Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff
Richard Carlson offers 100 meditations crafted to keep your emotions in check, cherish family and friends, and deeply appreciate your life.

The Big Ideas!

  • People often overreact to life’s problems, which creates stress and makes the problems more difficult to deal with.
  • We can learn to view life from a different perspective that will help us relax and make our problems seem more manageable and our lives more peaceful.
  • We can learn to be more patient, compassionate, generous, grateful, and kind, all of which will improve the way we feel about ourselves and the way that other people feel when they are around us.
  • We don’t need to take radical steps to learn these things. We can take small steps by practicing small actions or ways of thinking.
  • Cultivating these qualities will bring peace into our lives.

Neutrino’s Nutshell

The author, Richard Carlson, who was a stress counselor before he became a best-selling author, takes concepts that are often associated with spirituality or with being a virtuous person – generosity, gratitude, meditation, loving-kindness, and awareness of mortality – and shows how they can be used as tools to reduce stress and increase enjoyment of life.

The author believes that people tend to overreact to problems, turning life into one emergency after another. Not only is it stressful to live this way, but it’s not even a good problem-solving strategy. Carlson believes that we can learn to look at life from a different perspective, which will melt stress and bring new joy to life.

This way of life can be summed up as a two-part rule, which is stated in the book’s title: (1) Don’t sweat the small stuff, and (2) It’s all small stuff. In other words, when you look at life from the perspective of what matters the most, problems will shrink down to their true size and become more manageable.

The book contains 100 short chapters, each of which is one to three pages long. Every chapter contains a specific strategy to help you “respond to life more gracefully.”

It gives practical suggestions for dealing with life’s everyday frustrations, such as kids interrupting your work, traffic jams, waiting in line, to-do lists that never get completed, boredom, arguments, low moods, other people acting badly, and changes in your plans,

The strategies involve specific ways of letting go of things you don’t need, such as the desire for perfection and taking yourself too seriously, and ways to adopt new habits that will generate peacefulness, such as choosing your battles, feeling and expressing appreciation, and cultivating loving-kindness.


The first step in becoming a more peaceful person is to have the humility to admit that, in most cases, you’re creating your own emergencies. Life will usually go on if things don’t go according to plan.”

(IMEO) In My Eudaimonian Opinion

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff may not tell you much you haven’t heard before, especially if you’ve already read similar books or magazine articles. When it comes to learning stress-relieving techniques, however, what you know is often less important than what you are able to put into practice…

What Carlson does that is so effective is break the knowledge down into bite-sized pieces. Each short chapter stands alone as a single self-contained exercise, written in crystal-clear, simple, and inspiring language. You could pick up the book at any time and select one of the chapters at random, or you could work through the book methodically, working on one chapter per day or per week. Each individual exercise seems simple, but each one could have a profound effect on your life. The cumulative effect is even stronger, as the exercises reinforce and build on each other. There’s a reason this book has been a perennial best-seller.

Take action, humanoid!

While Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff is written for adults, many of the exercises could be adapted for kids, either at home or in the classroom:

1. Close your eyes and think about someone you love. Take three deep breaths. Make a wish that the person you are thinking of has a day that is filled with love.

2. Next time you are talking on the phone, when the other person is talking, notice how much you are listening to what the other person is saying and how much you are thinking about what you are going to say next. Try focusing more on what the other person is saying.

3. A variation of this is noticing whether you are interrupting the other person and finishing the other person’s sentences. Make a conscious effort to let the other person finish what he or she has to say before you start to speak.

Here are a couple just for adults:

4. When driving in traffic, make a conscious decision not to drive aggressively. Think, instead, of the time you spend driving as a time to breathe and relax.

5. When dealing with a problem, ask yourself if it will matter 100 years from now, when the world will be filled with new people.

The Deets

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
Author: Richard Carlson
Publication Date: 1997

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