Stop-Loss Strategies for Fewer Worries

Stock chart productivity

Worrying about everything you have to do in a day (or week, or year) can become such a stumbling block that you don’t do anything but worry. It inhibits your ability to focus, which in turn sabotages your ability to do actual work.

In response to this worrying problem of worry, Dale Carnegie wrote How to Stop Worrying and Start Living back in the 1940s, and his principles still ring true to the modern day. One of the book’s chapters, “Put a ‘Stop-Loss’ Order on Your Worries,” outlines some strategies for eliminating sources of worry by setting limits on how much of your life you’re willing to invest in a project. Carnegie begins by quoting the strategy of a successful stock-market investor: “I put a stop-loss order on every market commitment I make. If I buy a stock at, say, fifty dollars a share, I immediately place a stop-loss order on it at forty-five … thereby limiting the loss to five points.”

He then applies this technique to other aspects of life. Do you have a friend who frequently arrives late to lunch appointments—and does that lateness make you worry about your schedule for the rest of the day? Put a stop-loss on how long you’ll wait. Tell your friend that if you’re still waiting ten minutes after the scheduled lunch time, you’ll stop waiting.

This applies outside of simple minute- and dollar-based systems though. Consider your most worrying project. You may have invested a lot of time, energy, and resources into it. If you continue investing those three things, plus all your worries, will the outcome be worth it?

Henry David Thoreau once said, “The cost of a thing is the amount of what I call life, which is required to be exchanged for it immediately or in the long run.”

Is that worrisome project worth more of your life than you’ve already given it? If not, put a stop-loss on it right now. Stop pouring resources and worries into something that doesn’t deserve them, even if that means abandoning the project before it’s completed. If you do, you’ll have more resources to invest in something that is worth it—and fewer worries to block your focus as you start towards new goals.

Have you ever set a stop-loss for something in your life? How did you feel afterwards?

Image by Michelle Meiklejohn, via

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