3 Ways To Not Sweat The Small Stuff

10 April, 2012

How often do you find yourself angry and irritated over small things; the bus was late, the washing up hasn't been done, the bank manager forgot to keep her appointment with you. Would you like to learn to let these things go for greater personal wellbeing?

Don't Sweat The Small Stuff is a book written by Richard Carlson, who sadly passed away suddenly in 2006. The book (one of many that he authored) is designed to ease stress and increase our wellbeing by not letting the small things in life get to us.

Sounds good doesn't it? Not sweating the small stuff. Yet, how do we know the small from the big? And it is not always easy in that moment when before we know it a stressful emotion has infiltrated our wellbeing.

My definition of the small stuff are things that won't matter in the greater scheme of our lives. I use death often as a motivator for life. It might sound morbid to you — but I don't do it in a morbid way. I often think about what I want to be looking back on in my life when I am at that stage of being ready to die. Those times when buses are late or we lost our wallet just don't strike me as mattering then - except perhaps, as a regret at how many times we allowed them to get to us.

Here are three tools which can help us identify the big from the small; and to endeavour not to sweat the small stuff (and forgive ourselves and let it go when we do!!):

  1. Decide what is actually important to you in your life. My personal fear is looking back over my life when I have no time left; and feeling regret and remorse. I have made some radical decisions based on what comes up when I ask myself this powerful question: What would I need to be looking back on in my life, in order to feel completely satisfied? Give yourself 10 minutes of uninterrupted time, breathe deeply a few times, and really get your head into this. Especially if you are feeling unhappy, unbalanced, stuck, fed up. Write down what comes up, and trust your thoughts on this.
  2. Decide what matters. When you are in the middle of getting wound up about something; the most useful thing you can do is pause, breathe, and ask yourself: What really matters? When we practice this questioning, we begin to create a repertoire of immediate answers: love, security in relationships, happiness, food, water, something to hope for, income, stability, quality relationships. This can draw things into perspective very quickly.
  3. Decide what's right for you. A major thing that I have noticed that I believe is really important - is that often when we find ourselves irritated or annoyed at the small stuff we are usually doing something that we would rather not be doing. Demands in life, obligations, putting others before yourself. What this means is that often we aren't irritated at the small stuff, more the fact that we are getting what we really need and desire - in that moment, in life. At all times we can ask ourselves: Am I being true to myself? We all know, deep down, what we desire and need and who we are. Even when we are skilful at not admitting this to ourselves consciously! Get into the habit of identifying what feels right, for you. It doesn't mean you skip over your obligations in life. It does mean you might start making choices that honour yourself, as well as others.

Of course, all of these strategies work for the big stuff, as well as the small stuff.

I have been inspired by the work of Tara Brach - click through and listen to her free talks and meditations; they are very helpful.

Would love to chat with you about anything that feels important to you here - leave a comment and I will reply personally, always.

With love, Charlotte

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