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Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff – A Book Review

don't sweat the small stuff

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Why I hadn’t come across this book sooner I have no idea!  Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff (and It’s All Small Stuff) has sold over 25 million copies!

don't sweat the small stuff book

I was lucky enough for a colleague to lend it to me.  I’m now going to buy myself a copy plus copies for a couple of the important people in my life!

I told my colleague how much I enjoyed the book.  She said “It’s great, isn’t it?  But it is all common sense really!”

She’s right, it is common sense but when you read it you wonder to yourself why we find it so hard to apply.

Related post: Why You Should Read These 3 Self-Improvement Books

What Can  This Powerful Little Book Do For You?

If you ever feel like you live life lurching from one drama to another, then this book is for you.

The book can help you to keep your emotions in check, not get carried away by the drama and appreciate and enjoy life much more.  Essentially, the book teaches you to chill out.

[tweetshare tweet=”Your problem isn’t the problem, it’s your attitude about the problem. – Ann Brashares” username=”alisonw30″]

It is all the more poignant given the author Richard Carlson died suddenly aged only 45 years old.

There definitely isn’t time to sweat the small stuff – life is seriously far too short!

The book offers 100 short chapters.  Perfect to dip into for a shot of wisdom and motivation.


Here are some of my favourite tips from the book’s 100 chapters.


The Snowball Effect


Image by Benoit Hamann from Pixabay

Have you ever noticed how one negative thought leads to another?  And then another?

For example, perhaps you wake up in the middle of the night and remember something you forgot to do.  This then gets you thinking about someone at work which leads to another thought about someone else at work who you aren’t getting along with.

You then start an imaginary conversation in your head with this person in which you tell them exactly what you think of them.  (Tip – if this is you, then don’t ever replay the conversation in reality as I once did 😆)


The trick is to notice at the early stages of one thought leading to another.  Yes, I know this isn’t easy.  I’ve found practising meditation has helped me to nip my thoughts in the bud quickly and before they spiral out of control.

Early on in my meditation career, I realised how many imaginary conversations I was having, and how much these were winding me up!  If I catch myself going down this route, I simply say to myself ‘imaginary conversation, stop’ and this is usually enough to stop the snowball.

Related post: 15 Practical Tips That Will Stop Your Mind Racing

If you’re not a fan of meditation, you could try writing down the thoughts which come into your head during one of these spirals.  Then see if you can identify any patterns or tipping points.   Once you are aware of the thoughts, it makes it easier to say ‘there I go again’ and nip things in the bud.

The book suggests replacing the snowball with gratitude that you remembered whatever it was that started the snowball rolling in the first place!

don't sweat the small stuff


When you Die, your ‘In basket’ Won’t be Empty

This one resonated hugely with me!  I was always stressing that I hadn’t finished everything on my to-do list.  Now I’ve realised that I never will, I feel a lot more relaxed about things!

Richard points out that very little in our work lives is a true emergency.  You will do the important tasks in time.  In the meantime, lock your office door and go and spend time with your friends and family!


Do Something Nice for Someone and Don’t Tell Anyone

Some of the strategies in the book may seem more difficult for you to apply than others.  With this one for example, so far, I’ve failed as I get an overwhelming compulsion to tell someone when I’ve done a good deed!

Richard says that not telling anyone means you keep all the positive feeling from the good deed for yourself.  It doesn’t then get diluted by sharing it.  I’m determined I’m going to do this!


Imagine Everyone is Enlightened Except You

man holding lightbulb

Photo by Fachy Marín on Unsplash

I love this one and have had a bit more success with it than the previous tip!  Instead of seeing someone as an obnoxious idiot, see them as having something to teach you.   Patience perhaps?

Or how about the miserable-looking shop assistant who grunts at you and doesn’t make eye contact?  Perhaps they can teach you compassion – maybe they’ve had an argument with their partner this morning or they truly hate their job.


Experiment With Your Back Burner

Have you ever wrestled with a problem for hours and then the answer has come to you in the shower the next morning?  This is your ‘back burner’ in action!

Richard likens this to cooking a meal.  You mix all the ingredients in a pot and then leave them to simmer.  You need to leave them alone to do this for a period of time for the meal to then be perfect.

He suggests using the same approach with problems – holding them in your mind without analysing them.  (Again, meditation can help with this).

pan on stove

Photo by Jens Johnsson on Unsplash


Resist the Urge to Criticise

This is another tip I admit to finding difficult!  Even if I don’t criticise out loud, I do catch myself being critical or judgemental of others in my thoughts.  Not something I’m particularly proud of, but I know many of us do it!

Richard points out that all this criticism does no good to anyone whatsoever!  Anyone on the receiving end of the criticism is likely to be defensive.  He asks “how many times have you criticised someone and had them respond by saying ‘Thank you so much for pointing out my flaws.  I really appreciate it’.

Hmmm…makes you think doesn’t it?!

He also suggests observing how you feel immediately after criticising someone.  Probably not that great.  As with many of the tips in the book, he suggests catching yourself when you are being critical and stopping it in its tracks.


Just for Fun, Agree with Criticism Directed Toward You

Say what??

Many of us go straight on the defensive if criticism is directed at us.  This is entirely natural but I’m intrigued to try this one as the rest of the chapter title is ‘then watch it go away’.

Think about how you feel when you go on the defensive.  Angry?  Upset?  Anxious?  Not good feelings to have.  Couple this with the fact that being on the defensive is unlikely to get you anywhere and it’s a recipe for disaster.

Richard points out that he isn’t advising us all to become doormats, but advises that simply agreeing with the occasional criticism can defuse the situation.

So, I hope you’ve enjoyed the example tips I’ve shared from the book.

It’s packed with so much more and is definitely worth a read!

I can see it being particularly useful if you are having a rough day.  The chapters are short and easily digestible and you can simply scan the contents page to find something that resonates with your particular situation.  Then you can get to the crux of the advice and implement it rapidly!

Have you read Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff?  What are your favourite tips and strategies from the book?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Don’t forget to share this post with friends who could find it useful too 🙂

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  1. Geraldine

    Sounds like another great book Alison! I really like the idea of thinking that “Imagine Everyone is Enlightened Except You”. It would definitely help with keeping you agitated and thinking too much. It’s so hard not to criticize others but it’s definitely worth to keep trying. Thanks for sharing lovely! <3

    Geraldine | https://geraldinetalks.com

  2. Chloe Chats

    I love the sound of this book, I feel like I need to remind myself constantly at the moment to not worry so much about not finishing my to-do lists, I like the idea of experimenting with your back burner as well, whenever a problem occurs I always freak out straight away, but if I were to stop over-analysing straight away I know I won’t be as stressed!

    Chloe xx

    1. Alison

      I’m using the back burner idea more and more. Even a 5-minute break away from something often helps!

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