Disclaimer: The idea behind this writing is taken directly from Dale Carnegie’s book titled ‘How to Stop Worrying and Start Living’. If you have time, discard reading this short blog and read the book instead. It is way better. If you don’t have time for the book, then you may give this a read.

For the financially astute amongst us, they know what a stop-loss order is. For those who do not fall into this category, let me explain it in simple terms. When dealing with stocks of a company, there is a chance of both profit and loss. Some stocks are more volatile than others. Prices can fluctuate in double-digit percentages in a short time. You are at risk of losing a lot of money (or making it).

To make the situation a bit better, you have a way of limiting your loss using the stop-loss order. You set a pre-defined amount and if your stock goes below it, it automatically sells. So, if you buy a stock for $50 and put a stop-loss order at $40, you can never go in a loss of more than $10. Isn’t that genius? You limit the loss to what you are comfortable with.

Now that we know what a stop-loss order is, can’t we apply the same to our everyday worries?

We are all guilty of worrying about a small thing out of proportion. When we worry, we trade in (read: lose) our time for trying to find a way out of the problem. And what’s the worst part? Most of the time, the problem is out of our hands and there is absolutely nothing we are capable of doing. So in short, we are trading our valuable time to accomplish absolutely nothing.

Here’s where the stop-loss order comes into play. You tell yourself how much of your time is a problem worth worrying about. And that is the most amount of time you will spend on it. Nothing more. You will be limiting your loss (time) based on how important an issue is.

It might look difficult to implement when faced with real-life troubles but let me break it down further into three simple, manageable steps.

  1. Ask yourself ‘What is the worst that can possibly happen?’ BUT be logical.
  2. Prepare to accept it if you have to.
  3. Proceed to improve on the worst. If you can’t improve on it, then you set a stop-loss order at that instant. It isn’t worth worrying about it if it can’t be fixed.

Let’s discuss this in light of an everyday problem. You leave for work on a Friday morning and are half an hour into the drive with an hour still to go. You suddenly realize that you forgot to check your tires this morning- a practice you have been religiously following for the past years. Now, you start to get a little worried. What if my tires go flat? Will I survive the accident?

While you are thinking, you see the sky turning black. The radio tells you that it is going to start raining heavily for the next hour. This all adds to your initial worry. You think about stopping but you can’t- you are on the interstate. You think about taking the next exit and stopping at the gas station but with the rain on the way, you will probably be late to work. You already are not on so good terms with your boss and that might add a dent to your image.

You decide to take the risk and continue driving. You have all these negative thoughts going through your head. You make it safe to work all worried and check the tires the instant you get off the car. The tires sure are in perfect condition. But now you suddenly realize that while on the way to work you were supposed to make an important phone call which you totally forgot.

Seems like a legit everyday source of worry?

Now let’s apply the three steps to it and see if we benefit from using them.

When you realize your mistake of forgetting to check the tires this morning, you think of what is the worst that can possibly happen. Using a simple law of averages you can work out that there is almost a zero chance of them being below-par and leading to an accident. But still there is a slight chance, no? Well, there is. But there are various other factors for an accident and those are probably more likely.

Even if this isn’t enough to stop worrying about it, you go to the second step and assume the worst that can happen which is one of the tires bursting or going flat leading to the car overturning. Now, you start to think of what you can do to improve the worst case scenario. Well, you can take the next exit and stop and check the tires or you can take the risk. Those are really the only two options you have.

If you don’t decide to stop, then that is you putting a stop-loss order on your worry. You have realized that the chance of the worst happening is little to none and so there is no use to worry about it. And so, you drive to work calmly and make that important phone call on the way.

But, if you do decide to stop to check, that is okay too. Many of us have to see to believe. But even in such a scenario you have to be aware of the fact that it will probably make you late to work and weigh if it is worth it. If it is, then what do you have to worry about? You stopped for a few minutes to keep your life safe which is far more important than you showing up a few minutes earlier to the office. And after checking the tires, you are now calm and make that important phone call.

So you see, these three steps are really what we should all be doing logically in every bad situation but we often forget. It might not work in every situation but for the most of the everyday issues that we face, they can be easily tackled using them and that is what we should target at first.

If you can stop worrying and start living life even a percent more than you currently are, that will make a ton of difference down the line. So, start with putting a stop-loss order to just one worry a day and see where it takes you. It definitely is worth experimenting with!