If the answer is no, then whatever it is you’re worrying about is probably not that important. You shouldn’t be too worried about it. Asking yourself “will I remember this on my deathbed?” will help you put things into perspective. Your level of stress and anxiety will decrease tenfold when you realize the overwhelming majority of “problems” we face are not that important in the grand scheme of things. A failed test in school or a not so hot job review is not life defining. (They might even be blessings in disguise that show you are in wrong line of work or study) This realization will make dealing with failures, minor mistakes and embarrassing moments a lot easier to deal with. When you realize that whatever is stressing you out won’t be remembered down the road, you will feel at ease.
A lot of stress and anxiety come from worrying about the small little things that hardly matter. After reading the book by Richard Carlson “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff… and it’s all small stuff”, I have never been the same. I internalized its simple core message of not worrying about minor things. Every failure in school, with a pretty girl, or with any other small mishap, I get over it when I ask myself “will I remember this on my deathbed?” Way more often than not, the answer is a resounding no. Constant stress and worries are no longer filling my head. Dealing with everyday life has become extremely easier ever since I began to “not sweat the small stuff.”
Your friends will become envious of your ability to brush off mishaps. Your ability to be cool, calm, and collected when things don’t go well will be an example your friends will try to follow. Your friends will say “I wish I could be like you” when they watch you react to failure the same way they would deal with a dropped pencil; pick it up and move on. Once you internalize not sweating the small stuff and regularly ask yourself when things go bad “will I remember this on my deathbed?” you will live a peaceful life.
You will also start to stop caring less and less about what others think of you. Less anxiety and stress will come from when you think “what did this person think of me?”. You will probably think that thought less and less. The response of “who cares?” will come into your mind and out of your mouth. What some random average person cares about you has no bearing on your life. If you live like this, caring about what every random person thinks of you, you will put yourself in a self-imposed hell. So, ask yourself in times of doubt, “will I remember this on my deathbed?”
Write down whatever has been causing you stress over the past week. Then make three columns left to right: Is this something that is important? Will I remember this a year from now? Will I remember this on my deathbed? Write in each stressor to each category that it applies to if at all.
If getting a bad job review is something that is important and in a year will be remembered write it in both columns. Do the same with the stressors such as being cut off driving or completing an assignment at work or in school. Are these regular anxiety producers worthy to be in these columns? This activity will help you better understand what really is important in your life and what is not. You might find many things in your life that get you worked up are simply not worth worrying about.