I know, I know, reading self help books is so lame. But when was the last time you paid attention to your psychological well-being?
This is a book I kept highlighting, and couldn’t put down. It is a book that made my subway trip to work a little less stressful, and a lot more enjoyable. It’s a psychological massage every time I turn on my kindle. By the time I reached my destination, I felt lighter, calmer and more peaceful.
Admittedly, I encountered this book at a special time of my life, when I made the conscious decisions to "stop being a drifter", and when I was struggling with challenges that were initially regarded as "someone else’s fault". There is no way one single book would have the power to turn your world upside down, but if you finish a book feeling a little wiser, the time is well spent.
A little background about the book:
It was a best seller almost 2 decades ago. It had been published in 135 countries, and inspired millions of people. But given the few short reviews here on Douban, hopefully my two cents could be taken as a reference for those who are also looking for self-improvement books.
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff was structurally concise. It gave away all the essence in the beginning of the book, and continued elaborating on each point with the author’s experiences and relatable stories from friends and family. There are 100 theories and strategies, and the following five key points are what I found particularly enlightening to myself.
1. Don’t seek for approval.
In the author Richard Carlson’s words, praise and blame are all the same. "If I listen to criticism, I'd quit on day one." Jeff Goins stated on his own Podcast. If you take a closer look, those who criticize and those who give constructive feedback are always two different groups of people. It’s so easy to pick and poke, but as long as people who give criticism didn’t put in the blood, sweat, and tears like you did, their opinions don’t matter.
2. Bad mood shall pass.
It’s almost cliché to say time heals all, but some of us are still struggling with bad mood. Bad mood is an unavoidable human condition that will pass with time. Every thought and every emotion you ever had started, finished, and they will all eventually replaced by another. "Be grateful when you are feeling good, graceful when you are feeling bad." It takes time to practice, but as someone who have bad PMS almost every month, it definitely provides me with enough exercises:P Another strategy Carlson suggested was to think about “will this matter one year from now?” The mentality works well on some matters.
3. Choose your battles wisely.
Carlson used the "ball-catching" metaphor – when someone reach out to you for their own issues, or push you for certain tasks, it’s like throwing a ball at you. It is your choice to catch or avoid the ball. It is not to say to be unforthcoming with others concerns, but we have limited amount of capability to deal with frustrations and stress, we need to choose our battles wisely. Plus relaxation and creativity go hand in hand, is it big enough to sacrifice your creativity?
4. Present-moment Oriented
"Life is what’s happening while we’re busy making other plans." It is the usual mentality to believe you would be so happy if you have this designer bag/a bigger house/lose 10 kilos. In order to get there, a little sacrifice of now is okay. But once we achieve the goal, our immediate reaction was: what’s next? That’s why writers were asked about what would happen if they can never write a best seller like the last one, and directors were asked what’s their next project?
In this book, Carlson talked about what truly make us happy: "Do something good to others without telling anyone." "Make service an integral part of your life." "When in doubt about whose turn it is to take out the trash, go ahead and take it out." "When in an argument, try to see the other point of view first." Etc.
5. Learn to be grateful.
Carson suggested that we should stay focused on the beauty of life by spending a moment every day thinking of someone to thank. We spend too much time gossiping and criticizing other people’s issues, but are they really worth your time? Do you really want to talk about other people’s lives on your limited time with friends and family? Instead find someone you are thankful for, write them a letter on how much you appreciate that person. It might be difficult to take the first step, but once you open that gate, it should be easy.
I talked to one of my best friends Chloe about this, and she agreed to write me a heart-felt letter. I’m still waiting for that letter, Chloe.
Here are a few other great tips given by the author:
Notice your stress early, before it gets out of hand.
Give others the benefit of doubt. Everyone might be fighting a battle.
Do not try to prove you are right, or how capable you are.
Silence your inner critic.
Expect things will go wrong.
Agree with criticism, just for fun. (Then watch it go away)
Wherever you go, there you are.
Count to ten, if you are still angry, count to twenty-five.
Those obstacles were your life.
You become what you practice the most.So practice more.
Stop blaming others. It takes an enormous amount of energy.
Let your friend have the satisfaction of being right.
It was saddening to discover that Dr. Richard Carlson suffered from a pulmonary embolism on a flight in 2006 and passed away. His book had inspired me and many others around the globe, and his words and stories will live on forever. May he rest in peace.