Why do we let little things bother us so much? Have you ever wondered how much time we lose to the small concerns of life? We allow little things to consume an inordinate amount of our life because we take them so seriously, yet why is that so?
The little things we are discussing are those that rub us the wrong way. They can be such things as snide comments, quirky habits, and other issues that make us irate. The little things our spouse or children do that get under our skin. The small habits a colleague has that just burn us up. You know, the thousand little things that are insignificant in our overall lives, yet we regularly make mountains out of molehills about them.
We will usually stew over them, sometimes for far too long. One big problem with these little things is they often harm or destroy relationships.
Little things often make it into such terrible habits as gossiping. And women by no means have a lock on gossip. Men do more than their fair share, don’t we guys?
The following words written by one of Britain’s most highly regarded Prime Ministers captures the subject of little things succinctly:
“Life is too short to be little.” Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881)
While he is talking about the little things we do ourselves, it applies to little things in general.
The big problem with little things
The problem with spending time, energy, and emotions on little things is they make us little. Most of the time, they don’t deserve our attention. Yet, they often capture so much of our awareness we lose sight of the more important things in life.
Perhaps a couple of examples are in order.
A certain person who shall remain nameless but is very close to me has a little issue of being late. She waits until the last minute to leave, making us late for everything from getting to church, visiting a friend, to almost everything else. Yet as a businessperson, which she was for years, she was punctual.
I often wind up frustrated because of her running late, but why? Is it because I believe being on time is arriving early? Well, yes. Does the amount of energy I expend being frustrated about it warrant it? Not really.
Why would I allow such an insignificant thing to bother me so much in the overall scheme of life? There are many reasons, too many to list here, but the bottom line is they are mostly petty and small. Selfish even! On my part, not hers.
Here this person I love and would die for annoys me because I allow myself to be annoyed. That does not speak well of me.
“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” Robert Breault (1963-present)
The second example of a little thing that took up too much of my energy was in dealing with a colleague at the office. He would stop by often, complain and worry about little things in the company. It happened often enough I became very annoyed. I would do my best not to allow my frustration to show and lend an attentive ear.
I realized early on that despite it being a waste of my time, the issues were real and meaningful to him. Yet, they still frustrated me to no end.
Later we both left the company and started our own consulting businesses. I would hire him on occasion to do research, and his behavior continued. Too many little things in life bothered him. I attempted to reason with him, but it was better, or so I thought, to give him space to complain. Overall, he was a negative, pessimistic person, but he was still a friend. I had no idea how serious his underlying issues were until he committed suicide.
Imagine how I felt about my many frustrations after his death! Not too good. To this day, I wish I had not allowed myself to become so frustrated with him. I now realize he had few others he could confide in. How I wish I could turn back time and do some things over. But alas, what is done is done, and there is nothing I can do to change it.
However, I can change how I respond to such things and not allow them to frustrate me so much. I am the one who is being little when I allow them to affect me in such a way, and I need to own it.
Develop a different perspective
Life has a way of helping us grow or crushing us. The growth or crushing comes from our basic outlook on life. Some call it mindset, others life disposition or attitude. The main difference between these two states is a matter of perspective. When we get locked into one perspective, it can be crushing. When we are open to accepting a new perspective, or perhaps more than one, we grow.
The problem with these little things is we rarely stop and put them into a proper perspective. When we do that, we inevitably feel small. It is because we ARE small. And petty. And ridiculous. Yes, I am calling myself those things. If I don’t wake up to the truth and reality, I will remain frustrated for little reason. I am getting too old to deal with such silly nonsense! I deserve more peace in my life!
Let’s expand on the previous quote by the famous British Prime Minister. This time we will look at the complete version rather than the often-used abbreviated form.
“Life is too short to be little. Man is never so manly as when he feels deeply, acts boldly, and expresses himself with frankness and with fervor.” Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881)
Disraeli directs the second part of the quote at our inward person. We must come to grips with our feelings, act boldly to admonish ourselves for our smallness, frankly and with fervor. We must grow up and become a real man or woman much larger than such pettiness.
How to gain a different perspective
By simply changing our view (perspective) of things, we can drastically reduce anxiety, frustration, and friction in our relationships. In other words, we can quit letting little things bother us, and we can quit being a little person.
How do you do this? Reframe and rethink what it is that bothers you about someone else. If it is a little quirk, being late, snarky remarks, or whatever it is, ask yourself:
- “In the long run, how does this really affect my life?”
Another question you can ask yourself is:
- “If ___________ were to get gravely ill and die, would the issue that bothers me matter?”
If the answer to these is not much or none at all, reframe it. Put it into the proper frame of your overall life. It is nothing more than a little annoyance, and it is you who needs to let it go. Until you do, there is little hope for them to change; I can promise you that!
Whenever a little thing bothers you, stop, name it, and think about it. Reframe it if at all possible. Gain at least one new perspective about it. If you are reasonably open-minded, it won’t take long to find a different view of whatever it is.
I leave you with some wisdom from a very wise man and one of America’s most highly regarded poets.
“Live life like its the last breath you take for that breath is the whole essence of living, the little things in life are what connects us to all the big things we live for” Robert Frost (1874-1963)