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Worrying makes you cross the bridge before
you come to it
By Harvey Mackay
Recently I saw a survey that says 40 percent of the things we worry
about never happen, 30 percent are in the past and can't be helped,
12 percent concern the affairs of others that aren't our business,
10 percent are about sickness--either real or imagined-- and 8
percent are worth worrying about. I would submit that even the 8
percent aren't really worth the energy of worry.
Did you know that the English word worry is derived from an
Anglo-Saxon word that means to strangle or to choke? That's easy to
believe. People do literally worry themselves to death. . . or heart
disease, high blood pressure, ulcers, nervous disorders and all
sorts of other nasty conditions. Is it worth it?
Some folks seem to think this is a '90s phenomenon, but I've got
news for you: advice about worry goes back as far as the Bible. We
didn't invent it. We just need to find a way to keep it from ruling
I've been spending a lot of time in bookstores lately, in the middle
of a 35-city book tour. From one coast to the other, north to south,
some of the most popular self-help books concern worry, stress, and
simplifying your life. I have a couple of favorite books to
First, an oldie. Dale Carnegie's "How To Stop Worrying and Start
Living." It was first published in 1948, but the advice is just as
fresh and valuable as it was then and is right-on for the new
millennium. Being a chronic list maker, I found two sections that
really knocked my socks off. Both were about business people trying
to solve problems without the added burden of worrying. Carnegie
credits Willis H. Carrier, whose name appears on most of our air
conditioners, with these silver bullets:
Analyze the situation honestly and figure out what is the worst
possible thing that could happen.
Prepare yourself mentally to accept the worst, if necessary.
Then calmly try to improve upon the worst, which you have already
agreed mentally to accept.
Bingo! You can handle anything now. You know what you have to do;
it's just a matter of doing it. Without worrying.
Another approach I like is a system put into practice at a large
publishing company by an executive, named Leon. He was sick and
tired of boring and unproductive meetings marked by excessive
hand-wringing. He enforced a rule that everyone who wished to
present a problem to him first had to submit a memo answering these
What's the problem?
What's the cause of the problem?
What are all possible solutions to the problem?
Which solution do you suggest?
Leon rarely has to deal with problems anymore, and he doesn't worry
about them. He's found that his associates have used the system to
find workable solutions without tying up hours in useless meetings.
He estimates that he has eliminated three-fourths of his meeting
time and has improved his productivity, health and happiness. Is he
just passing the buck? Of course not! He's paying those folks to do
their jobs, and he's giving them great training at decision-making.
Another little gem that's made its way to a #1 New York Times
bestseller is Richard Carlson's "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff, and
it's all small stuff." Of course, being an aphorism junkie and slave
to short snappy chapters, I've found this book can improve
perspective in 100 small doses. I love the chapter titles: "Repeat
to Yourself, 'Life Isn't an Emergency,'" "Practice Ignoring Negative
Thoughts," and my favorite, "Let Go of the Idea that Gentle, Relaxed
People Can't Be Superachievers."
The point is, you can't saw sawdust. A day of worry is more
exhausting than a day of work. People get so busy worrying about
yesterday or tomorrow, they forget about today. And today is what
you have to work with.
I remember the story of the fighter who, after taking the full count
in a late round of a brawl, finally came to in the dressing room. As
his head cleared and he realized what had happened, he said to his
manager: "Boy, did I have him worried. He thought he killed me."
Now that's putting the worry where it belongs.
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