Today’s post is the first in a series I’m calling ‘The Docked Leaf’, in which I talk about a book/podcast/tv show and look at how it may help when it comes to talking about death and end of life matters.
First up is a closer look at Richard Carlson’s “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff”.
With over 25 million copies sold, it’s been a bestseller in the self-help category for a number of years now and there are plenty of reviews on it.
But this one is a little different because I’m specifically looking at how it can help support us when thinking about the ‘D’ word.
Why This Book?
First things first, let’s give the book it’s full and proper title: “Don’t Sweat the small stuff. And it’s all small stuff; simple ways to keep the little things from taking over your life.”
With that out of the way, you may be wondering what made me choose this book as it isn’t about death, dying or end of life. So why is it even on the list, I mean, why did I choose it first? It’s a good question.
There are a couple of reasons but the first one is around accessibility. This is a book that almost everyone will be able to read fairly easily because each ‘strategy’ (think: chapter) is incredibly short, two or three pages at most.
The other reason for choosing it as part of The Docked Leaf series is because if you’re someone who hasn’t ever read a self-help book before and you’re not quite sure what to expect, or if you’re dipping your toe in the waters of death, dying and end of life matters, then this is a really gentle place to start.
The following excerpts are from 4 of these strategies/chapters which I think particularly relate to this subject. See if you can spot the thread running through them…
Chapter 16: ‘Ask Yourself the Question, Will This Matter a Year from Now?’
To play “time warp,” all you have to do is imagine that whatever circumstance you are dealing with isn’t happening right now but a year from now. Then simply ask yourself, “Is this situation really as important as I’m making it out to be?” Once in a great while it may be – but a vast majority of the time, it simply isn’t.Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, Richard Carlson
Chapter 21: ‘Imagine Yourself at Your Own Funeral’
This strategy is a little scary for some people but universally effective at reminding us of what’s most important in our lives.
When we look back on our lives, how many of us are going to be pleased at how uptight we were? Almost universally, when people look back on their lives while on their deathbed, they wish that their priorities had been quite different. With few exceptions, people wish they hadn’t “sweated the small stuff” so much. Instead, they wish they had spent more time with the people and activities that they truly loved and less time worrying about aspects of life that, upon deeper examination, really don’t matter all that much. Imagining yourself at your own funeral allows you to look back at your life while you still have the chance to make some important changes.Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, Richard Carlson
Chapter 82: ‘Remember, One Hundred Years from Now, All New People’
In the scheme of things, one hundred years isn’t all that long a time. However, one thing’s for sure: A hundred years from now, we will all be gone from this planet. And when kept in mind, this idea can fill us with needed perspective during times of perceived crisis or stress.Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, Richard Carlson
Chapter 100: ‘Live This Day as if It Were Your Last. It Might Be!’
When are you going to die? In fifty years, twenty, ten, five, today? Last time I checked, no one had told me. I often wonder, when listening to the news, did the person who died in the auto accident on his way home from work remember to tell his family how much he loved them? Did he live well? Did he love well? Perhaps the only thing that is certain is that he still had things in his “in basket” that weren’t yet done.
The truth is, none of us has any idea how long we have to live. Sadly, however, we act as if we’re going to live forever. We postpone the things that, deep down, we know we want to do – telling the people we love how much we care, spending time alone, visiting a good friend… We come up with elaborate and sophisticated rationales to justify our actions, and end up spending most of our time and energy doing things that aren’t all that important. We argue for our limitations, and they become our limitations.Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, Richard Carlson
How might “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” help a Dockleaf Conversation?
I found that one of the most helpful things about this book was its ability to act as a mirror. It goes out of its way to provide simple, actionable strategies to help us recognise the kind of life we want to live and the person we aspire to be.
As Carlson says, one hundred years from now, nobody here will still be alive (well maybe a few toddlers but you and I won’t be unless you know something I don’t!).
When you look at it from an end of life perspective, it encourages you to re-evaluate the things that are important to you.
This helps you to make decisions via different lens because as soon as you ask the question, “If I was on my deathbed, what would I wish I had chosen in this moment?”, nine times out of ten, you’ll know the answer instantly.
For those of you reading who are looking for a door, or maybe even just a crack in the window, to open up the conversation around death, dying, end of life, then “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” is may be a good place to start.
That’s because the book isn’t about those things but it does touch on them. And the theme running throughout, is ‘What kind of life do you choose to live?’
This is a theme that often comes up in end of life discussions, and the book enables a soft approach and gentle introduction to what can be an otherwise difficult topic.
Which 5 words best describe it?
Digestible. Bite-sized. Accessible. Positive. Actionable.
Docked Leaf Rating?
The Docked Leaf Comfort Rating is not about how ‘good’ something is but rather how much of a buffer – comfort – it offers in its approach to discussing death and end of life matters.
Does it address the subject in a gentle and sensitive way that makes it accessible to everybody?
Or is it perhaps a little more demanding and requests that you quite open to some of the more potentially challenging issues when talking about it?
Another way to think of it is like this:
In the case of “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff”, it will come as no surprise to know this is a full three Dockleaves: ‘It’s totally comfortable’.
That’s because this is a book not about death and end of life matters, but rather it touches on it, in a gentle and comfortable way.
If you’re looking for a resource to very softly introduce the idea of thinking about death, either for yourself or to talk with others, then “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” may be a good place to start.
It’s short, easy to read, has a light conversational tone and is 95% about other things. But sometimes, 5% is enough. 😊
Until next time, take care.