Richard Carlson’s Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff book series literally changed my life.

After 9 years of living in the US, I moved back home to India in April 2011. At my farewell lunch, I asked my mentor Stuart Berlin for parting words of wisdom. “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff”, he replied instantly.

These words resonated well with me. Letting small stuff ruin my life was a favorite pastime of mine. I still keep in touch with this hobby every now and then. “Of course, you know the second part of the advice”, Stu continued. I confessed I didn’t.

“It’s all small stuff”
Wow. This was mind-blowing.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff started my self-transformation journey. I got my hands on other books in the series:

  • Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff at Work
  • Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff in Love
  • Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff Workbook
  • Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff for Men
  • Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff for Teens (!)

Here are some lessons from the books that stayed with me

1 — Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Appears in the book: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

It is amazing how people blow things out of proportion. All the time.

I know I’ve been a routine offender. I still plead guilty sometimes. The good news is I’ve reduced the number of occasions I make a mountain out of a molehill.

“Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” is powerful advice that comes handy all the time.

2 — Don’t Go There

Appears in the book: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff at Work

Richard Carlson’s married friend told him he was thinking of having an affair.

Richard Carlson simply said “Don’t go there”.

These simple words carry great power. Carlson’s friend did not have the affair and saved his marriage.

The words “Don’t Go There” have immense power.

Human beings are lemming-like — we have a tendency to self-sabotage. We know we are sabotaging ourselves, yet we can’t stop ourselves.

In those circumstances, the words “Don’t Go There” can potentially stop us from committing the act of self-sabotage.

3 — What Gives You the Right to Speak This Way?

Appears in the book: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff at Work

Richard Carlson recounts a real-life incident from a television producer.

The television producer had purchased an expensive new car. He dropped his car off in a car wash. It was expensive, the producer was prepared to pay the big bucks for his brand-new car.

When he went to collect the car, he noticed that the car wash hadn’t cleaned the dog hair from the trunk. The producer was furious. He berated the attendant and demanded to speak to the manager. He proceeded to yell angrily at the manager as well.

The manager calmly told the producer that he would personally clean up the dog hair. He then proceeded to ask a question that changed the life of this producer:

What gives you the right to speak to me, or anyone else, in this way?

The producer was shocked. He saw that the manager was correct — a poor service did not give him the right to speak angrily.

Carlson tells us that the producer proceeded to live the rest of the life remembering this life lesson.

I resonate deeply with this lesson yet fail to apply it.

One of my life goals is to successfully apply this lesson — to recognize that the other person’s transgression does not give me the right to behave badly.

4 — Accept What Is

Appears in the book: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

We want life to be a certain way.

Life often turns out differently.

The result: Disappointment. Disillusionment. Frustration. Trauma. Depression.

Richard Carlson gives a simple looking antidote. Accept the situation as it is. Don’t insist on getting your way all the time. When we practice being flexible and accepting situations as they are, the invisible burden we carry goes away.

I admit, this is easier said than done.

We don’t lose anything by working on strengthening our acceptance muscle.

We have everything to gain.

5 — Consider That the Grass Probably Isn’t Greener

Appears in the book: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff in Love

“Did I marry the right person?”

“Could I have done better?”

Some people experience these questions when they get married. These questions are the perfect recipes to court disaster.

Timing is everything.

These questions are great before you get married. You want to do your due diligence to make sure you’re marrying well.

Once you get married, your job is to give your heart and soul into the marriage, and shower your partner with love (see next point).

“I could have married a better person.”

Guess what? Your spouse could have married a better person as well.

6 — Turn Up the Heat

Appears in the book: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff at Work

Richard and Kristene Carlson encourage couples to shower their partner with love. They exhort couples to turn up the heat in the metaphorical thermostat.

Most marriages witness the opposite scenario. Couples demand the world from each other. Their entitlement levels are high. Consequently, they don’t shower love on their partner.

What if you shower the love first, even if your partner is entitled or demanding?

Don’t underestimate the power of love.

The Carlsons give couples a much-needed reminder.

A reminder that can save a shaky marriage and light up every marriage.

7 — Understand Separate Realities

Appears in the book: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

You and I look at the world with different lenses.

Though we see the same things, your takeaway can be completely different from mine.

Couples fail to recognize this. They want their partners to see the world as they do. They, of course, don’t see things from their partner’s perspective.

Is it any wonder that so many marriages fail?

Richard Carlson asks his readers to understand separate realities — my world and your world are poles apart.

Admittedly, this will take some practice.

The improved relationships will be well worth the effort.

8 — Practice Yoga and Meditation

Appears in the book: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

I was practicing neither yoga nor meditation when I read Carlson’s recommendations.

I now practice both. I find the practices highly rewarding.

Yoga cured me of my chronic sinus condition. It has made me more flexible.

Meditation helped me increase my focus.

If you don’t practice yoga or meditation, give them a try — they can change your life.

Bonus — It’s All Small Stuff

What if everything in life is small stuff?

What if we build so much resilience that nothing shakes us?

Wouldn’t that be a spectacular way to live?

That seems like a goal worth aiming for.

I, for one, would consider my life a success if I can say “It’s all small stuff.”

Image Credit: Carlson LLC