The Best Ways To Not Sweat The Small Stuff – Part I

by Stephen Mills on August 22, 2009

Sweating the Small Stuff

Richard Carlson makes a living off of helping others to not sweat the small stuff with numerous books on the subject.  I figured I could make a blog series out of it.

If you can truly absorb and practice a mindset that doesn’t sweat the small stuff, you can take a huge step forward toward a life of happiness and peaceful well-being.  Adopting this mindset has made a world of difference in my life.  I recommend Carlson’s books Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff–and it’s all small stuff, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff at Work, and What About The Big Stuff?: Finding Strength and Moving Forward When the Stakes are High.  His ideas are down to earth and incredibly practical.

This is the first article in a series of the best ways I’ve found to not sweat the small stuff and being happy with whatever I’ve got.   Here are the others in the series

The Best Ways to Not Sweat the Small Stuff – Part II

Be Present

Being present is the #1 way to not sweat the small stuff.  Being totally present in the now makes it impossible to pay attention to the swirling mass of small stuff which surrounds you.  Read Leo’s article about being present for some great practical tips.

Surrender to The Chaos

This is one of my favorite strategies.  Be the calm in the eye of the storm when all around you is a swirling mass of chaos.  Yes, simplify what you can easily control, but maintaining an attitude of calm resolve in the midst of the hurricane is a powerful strategy.  Be still in the background and just watch the chaos unfold in the foreground.

Meditate

This is going deeper into mindfulness and being present.  I recommend Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Wherever You Go, There You Are as an excellent guide to mindful meditation.  Also check out Roger’s series on Meditation For Beginners.

Avoid Snowball thinking

Your negative thinking spirals out of control because you are suffering from the snowball effect.  One negative thought leads to another which leads to another until you’ve created a giant snowball of feeling uptight and overwhelmed with negative or stressful thinking.  The key is to be aware of when your thinking is snowballing and immediately stomp the snowball.

Let Others Be Right

Try being kind over being right.  Just let other people win the small stuff.  Who cares?  Is the issue really that important?  Do you really want to expend your mental energy on it?  Would you rather leave the interaction happy or being right by “winning” over the other person?

Accept That Life Isn’t Fair

Life has not, is not, and will not ever be “fair”.  It’s not supposed to be and you need to accept that fact and stop focusing on perceived injustices.  Everyone is dealt a different hand.  Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses.  Stop feeling sorry for yourself or others and get on with living with what you’ve got and create the circumstances you desire.  Some perspective on a fair life:

Everything Is Not an Emergency

Most people act as if life is an emergency.  When we turn little things into emergencies we turn life into one great big continuing emergency.  Pay attention to how often you get upset, frustrated, or overwhelmed, by what in truth is small stuff.  Let it go and let yourself be surprised that everything will be ok just the same.

Pick Your Battles

This has become cliché but many, if not most people, seem to want to battle, fight, and confront everything.  You don’t have to win everything.  You cannot live a happy and peaceful life of well-being if you are constantly in battle.  Certainly there will be times when you do have to go to battle, but pick them wisely and the rest of the time just let it be.

Stuff Happens

Life is simply one thing after another.  As soon as you cross one speed bump you run into another.  I don’t believe in psychic predictions, but I can make one prediction I guarantee will come true.  Stuff will happen.  So why get upset when it does?  You know they are coming so just absorb the little speed bumps and keep on driving without giving it another thought.

Stop Driving Aggressively

The stresses of traffic are something that irritate most people who drive.  You can’t change it and you never will.  Why sweat it?  Listen to some good music and relax.

Single Task

Do one thing at a time.  When you are trying to do a dozen things at once you are truly sweating the small stuff.  That stuff does NOT have to be done at the same time.  I promise the world will not come to an end.  Aside from being more effective and getting more done, you will enjoy what you are doing far more.  Your attention will not be distracted by all the small stuff around you.  How NOT to Multitask – Work Simpler and Saner

Be Flexible – Things Change

Things often do not go according to your best laid plan.  Stubbornly sticking to an inflexible plan will create significant stress in your life.  In our fast-paced modern world, flexibility is one of the greatest skills you can cultivate.  Were you planning to go out to dinner tonight with your partner and something came up to derail your plans?  Big freaking deal!  Are you happy now that you are upset and about it?  Expect change.  Plan for change.  Go with the flow.

Accept That Everything Is Temporary

This is hard for most people to accept.  We like to think that things are forever.  You are not going to last forever.  Your relationships, your children as children, your home, your job, your car, your gadgets or whatever are all temporary.  Even every experience you’ve ever had is already over and gone.  It was temporary.  A great way to relate to the things in your life is to realize and accept the temporary nature of everything.  Enjoy it while you can and then let it go, because go it will whether you like it or not.

To be continued…

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Positively Present August 22, 2009 at 12:13 pm

Great post! I used to fret about the small stuff a lot, but it bothers me less and less these days. You’ve given some great advice here and the next time I’m starting to sweat over the small stuff, I’m going to come back here for some reminders on how to relax and be in the moment.
.-= Positively Present´s last blog ..26 reasons to celebrate friendship =-.

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Stephen Mills August 22, 2009 at 12:38 pm

@Positively Present, thanks for stopping by to chat. I’m a split personality in this regard. There are certain areas of my life where I have always practiced a don’t sweat the small stuff attitude. There are other areas where I seem to sweat all the small things. The habit of applying the principles to those areas have made an enormous difference. Happy Birthday tomorrow :-) :-)

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meatlessmama August 22, 2009 at 2:41 pm

I learned to stop and think- will this even be important to me in 10 years?, if not, I just let it go.
.-= meatlessmama´s last blog ..Apricot Custard =-.

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Stephen Mills August 23, 2009 at 7:26 am

meatlessmama, that’s great. Depending on the context I ask myself if it will be important to me tomorrow, next week, next month, or next year.

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Zeenat{Positive Provocations} August 22, 2009 at 5:23 pm

Hi Stephen,
I have to check out Richard Carlsons books now that you mentioned such good things about it.
As for your series …its a great idea. I will be waiting for part 2, cause part 1 was so captivating. I think the 1st tip is the whole deal for me. Be in the NOW. If we can master that, the rest will be a piece of cake… :) But i have yet to try them all…1 tip at a time.
.-= Zeenat{Positive Provocations}´s last blog ..LOOKING WITHIN YOUR HEART{Inspirational Quote Of The Week} =-.

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Stephen Mills August 23, 2009 at 7:35 am

Zeenat, thanks for commenting. Carlson’s books are great in my opinion.

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Robin Easton August 22, 2009 at 5:28 pm

I think the two things here that REALLY make a difference for me are staying only in “the now” and not allowing yourself to do any “snowball thinking”. They kind of go hand in hand and if a one does only those two it can alter their whole outlook in ANY situation.

This post made me think of a little amulet that I have which my sweetie gave me and it says, “This too shall pass.” The older I get the more I’ve learned this to be true. There is a certain amount of peace in knowing this.
.-= Robin Easton´s last blog ..Can You Slow Down? =-.

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Stephen Mills August 23, 2009 at 7:36 am

Hello Robin :-)

I almost put that phrase in my last strategy. Thanks for stopping in and commenting.

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BunnygotBlog August 22, 2009 at 5:52 pm

Great post ~ I can identify to the snowballing effect at one time I did this. Then I realized I use up a lot of energy by over thinking and letting negative thoughts come in to mind. Both will drain so much physical strength out of you. We have to remember something negative usually ends with something positive.
Looking forward to the rest of the series.
.-= BunnygotBlog´s last blog ..Working From Home: Coffee – Tea – Or Me =-.

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Stephen Mills August 23, 2009 at 7:37 am

Bunny, thanks! My life used to be one thinking snowball after another :-) I’ve cured myself of that problem.

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Lana-DreamFollowers Blog August 22, 2009 at 8:34 pm

Great post-Being present is one of the most life changing skills one can learn, yet it is so hard for some people to actually do it. It is a habit that you must develop. I once went on a 21 day challenge of being present at all times. I didn’t allow myself to follow my thoughts for 21 days. It worked great and trained my mind to stay present. I now recommend everyone to have such challenge.
.-= Lana-DreamFollowers Blog´s last blog ..Ask And It Is Given – Do You Truly Understand What That Means? =-.

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Stephen Mills August 23, 2009 at 7:42 am

Lana, I agree that being present is the key to many changes in life. It is hard because it takes constant vigilance to implement it until it becomes a habit. Thanks for your thoughts.

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Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills August 22, 2009 at 10:19 pm

Hey Stephen, so many good points. The snowball effect and let others be right really resonated with me. Then I saw your last point, accepting that everything is temporary is a major hurdle for so many people. Get past this one and the others are much easier.
.-= Jonathan – Advanced Life Skills´s last blog ..Deep Insight on Life From My Grandpa =-.

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Stephen Mills August 23, 2009 at 7:44 am

Hi Jonathan, the temporary thing is very important and it’s one that most people don’t think about. Thanks for stopping by.

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Kimmy August 22, 2009 at 11:10 pm

I love meeting people that have similar mindsets and thoughts. We have to support and surround ourselves with positive people. People that are energy drainers, do not help US to keep trucking! Glad you added me on Twitter. I am happy to find you and your website.
.-= Kimmy´s last blog ..A Butterfly Loves =-.

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Stephen Mills August 23, 2009 at 7:46 am

Hello Kimmy and welcome. You are so right about drainers. I’ve been considering a post on that. I checked out your site and it is lovely. Thanks for your thoughts!

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Grampa Ken - Social Fix August 23, 2009 at 10:40 am

Good tips Stephen. Acceptance and living the moment are so valuable to health and happiness. I find the need to keep reminding myself to think the right things. A quick read of single quote from an accumulated list of wise sayings can quickly put me back on the right track.

“Whether in favor or in humiliation, be not dismayed. Let your eyes leisurely look at the flowers blooming and falling in your courtyard. Whether you leave or retain your position, take no care. Let your mind wander with the clouds folding and unfolding beyond the horizon.” – Hung Tzu-ch’eng (1593-1665)
.-= Grampa Ken – Social Fix´s last blog ..Be happy while you’re living =-.

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Nadine August 23, 2009 at 1:01 pm

Thanks for this post – very encouraging. It’s so important to not forget looking at the bigger picture. Sweating small sweat is exactly what keeps us living and thinking in a box…and as we all know, I think, small-box-thinking totally stops us from unlocking our full potential…
Anyway-wrote something on the rat-race thing as well…in case you wanna have a look:
http://moonlightstamp.blogspot.com/

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Chris Edgar | Purpose Power Coaching August 23, 2009 at 2:55 pm

Thanks for this. Another thing I’ve found it calming to remind myself of lately is that there’s nothing I “have to” do — that everything I do, including eating, my work, talking with friends, and so on, is ultimately my choice and no one’s forcing me to do any of it.

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Juancav August 23, 2009 at 3:21 pm

You can lose battle but not the all war.

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Vin - NaturalBias August 23, 2009 at 7:28 pm

There’s so much great advice in this post! I particularly like the point about avoiding negative snowball thinking. Not only is this bad for your outlook and mood, but also your health. Negative thinking is a form of stress and breaks down your body. The more stress you experience, the more your health will be compromised, and the harder it will be to stay happy.
.-= Vin – NaturalBias´s last blog ..FullBar: A Weight Loss Strategy That’s Full of Nonsense =-.

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Dragos Roua August 24, 2009 at 1:49 am

Hey, Stephen,

I admit I didn’t know about Richard Carlson and his books, so you just helped me to make an important discovery :-) I liked the post, as usual, and I was especially attracted to “Stop Driving Aggressively”. i still live in a country when flashes are most of the time used to force the other guy leave the road to make space for you, not as a nice and helpful warning. It would make a huge difference if only 1% of the world would stop driving aggressively.
.-= Dragos Roua´s last blog ..100 Ways To Live A Better Life =-.

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Walter August 24, 2009 at 7:58 pm

Profound insights you have stated here. I wish it could be that easy. Oftentimes our very nature comes in the way.

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Ricardo Bueno September 5, 2009 at 10:40 pm

At first, I skimmed through this article and the part about surrendering to the chaos and it didn’t sound so good. In fact, it didn’t sound so good and all. But then I read it and thought about it and it made a whole lot of sense. Lots of people loose their sense of cool and calm in stressful situations which forces them to panic and lose control. But like you said, keeping your cool is what allows you to keep your sanity. So welcoming those situations, those challenges, whilst keeping your cool, will allow you to overcome those moments just a bit easier and with more clarity.
.-= Ricardo Bueno´s last blog ..LinkedIn Networking Tip: Personalized Invitations =-.

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nipun November 11, 2009 at 1:51 am

All these are stuff straight from carlson’s books.. nothing new and no incentive to read !

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Stephen Mills November 11, 2009 at 2:21 pm

Feel free not to read it then. Most people have not read the books.

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Sean January 23, 2011 at 8:54 pm

Fantastic post. I hope to incorporate these tips into my life. I can really feel my sanity, and my health, sufferring from needless worrying!!! Thank you Stephen.

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Mandy February 22, 2012 at 1:50 am

Thank u stephen, i should read this everyday to remind myself. My boyfriend just said i always sweat small stuff and make everything more difficult. I’m so easily get bad mood just cos things not run smoothly. I just found out i’m inflexible person. I hope i can change.

Greeting from jakarta

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Thanks. Very insightful!

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nice posts

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