More than 50 years ago, 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 The book is a bit outdated now, both in writing style and content, but many of the points Carnegie made are still applicable.
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. That’s 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 misery. But the reality is that failure is not inevitable, even when one is burdened by horrific physical handicaps that cannot be changed. In this regard, three now-deceased people – Ray Charles, Christopher Reeve and Mattie Stepanek – come to mind. Notwithstanding their physical handicaps, all of them found a way to achieve great things in their lifetimes.
Likewise, millions of unknown individuals with serious physical handicaps have found the mental and physical strength to rise above those handicaps and lead meaningful, fulfilling lives. Carnegie’s point was that accepting the reality of their physical handicaps is what makes it possible for such people to move forward.
The challenge, then, is for each of us to determine what is and is not inevitable. Technically speaking, the only thing that is 100 percent inevitable is death. But when you direct your energy away from the inevitability of death, it paves the way for you to focus on constructive living. In other words, the most rational way to deal with the inevitable is to become so focused on a productive life that you don’t have time to think about it.
While death stands alone as the one aspect of life that is truly inevitable, many other things are – shall we say – virtually inevitable … taxation, future terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, and the periodic collapse of the real estate and stock markets, among others. Yet, none of these “inevitabilities” deserves your stress or worry.
Take taxes, for example. Instead of worrying about taxes, you should do everything you can to legally keep your taxes to a minimum, file your tax returns in a timely fashion, and focus your mental and physical energy on making as much money as possible.
You may not like taxes, but the fact remains that the more money you make, the more money you net after taxes. Thus, worry and stress over taxes is counterproductive, because it distracts you from getting on with doing the very things you need to do to increase your income.
Future terrorist attacks on U.S. soil? This is a nasty fact of life and certainly a legitimate concern. By all means, you should be prepared and take reasonable precautions to protect your family. But it’s important to go about living your life, just as the Israelis have learned to do in the face of the inevitability of homicide bombings.
It also helps to keep terrorism in perspective. As horrific as 9-11 was, nearly 15 times as many people die in automobile accidents every year than in the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
As to real estate and stock market crashes, the reality is that with or without government interference, both will continue to occur periodically. They are an important aspect of capitalism, because they bring prices in line with reality. (With communism, of course, all markets are in a permanent state of collapse.) Accepting the inevitability of real estate and stock market collapses makes it much more likely that you will make rational decisions when it comes to financial planning.
It’s also instructive to recognize that the Hubble telescope project has proven that there is an invisible source of power in the universe greater than the gravitational pull of all matter in the universe combined. The relevance of this is that most perceived problems can be overcome by tapping into this Universal Power Source.
And if it’s possible to tap into an infinite source of power, then stress is an unnecessary state of mind. After all, how can one believe he is connected to an infinite source of power and simultaneously be stressed? This is not about religion. Anyone – whether he be a religionist or atheist – has the same human potential for tapping into the Universal Power Source.
Finally, exerting mental energy to worry about the inevitable makes no sense. If something is inevitable, there’s nothing you can do about it. And if there’s nothing you can do about it, what’s the point in worrying?
A better idea is to invest your mental and physical energy in 2007 thinking about how to be the best parent you can possibly be, the best child you can possibly be, the best sibling you can possibly be, and the best friend you can possibly be.
A tall order, to be sure. But to the extent you fill that order in the coming year, that other little issue we worry so much about – financial success – somehow works itself out without our having to fret and stew about it.
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