I sweat the small stuff and even the “smallest of them all” stuff. I know you, they, we all sweat the small stuff. Below is a not-so-complete-list of guidelines taken from the book, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff by Richard Carlson. Hopefully, we can learn, practice and live by these guidelines.
1. Make peace with imperfection. Sometimes, when things do not work the way you expect them to be, it is best to just let it go. Do not stress yourself on what went wrong and what is wrong. Avoid weatherproofing or being always on the lookout for what needs to be fixed.
2. Let go of the idea that gentle, relaxed people can’t be super achievers. Ambitious, hardworking and competitive are the kind of people to look up to. But so are the people who know how to enjoy and do not get caught up solely on making a living. Some fear that when they relax and be more peaceful, they would become lazy and suddenly stop achieving their goals.
3. Be aware of the snowball effect of your thinking. Negative thoughts can drain you. It is impossible to feel peaceful with your head full of concerns and annoyances.
4. Develop your compassion. Take the focus out from yourself and feel how is it to be in someone else’s shoes. You will realize that they may be going through something like you do or even worse.
5. Remind yourself that when you die, your “in basket” won’t be empty. We are obsessed of getting our “to do” list done that we put hold our happiness, believing that once we’ve done, we will be happy. But the truth is, once we ticked off items from our list, new ones simply come in and we again get caught up on the same unending process.
6. Let others have the glory. The next time someone shares you a story about himself, his achievements for example, avoid the tendency to say something about yourself in response. In relation, don’t interrupt others or finish their sentences. Some just couldn’t hold their tongue and butt-in. If you are in the habit of interrupting someone, you spend an amount of energy keeping track of our thoughts and that someone’s thought. This could lead to irritability and worse makes other people uncomfortable talking to you. Stop interrupting and when you do, it’s not only you but the person you’re talking to will feel more relaxed.
7. Do something nice for someone else and don’t tell anyone about it. It’s good to be kind and help others and once you do, keep it to yourself. In this way you retain all the positive feelings rather than diluting it by telling it to someone.
8. Let others be “right” most of the times. Ask yourself, “Do I want to be right or do I want to be happy?”. The need to be always right, defending your position every time, requires an enormous amount of energy and can be exhausting. You assume that when you correct others, they will appreciate you but that is not always the case. Some people just want to be listened to, so stop correcting or else people will resent you. Give others the joy to be right.
9. Surrender to the fact that life isn’t fair. We make mistakes, we lose, we fail, we wallow, we keep feeling sorry and we complain that life isn’t fair. It really isn’t and never meant to be fair. If we just accept this fact, we keep us from feeling sorry for ourselves and will be more encouraged to do the best we can.
10. Allow yourself to be bored. Much of our anxiety and inner struggle stems from our busy, overactive minds always needing something to entertain them. The beauty of occasional boredom is it teaches us to clear our mind and relax.
11. Lower your tolerance to stress. Notice your stress early, while it is small and manageable, before it goes out of hand. When you feel like you’re getting out of control, rather than rolling your sleeves, back off, relax and go for a walk.
12. Spend a moment every day thinking of someone to thank. Gratitude and inner peace go hand in hand. It can be anyone, the elderly waiter who cleaned your table at the hawker center, the staff at the counter who took your quarter pounder order, the bus driver who saw you running and waited for you to hop in the bus. You can thank God for the beautiful weather, for the moon and the stars during your late night walks.
13. Choose being kind over being right. If you pay attention to the way you feel after you put someone down, you’ll notice that you feel worse than before the put-down. Resist the temptation of always HAVING THE NEED to correct someone, even if his facts are little off.
14. Agree with criticism directed towards you, then watch it go away. Criticism does not match the vision you have of yourself. Negative reactions to criticism often convince the person doing the criticizing that they are accurate in their assessment of you. Agreeing with an occasional criticism has more value than it costs.
15. See the glass as already broken and everything else too. Life is in constant state of change, everything has a beginning and an end. When you expect something to break, you’re not surprised, disappointed or immobilized when it does. Make peace with the way things are.
16. Get comfortable not knowing. We don’t know what’s going to happen, we just think we do. Often we make a big deal out of something, we blow up scenarios in our minds about all the terrible things that are going to happen. And you know what, most of the time we are wrong. Just keep cool and open to possibilities and eventually all will be well. Remember: maybe so, maybe not.
17. Imagine that everyone is enlightened except you. There are teachings we can learn from the people and strangers we encounter. Example, you are in a queau in McDonalds and the staff at the counter is moving real slow. Instead of feeling frustrated, ask yourself, “What is he trying to teach me?”. Maybe you need to learn about compassion and understanding (maybe he had one hell of a day) or perhaps learn more about being patient. If you do this, you will be far less annoyed and bothered by the actions and imperfections of other people.
18. If someone throws you the ball, you don’t have to catch it. Simply put, do not make yourself ALWAYS available to other people. Tendencies are when someone throws you a concern, you assume that you must catch it and respond. Know when to catch the ball so you won’t feel victimized and resentful. Mind your own business – know when to help and when to leave something alone.
19. One more passing show. The good and bad, pleasure and pain, approval and disapproval, achievements and mistakes, fame and shame, all come and go. Eventually, everything disappears into nothingness. When something is happening that we enjoy, know that while it’s wonderful, it will eventually be replaced by something else. If you accept that, you’ll feel peace even when the moment changes. Emotions, thoughts, people and scenery are temporary. Do not become attached, just flow with it.
20. Live this day as if it were your last. It might be. CARPE DIEM.