s good can drown out yesterday’s not-so-good. 

Here’s one thing I’ve found that helps me to live in day-tight compartments. I don’t just compartmentalize my days, I put many things into their own compartments. 

I work hard to keep my work life separate from my family life. As bad as it is to let one bad work interaction negatively affect the next work interaction it’s absolutely terrible, tragic really, to let something bad that happened at work have a negative impact on my family. 

There is never a good reason to “take out” my work frustrations on the people who are far more important to me than anything to do with my job. By compartmentalizing those two areas of my life that’s much less likely to happen. 

I once had a participant in a Dale Carnegie Class tell the class that he passed over a long bridge on his way to and from work each day. He said that at the end of each work day he packed up all his worries and put them in a box. On his way home as he crossed the bridge he rolled down his window and tossed the box out the window and into the river he was crossing over. The problems and the worry they caused never came home with him. 

He went on to say that sometimes the box would be waiting for him on the bridge when he was returning to work but that was okay, he was back at work and that’s where his work worries belonged. 

If you want to attempt living in day-tight compartments then you need to find your own metaphorical bridge. Maybe you’ll need several of them, that’s perfectly okay.

This much I can tell you; developing the discipline of living in day-tight compartments will do more to relieve stress in your life than anything else you can do. There is enough stress for most of us in a single day, we don’t need to be dragging stress from yesterday or tomorrow into today. Most of us can deal with the weight of stress from one day, it’s when the days start to pile on that we have real trouble.

Live in day-tight compartments and the worries of life will find it very hard to gang up on you! 

By the way….read the book.

Living in Daytight Compartments

Some of the regular readers of this blog know that I worked for Dale Carnegie Training for a number of years. It truly was a life changing experience. The training business is a huge business with training companies and independent training “experts” almost as prevalent as people who need the training. 

Despite the never ending attempts, in the 100 years of Dale Carnegie Training’s existence not one single company has been able to duplicate the results of the original Dale Carnegie Course.   The design of the course and the incessant training of it’s instructors truly make it a one of a kind program.

Seventeen years after leaving that organization I still can’t recommend their programs enough. One of the books you receive as part of the Dale Carnegie course is of course, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” It is a timeless classic. The 36 principles written about in that book are an answer to almost any situation a person could find themselves in. While the language in the book is quaint and inclusive by today’s standards it’s principles apply today every bit as much as they did in 1936 when the book was first published.

Most everyone has at least heard of “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” It is an incredible book, a great book and one I highly recommend. It is not however, at least in my opinion, the best book Dale Carnegie wrote. That distinction belongs to a far lessor known book entitled “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.” It was first printed in Great Britain in 1948, and remains in print today. 

It provides a priceless set of principles for overcoming worry and stress in our daily lives. To be sure, it doesn’t speak much to the catastrophic events of our lives but to the everyday events that cause the vast majority of the stress in a person’s life.

One of the most impactful concepts is the principle of Living in Daytight Compartments. That principle basically says we should not worry about what happened yesterday and allow no stress over what might happen tomorrow. 

Yesterday is done, we can learn from it but we can’t change it. Any worry and stress we apply to the past is a total and complete waste of time. Fix what must be fixed, apologize to those you may have offended, resolve to not repeat the stress inducing incident again and MOVE ON! 

Your future success and accomplishments will not be found in the past. Successful people plan for the future but they live in the present. They know that dwelling on the past, and worse, dwelling IN the past, will only hinder their future. Worrying about yesterday crushes our enjoyment of today and lessens the likelihood of succeeding tomorrow. 

The vast majority of the things that could happen never will. That includes the vast majority of the things we waste time worrying about. Seriously, there are enough “things” to worry about today that we certainly don’t need to borrow any from tomorrow. 

When you worry about stuff that might happen, could happen, or might not happen you again crush your enjoyment of today. You also limit your critical thinking skills, the very skills you may need to make tomorrow a successful day. 

Worry pays no dividend, it never has and it never will. The better job you do at living in daytight compartments the more likely it will be that you succeed. 

Successful people learn from yesterday, plan for tomorrow and live in today. Focus on where you’re at and what you’re doing today. That is the surest way to eliminate yesterday’s regrets and ensure tomorrow’s joy. 

Live as if today is the most important day of your life and it just may be!