Dating / Marriage / Parenting / Relationships / Special Needs Parenting

Summary of “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff and it’s all Small Stuff”

“Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff and It’s All Small Stuff” is a phenomenal book that gives practical tips on how to decrease your anxiety without taking medication. It is an incredible book. I would recommend it to anyone. This book could also be called “how to be happily married” and “how to have great relationships with anyone”.

I listened to this book the first time I read it. And I highly recommend that you listen to it because the author reads it himself. He has a really mellow, peaceful, relaxing voice and it really adds to the principles he is trying to teach: namely, how to have a peaceful, joyful life and decrease your anxiety.

Dr. Richard Carlson gives 100 good tips for decreasing anxiety and achieving peace and joy in life. It’s not that he is against medication. Medication is definitely great for some people. But here are some tips for decreasing your anxiety without medication.

100 tips for living a peaceful life and decreasing anxiety:

  1. Don’t sweat the small stuff. And guess what? It’s all small stuff. Most of the things that we worry and stress over all day long don’t even matter in the long run. So realizing that is powerful and can help you relax.
  2. Make peace with imperfection. No perfectionist is ever going to achieve inner peace and have low anxiety. Let go of your need for things to be perfect. Try to accept and love things as they are – which is always imperfect.
  3. Let go of the idea that gentle, relaxed people can’t be superachievers. They can. You can be a peaceful, relaxed person and still reach all your goals and achieve a ton in your career and family.
  4. Be aware of the snowball effect of your thinking. One negative thought can easily lead to more and more, so try to catch yourself and stop the snowball. Just tell yourself: “Here I go again. Nothing to worry about.”
  5. Develop Your Compassion. Developing compassion for other people and their problems helps you to stop obsessing over your own problems. It gives you more gratitude and perspective.
  6. Remind yourself that when you die, your in-basket will not be empty. There is always more things to do. So try to find peace even when you still have things to do. Don’t wait to be happy whenever you have finished everything on your list.
  7. Don’t interrupt others or finish their sentences. This will allow others to feel heard. They won’t feel like you are in a hurry to say what you want to say. People will love it if you stop interrupting them. It will also help you be more peaceful.
  8. Do something nice for someone else – and Don’t tell anyone about it. Telling someone else about it feeds our egos – which diminishes a part of the good feelings from doing something nice. So don’t tell anyone about it so that you will eventually become a super self-less person.
  9. Let others have the glory. Let other people have the glory of their egos. Everyone wants to feel special and important. When someone shares something, don’t respond with something wonderful you have done too. Just let the other person have the glory. You are giving them a precious gift – rejoicing with them in the good things THEY have done.
  10. Learn to live in the present moment. The present moment is all you have. Mark Twain said that “I have been through some terrible things in my life – some of which actually happened.” Don’t allow your brain to dwell on what happened in the past or what will happen in the future. Just bring it back to the present because the present is all you really have.
  11. Imagine that everyone is enlightened except you. This principle teaches you to try and see what others can teach you. Many people can teach you to be incredibly patient and long-suffering just because they are so annoying.
  12. Let others be “right’ most of the time. Allow other people to believe that they are right. Nobody likes to be told that they are wrong. So just let other people believe that they are right.
  13. Become more patient. In whatever situation you find yourself – in a traffic jam or late for an appointment, try slow breathing in and out and learn how to be more patient. Try to see the innocence in others and that they are not deliberately trying to annoy you.
  14. Create “Patience Practice Periods”. Practice being patient. See if you can be patient for 10 minutes. Then try for 15 minutes.
  15. Be the first to act loving or reach out. Oftentimes, we hold onto grudges or little grievance and make the “small stuff” into really “big stuff” in our minds. We want the other person to reach out and apologize first before we will forgive them. If you want to be peaceful and happy, be the person to reach out first. Let go and forgive, even if they don’t apologize. You will be happy that you did.
  16. Ask yourself the question: “Will this matter a year from now?” For most everything, the answer is no. So don’t worry about it too much. Asking yourself this question will help you be more peaceful and loving.
  17. Surrender to the fact that Life isn’t Fair. Life is not fair. Just accept this. If you accept that life is not fair, then you won’t be mad when things don’t go your way. You won’t be mad when other people seem to have it better than you do. You will just accept that everything bad in your life is here to teach you how to be a better person.
  18. Allow yourself to be bored. Spend time each day not doing anything. Be bored. Often we get way too busy. Our minds needs a rest. This is a great time to practice meditation!
  19. Lower your tolerance for stress. Most people feel like they need to develop the ability to handle more and more stress. Heightening their tolerance for stress. But Dr. Carlson recommends the opposite. Lower your tolerance for stress. See how not stressed you can be. Simplify your life as much as possible.
  20. Once a week, write a heart-felt letter. Write a thank you letter to someone each week. This will direct your mind towards the good and being grateful.
  21. Imagine yourself at your own funeral. Most people at the end of their lives wish that they had spent more time with the things that really matter and less time worrying about the little things that don’t matter. So imagining that you are at your own funeral can be a good exercise in analyzing your life and helping you focus on what is most important.
  22. Repeat to yourself: “Life isn’t an emergency.” Most of us turn little things into big emergencies and heap a lot of unnecessary stress and anxiety upon ourselves to get things done. Cut yourself some slack. You don’t need to meet all your goals. You don’t need to hurry yourself to death. Does that house have to be totally clean all the time? Does your boss need that one thing right this moment or can it wait? Try to remember that most of life isn’t really an emergency.
  23. Experiment with your back burner. Using your back burner means letting your unconscious mind solve problems while you are busy doing something else. You can tell your brain to work on problem while you are busy enjoying the present moment. Just tell yourself “Hmm…I don’t have a solution for that problem yet, but here are all the facts and variables, so brain – keep thinking on it and let me know when you have a solution.” With this method, you don’t have to stress out right this moment trying to find a solution. Sometimes the best solutions come when you stop actively thinking about the problem and focus on other things. Your back burner brain is still working on the problem and the solutions will manifest themselves when ready.
  24. Spend a moment every day thinking of someone to thank. Gratitude and inner peace (the opposite of anxiety) go hand in hand. The more grateful you are for everything in your life, the less anxious you will feel. It is so easy to slip into different forms of negativity: taking the people in your life for granted, and feeling resentful and frustrated. The first thing that goes when you slip into negativity is gratitude. So when you are feeling stressed, take a moment to think of someone to thank.
  25. Smile at strangers, Look into their eyes, and say Hello. Dr. Carlson believes that there is always a parallel between our attitude towards strangers and our overall level of happiness. It is hard to be happy and content when you think badly about all the people around you. Try to see them as fellow humans – with families, concerns, dreams, and sorrows.
  26. Set aside quiet time, every day. With the noise and bustle and confusion of everyday life, we need to set aside some time to be quiet and still. This helps us to center ourselves again – to process emotions and thoughts and then intentionally choose how we want to think and feel. You can get quiet time by waking up early. Or you can simply pull off the road for a few minutes on your way home from work to sit and breathe. Whatever you do, make time to be quiet.
  27. Imagine the people in your life as tiny infants and as one hundred year old adults. Think of someone that really annoys you. Try to imagine that person as a tiny infant. Zoom in on all of their little features and tiny innocent eyes. Then fast forward a hundred years and imagine this person as a very old person that is about to die. Look at their worn out eyes and imagine all that they have lived through. Doing this exercise will help you release the negativity you have towards that person and will give you proper perspective.
  28. Seek first to understand. This is the first great principle of effective communication. If you try to get the other person to understand your opinions first, then it doesn’t work. But if you seek first to really understand THEM, then them understanding you naturally follows second. This principle can solve many relationship problems. For example, a couple didn’t understand why the one person wanted to save every penny and why the other person wanted to spend. They fought and fought about it. But when they took time to understand each other, then they were filled with compassion for how the other person saw the world and were able to compromise.
  29. Become a better listener. This means really listening to the ENTIRE message someone is trying to convey before jumping in with your thoughts and opinions. Slow down and take time to really listen to the people around you. Ask clarifying questions. Don’t worry about them understanding you, just seek to understand them.
  30. Choose your battles wisely.
  31. Become aware of your moods and don’t allow yourself to be fooled by the low ones. Don’t worry about your low moods. Everyone has low and high moods. When we are in a low mood, everything seems awful. When we are in a high mood, no one can make us upset. Expect low moods and don’t worry too much about them. They will pass. And definitely don’t try to solve ALL your perceived problems during a low mood.
  32. Life is a test. It is only a test. The things that happen here don’t really matter. It is just a test of your patience and endurance.
  33. Praise and Blame are all the same. Whether someone praises you or criticizes you, it is all the same. It tells you about the other person. It doesn’t mean anything about you. Are they the type of person that can see the good in people or do they have to criticize?
  34. Practice random acts of kindness.
  35. Look beyond behavior.
  36. See the innocence.
  37. Choose being kind over being right.
  38. Tell three people (today) how much you love them.
  39. Practice humility. Don’t brag about your accomplishments. You will find a sense of inner peace if you don’t brag and talk about yourself.
  40. When in doubt about whose turn it is to take out the trash, go ahead and take it out.
  41. Avoid weather-proofing. Weather proofing people means always looking for other people’s faults. This sort of behavior ruins good relationships. Everyone has faults. Just accept that and stop trying to fix the other people in your life.
  42. Spend a moment, every day, thinking of someone to love.
  43. Become an anthropologist. Be an anthropologist when thinking about other people. Ask yourself “I wonder why they do that?” Be interested and curious, not judgmental.
  44. Understand Separate Realities. Expect other people to see things differently.
  45. Develop your own helping rituals.
  46. Every day, tell a least one person something you like, admire, or appreciate about them.
  47. Argue for your limitations, and they’re yours. Your mind will try to find evidence for your thoughts. So if you think “I’m not good at this” then your brain will look for evidence for that and it will happen.
  48. Remember that Everything has God’s fingerprints on it.
  49. Resist the urge to criticize.
  50. Write down your five most stubborn positions and see if you can soften them.
  51. Just for fun, Agree with criticism directed toward you (then watch it go away). If someone says, “You are such a selfish person”, instead of getting mad at them, try agreeing with them. (You probably are a little selfish, aren’t we all?) When you agree with criticism directed towards you, it immediately solves the problem. There is no fight because you both agree. And it helps you be humble.
  52. Search for the grain of truth in other opinions. Usually there is a little truth to other people’s opinions. Searching for that grain helps you to be more respectful of them.
  53. See the glass as already broken (and everything else too).
  54. Understand the statement: “Wherever You go, there you are”.
  55. Breathe before you speak. Take a breath before you speak during a conversation. Let the other person feel heard. Don’t just jump into your opinions after they are done speaking.
  56. Be grateful when you’re feeling good and graceful when you’re feeling bad.
  57. Become a less aggressive driver. Don’t drive aggressively. You will not get there any sooner and it fills you with stress. Instead, take driving as a time to relax, think, or listen to an audio book.
  58. Relax
  59. Adopt a child through the mail.
  60. Turn your melodrama into a mellow-drama. When you are tempted to make small things into big drama, think: “Here I go again. My soap opera is starting.” Laugh at yourself and remember to avoid drama.
  61. Read articles and books with entirely different points of view from your own and try to learn something.
  62. Do one thing at a time. Don’t multi-task.
  63. Count to ten.
  64. Practice being in the “eye of the storm”.
  65. Be flexible with changes in your plans.
  66. Think of what you have instead of what you want.
  67. Practice ignoring your negative thoughts. Bat them away like flies.
  68. Be willing to learn from friends and family.
  69. Be happy where you are.
  70. Remember that you become what you practice most.
  71. Quiet the mind.
  72. Take up yoga.
  73. Make service an integral part of your life.
  74. Do a favor, and don’t ask for, or expect one in return.
  75. Think of your problems as potential teachers.
  76. Get comfortable not knowing.
  77. Acknowledge the totality of your being.
  78. Cut yourself some slack.
  79. Stop blaming others.
  80. Become an early riser.
  81. When trying to be helpful, focus on the little things.
  82. Remember one hundred years from now, all new people
  83. Lighten up
  84. Nurture a plant.
  85. Transform your relationship to your problems.
  86. The next time you find yourself in an argument, rather than defend your position, see if you can see the other point of view first.
  87. Redefine a “meaningful accomplishment”.
  88. Listen to your feelings (they are trying to tell you something).
  89. If someone throws you the ball, you don’t have to catch it.
  90. One more passing show.
  91. Fill your life with love.
  92. Realize the power of your own thoughts.
  93. Give up on the idea that more is better.
  94. Keep asking yourself: “What’s really important?”
  95. Trust your intuitive heart.
  96. Be open to what is.
  97. Mind your own business.
  98. Look for the extraordinary in the ordinary.
  99. Schedule time for your inner work.
  100. Live this day as if it were your last. It might be! You never know when you are going to die. It could be today. It could be tomorrow. Most people if they knew today was their last day, would live life a little differently. They would put aside the small things that don’t matter and they would spend time with the people they love most. They would tell people that they love and appreciate them. Do those things today.

Overall, I thought this book was amazing. For me, it gives some really practical ways to develop patience, love, and inner peace. I am going to be reading this book OVER and OVER again, working on one new thing each time.


  • dhananjay gade
    May 26, 2021 at 12:06 pm

    hey my name is dhananjay i’m from india

    first of all thank you so much for saving my time.
    i already read this book last year but now in india is under lockdown
    so i thought i should read this book again but i thought i should check summary
    and thank god i got your site luckily i got everything what i want
    thanks again
    dhananjay gade

    • Sage Allen, MS
      June 29, 2021 at 6:39 pm

      You are so welcome!


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