Don't Mourn What's Gone

Dale Carnegie: Don’t Mourn What’s Gone

“There is only one way to happiness,” Epictetus taught the Romans, “for this you only need to stop worrying about things that are not subject to your will.”

How to stop worrying and outlive our habits before they overwhelm us

Rule #4: Be prepared for the inevitable

On our life path, we fall into many unpleasant situations that we cannot change. They cannot be any other. We have a choice before us – we can either accept these situations as inevitable and adapt to them, or waste our lives protesting the inevitable and possibly drive ourselves to a nervous breakdown. George V framed and hung on the wall of his library at Buckingham Palace an inscription with the words: “Teach me not to desire the impossible, and not to mourn the irreparable.” The same thought was expressed by Schopenhauer as follows: “A sufficient supply of humility is of the utmost importance in preparation for the journey of life.”

Obviously, the circumstances alone make us neither happy nor unhappy. What matters is how we react to them. This is what determines our feelings. We are all capable of experiencing misfortune and tragedy and overcoming them if we are forced to do so. We may think we can’t, but we possess inner resources of astonishing power that will help us bear anything if we use them. We are stronger than we think.

I have worked on a cattle farm for 12 years, but I have never noticed a Jersey cow’s temperature rise due to wet snow and cold. The cow does not survive because her lover gives too much attention to another cow. The animals calmly endure the nights, the storms, and therefore they never suffer from nervous breakdown, like stomach ulcers, and they never go crazy. You think I’m preaching to just put up with all the vicissitudes of fate that come our way? No way! This is real fatalism. As long as there is an opportunity to change the situation in our favor, let us fight. But when common sense tells us that we have encountered something that will remain as it is, and cannot be otherwise, then, for the preservation of common sense, do not look forward and do not look back, do not mourn what’s gone.

S. Penny, founder of a company of the same name, owning a network of stores all over the country, told me: “I would not worry if I lost all my money to the last cent, because worry can do nothing for me. I usually do my best, and God only knows what the results will be.” Henry Ford told me the same thing: “When I cannot control events,” he said, “I let events to control themselves”.

When I asked K. T. Keller, president of the Chrysler Corporation, how he avoids anxiety, he replied, “When I find myself in a difficult situation, if I can, I do the best I can. If I can’t do anything, I just forget about it. I never worry about the future. But I know that no man living on earth can predict what will happen in the future. There are so many forces that will influence this future! No one can say what controls these forces. No one can understand them. Then why should I bother about them?” KT Keller would have been embarrassed to have been called a philosopher. He’s just a good businessman. However, he applied in his life the philosophy that Epictetus preached in Rome 12 centuries ago. “There is only one way to happiness,” Epictetus taught the Romans, “for this you only need to stop worrying about things that are not subject to your will.”

None of those living on earth have enough emotionality and energy to fight the inevitable and create a new life at the same time. It is necessary to choose one or the other. You can either buckle under the pressure of the inevitable storms that life throws at you, or you can resist them and break!

I observed this on my farm in Missouri. I had planted about 20 trees. From the beginning, they grew amazingly fast. Then, during a snowstorm, every branch was covered with a thick layer of ice. Instead of smoothly bending under the weight, these trees proudly resisted and eventually broke, unable to withstand the heavy load. As a result, I had to destroy them. They had not mastered the wisdom of the northern woods. I had traveled hundreds of miles through the evergreen forests of Canada, but never once had I seen a fir or a pine break under the weight of wet snow or ice. These evergreen forests know how to bend, how to bow their branches, how to accept the inevitable. Jiu-jitsu masters teach their students to “bend like a willow, not resist like an oak.”

What would happen to you and me if we resisted life’s blows instead of absorbing them? What if we refuse to “bend like a willow” and stubbornly “resist like an oak”? The answer is very simple. We will create a number of internal conflicts. We will be disturbed, tense, highly agitated, our nerves will be shaken.

If we go even further and reject the harsh reality that surrounds us, hiding in the fictional world created by our imagination, we will go mad. To overcome the habit of worrying before it overcomes you, follow rule four: Be prepared for the inevitable!


How to Stop Worrying and Start Living,” Dale Carnegie