THE BLOG
04/15/2014 05:13 pm ET Updated Jun 15, 2014

Don't Saw the Sawdust

I just finished reading a book written by Dale Carnegie in 1944 on how not to worry. I picked up the book and then immediately worried that I wouldn't get anything out of it, since it was written so long ago. (See what I did there?)

To my surprise and delight, this book was completely relevant to life today, as people have been worrying since well before 1944 and will likely worry about things well past 2014.

One of the gems that I picked up from this book was the principle of not sawing the sawdust. Have you ever sawed wood? You saw, the wood gets cut, and then you use the wood for something. Ever sawed sawdust? No? You know why? Because there's no point to it! What purpose would it serve? It would be a colossal waste of time.

Worrying about things that have already happened is also a colossal waste of time! Worrying about yesterday is about as productive as sawing the sawdust. You can't go back and change anything that you did yesterday. For that matter, you can't even change what you did two minutes ago! Once it's done, it's done, and worrying about something that has passed is a waste of energy.

Now, I by nature am a worrier; which is why I bought the book. I worry about everybody and everything. But I have started to realize how ridiculous this is because most of the things I worry about are things that I have absolutely no control over, or worse yet... I worry about stuff that has already passed.

And I don't just worry about what happened yesterday, or the day before, or the day before that... I worry about things that happened 10 years ago! If Monday morning quarterbacking was an Olympic sport, I'd be a gold medalist for sure!

Here's the thing: Life is short, people are busy, people get sick, people even die, bills have to be paid, kids have to be fed, and we have to earn a living. There is war in the world, and poverty, and disease, we might be successful, we might fall on our faces, we are not guaranteed a tomorrow. There are all kinds of things to worry about; but what good does it do? All we have is right here, and right now. So why spend the right here and right now worrying about something that has already passed us by or worrying about something that might not even happen?

Some of the most traumatic moments of my life have taken place in my head and have never come to fruition. I have dreamed up some terrific conflicts in my head, have created some of the most dramatic incidents and accidents the world has never seen, and come up with the worst possible outcomes to everyday moments.

Once I stopped doing that, I realized that my life wasn't nearly as drama-filled as I imagined, and, most of the horrible things that I feared had never actually come to pass. Life is much simpler when you focus on what's happening today without regret for the past or fear of the future.

STOP SAWING THE SAWDUST! Start living and enjoying each moment in the present. Plan, prepare, and know that nothing is perfect... but stop worrying; especially about the past... it has passed.