I felt irritated. I had already rescheduled the family dental check-up once and now the kids said they couldn’t make the second one due to work commitments. Take a deep breath, I told myself. Focus on the big picture. I have three healthy kids all working full-time summer jobs. Celebrate the win! Don’t sweat the small stuff.
It’s all too easy to think about the bad stuff. After all, we’re hard-wired for it. Easier to point out what’s wrong instead of what’s right. And our culture supports that in the guise of “critical feedback.”
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
I reminded myself of Cheryl Richardson’s blog last Sunday when she talked about not sweating the small stuff. She advised,
The next time you’re about to lose it over something small, please save yourself for the big stuff. Don’t deny your feelings, of course, just don’t be hijacked by them.
Such gentle guidance which, of course, came at an opportune time.
Why we sweat the small stuff
We sweat the small stuff because it’s simpler than facing the real challenges, the difficult problems we face personally and the seemingly intractable ones we face as a society like climate change.
I reviewed Johann Hari’s prescription for focusing and his recommendations for systemic change explained in Stolen Focus. We must ban surveillance capitalism because it prevents us from focusing, introduce a 4-day workweek because we can’t focus if we’re exhausted, and rebuild childhoods around playing freely because that’s how kids learn best.
But we can’t get “there” until we deal with “here.” And focusing on the small stuff keeps us “here” preventing us from getting “there.”
The ego’s role
Our minds play tricks on us to keep us focused on ego (= self). When we identify with ego, we are never satisfied. The ego wants us concentrating on the small stuff, to keep us bound in the silly, never-ending cycle of petty concerns. Why? It wants us to remain attached to it as opposed to our higher selves. By sweating the small stuff, we stay in the thrall of ego.
One way out of ego is identifying with our Leader Within, that voice of inner wisdom that guides us if we’re willing to listen to it. When we look within our hearts, we see these tricks for what they are and decide we want more. Then, we can transition to the big leagues.
From within to without
Addressing the urgent challenges today requires all our focus. No one person has the answer. Working together is how we do it. Let’s create the conditions needed for us to tackle them:
- Nurture communities with lots of different skill sets filled with people who listen to each other and build on the suggestions made to the group;
- Encourage leaders to recognize the talent in others and find ways to bring this talent together effectively;
- Most of all, let’s care. Care about ourselves, our family and friends, and our communities.