Many years ago, I remember a terrific book that came out called ‘Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff’. It became a bestseller and is still to be found in many bookshops I have been in. What made me most interested in this book was the concept of ‘small stuff’ as opposed to big stuff. Indeed, anything I sweated always seemed big and the very reason I sweated it was because it was big. However, when I really began to think about each of the items I sweated about in my life, I realised that many of them were not big at all. Recently, I came to the very same realisation as long ago. Even now, with my years of experience, knowledge, wisdom and I would hope, perspective, I had fallen into the same trap as before.
The trap was my mind’s incredible ability to dramatise my problems into far worse than they are. Through a combination of imaginative worrying and ruminating, I was able to get myself worked up over the smallest things. The reason this is so effective however, is that when you make them big… they become big. How then do you recognise the difference between those that really are big versus those that are not?
Perspective is the answer. Whenever we go to a funeral or some huge tragedy hits us as a community or, even worse, personally… we tend to get perspective. We understand at that moment that all of the things we were upset about do not matter in comparison to what is going on. Death is the ultimate perspective giver but even then it often only lasts a while until we find ourselves trickling back to our old habits of fretting about anything and everything. Sometimes we can be so impacted by a book or a course we attend that it can last longer. We can be given strategies and tools to help us see things differently and to continue to remind ourselves of these things. But even that has an expiry date. Like exercising in a gym is something that many people get motivated to do for a while and learn how to do it, eventually they revert back to old habits or patterns.
The only exception is when they make it part of who they are and a valued part of their lifestyle. They see themselves as being the kind of people to invest time in exercising or eating healthy. They see this as a must for their life. They see it as a discipline that is crucial for them to practice. There will be no slipping back because they cannot afford to. When it comes to us developing the perspective that gets us to stop sweating the small stuff, the answer is similar.
We need to make perspective shifting a habit. When we say we got a new perspective about something, it needs to be a new viewpoint on it. Simply seeing something differently is temporary. Reminding yourself to always look at it in this new way is necessary. So, how do we do this? First, we get the new perspective. We stop and consider what in our life actually really matters. When we ask ourselves this question honestly and truly, we will get an understanding of what does and does not matter. We will understand why it does and does not matter. Next, we must decide that we will look at these things from this point of view in the future. We must become the kind of people that will see things like this from now on.
It is only when we look to make new perspectives permanent that we get the opportunity to stop sweating the small stuff. Then, we have a shot at becoming more relaxed about life.