A friend recently reminded me of something so important to every day life. He relayed to me the harshness of his life growing up, professionally, and physically. Putting some of his experience in perspective reminds me that we shouldn’t sweat the small stuff and that (most) everything is the small stuff! So let’s explore some of the reasons we make decisions and how not sweating the small stuff can help.
Why Do We Act The Way We Do?
One of my favorite written pieces ever is Max Ehrmann’s Desiderata. I especially like the following note:
Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
In life we end up comparing ourselves to others around us, either our friends, peers, or those in the media. We take on ideas of what life “should be like” and try to “keep up with the Joneses”. This is both a futile and destructive pursuit and not one that will bring happiness.
To state the corollary of the Desiderata we have a quote from Elbert Hubbard.
“If men could only know each other, they would neither idolize nor hate.”
We are all human. We experience the range of emotions from love and hate to fear and confidence. So why is it that we idolize and hate? I’m sorry, but it’s all just a misunderstanding.
A misunderstanding of what we want, believe, feel is right, or how we believe life should or will eventually end. To live this way falls to the fallacy of how something “should be”. So many misunderstandings have been escalated to the point of no return because people project on themselves or others their own ideology with the assumption that others must subscribe to the same. This is part of what makes us think that we are “right” in situations when there is really just a different of opinion based on different premises. Why is it that we make life decisions based on emotion?
Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff
In your day to day life you may consider what’s a Big issue. Take for example one day. Make a list of all the Big issues that day. Then make a list of all the Big issues happening in one week. Then do it for a month. Then a year. One thing you may notice is that as the period of time increases the number of things you consider Big stays the same. So why are the the same number of Big issues in one month as there are in 12?
The reason for this is that we imagine the intensity of an issue in proportion to the surrounding events. Given a long enough time spectrum perhaps there are only an small handful of Big issues and the rest is simply small stuff. This is what my friend taught me.
He taught me that all my current woes are nothing really to worry about. In the immortal words, “This too shall pass.” And a great calm came over me. The moment that occurred I was able to make a more rationale decision based on facts and not emotions. No longer was there angst or turmoil in my life. He gave me perspective into what might be a Big issue and my current problems were not that.
I don’t mean to diminish massive events in peoples life, and certainly they can hit you with full force, but remember that those experiences have now taught you how bad things can get. Perhaps one day in the future, another event will teach you how minor your current experiences are in comparison. Life is about a series of ups and downs. Instead of feeling down, remember that over time these events will pass and be but a faint memory or comical story.
Focus inward, not outward, and you will find true direction, meaning, and fulfillment.