In 1997, Dr. Richard Carlson published his bestselling book “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff… and it’s All Small Stuff”. This light little book is comprised of small chapters, each offering a technique or strategy to help busy readers reduce stress by slowing down, being mindful, and showing kindness through good communication.
To me, it all feels like Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Successful People” were tossed in a blender with some vanilla ice cream and whipped into a light, frothy cocktail of fun antidotes and sage advice, and Voila! Instant bestseller!
If you’re looking for some light reading before bed, you could have worse on the nightstand. However, if like me you want your personal development books with a little more meat and substance, then I’d stick with Carnegie and Covey, and go from there.
One thing, however, that hasn’t stood the test of time is the title, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff… and it’s All Small Stuff”; mostly because, in 1997, we weren’t in the middle of a global pandemic that made life feel like nails on a chalkboard 24/7. Some advice that may have been fair game back then, hasn’t aged well.
For example, suggesting that we “Practice Ignoring Negative Thoughts” (Chapter 67) or “Lighten Up” (Chapter 83) may be hard advice to swallow for anyone who’s lost a job, endured a lengthy lockdown, and/or had health scares to contend with. If you are one of these people, you probably know what I mean.
Times have changed; and we must change along with them. With the pandemic adding restrictions and taking many of our freedoms away, sometimes the small stuff (and according to Carlson, “it’s all small stuff”) may be all we have to look forward to.
I’m talking about small stuff like treating ourselves to a nice latte’ and chocolate croissant, or feeling warmth fresh comfort of crisp, freshly washed sheets on our bed, or getting genuine thanks for a small kindness we’ve performed. This kind of “small stuff” can make a big difference in how we feel at any given time – especially in a pandemic.
If the past couple of years have taught us anything, it’s that minor pleasures we’ve taken for granted in the past can bring us big joy. Therefore when it comes to small stuff, I say we should sweat it; or at the very least, pay closer attention to the things that, while small, make us feel as good as a sticky, sweet and gooey double-fudge chocolate sundae on a hot July afternoon.
This is an idea I can get behind; in fact, over the past couple of weeks I’ve “sweat a few small things” myself, and believe the results speak for themselves. Before I share them, I’d like to add one more important reason for sweating the small stuff that’s been especially helpful to me.
I’ve discovered that when I’m focused on creating positive experiences, I’m not focused on the craziness in the world; and these days crazy seems to be all over the place. As such, sweating the small stuff has become both a happy distraction AND survival mechanism for me. With a little effort, it can be for you too. Double pinky swear.
With that said, here’s six ways I “sweat the small stuff” last week.
Created a (Pandemic) Date Night
Lindsay and I had planned a date to a local restaurant. To make it more of an event, we walked over so as to take in the harbour lights on our way… very romantic, if I say so myself. After dinner we stopped for a sauna*, before heading home feeling well-fed and relaxed. By planning an evening out in advance, we made this date night far more than the routine “grabbing a bite”.
*had a sauna not been an option, there definitely would have been ice cream. DEFINITELY.
Coffee Date (& Catch Up) With a Friend
One of my favourite ways to “sweat the small stuff” is to have live, in-person coffee dates with friends. It’s more social and intimate than a phone call; it cements our friendships; and after months (and months) of face time and zoom calls, a coffee date brings humanity back to our everyday relationships. It’s even better (not necessary, but better) when they offer to pay for my flat white.
Helped Friend(s) Who Are Homebound With Covid
So far I’ve had three friends quarantined with Covid, and I’ve insisted I “sweat the small stuff” by offering to deliver anything they may they need/want. (Two took me up on it) Do I do this because I’m a saint? Of course!
Okay, I’m not a saint. You see, when I was recently sick myself, someone (a true saint) did this for me. It was a simple gesture, but one that made me feel loved and cared for during a time when I felt like I’d been run over by a herd of stampeding wildebeest. I was just paying this kindness forward.
Caught Up With an Out-Of-Town Friend by Telephone
Creating space for interactive conversations is a terrific way to let people know they matter to us. Oh sure, social media hits are faster, but they’re also one-sided and unsatisfying. Sweating the small stuff by calling our friends is worthwhile because we have what our parents used to call “a conversation”; and everyone likes those.
Sent Out a Surprise Birthday Card
I discovered one of my friends has a birthday coming up; rather than waiting to write on his wall (to get lost in all the other FB messages), I “sweat the small stuff” by picking up a card and stamp, writing a personal note, then mailing him some tangible birthday love. This will make him happier, and a card will be around longer than any “Happy Birthday! (insert birthday cake emoji here)” FB wish. Pinkie swear.
I Did Some Kind of Exercise Every Day
The small stuff isn’t just about taking care of others; it’s about taking care of ourselves too. Regardless how I’m feeling, I know that exercising is important for my physical and mental health so I’ll either walk or go to the gym most every day.
By “sweating the small stuff” and exercising, I keep my commitment, especially when times are difficult; like during a pandemic when all I want to do is hit the snooze button a million times. Exercise reminds me to take care of myself first, so I can take care of others better. Believe it or not, this gets me out of bed.
So there you have it. The pandemic has taught me that putting time and effort into activities that, while seemingly insignificant in the past, bring extra squeezes of joy and happiness and love to me, and to those I care about.
I hope they do the same for you.
Author Bio: David Knapp-Fisher
As founder of The Inspired Humans Project, David loves sharing inspirational stories. His TEDx talk, “Discipline or Regret, a Father’s Decision” been viewed over 112,000 times, and his book, “Punch Failure in The Face, The Buy It a Beer” has 36 five star reviews on amazon.ca.
David lives in Victoria B.C. and spends most of his time trying (& usually failing) to stump his son with movie trivia or planning his next big adventure; both while drinking great coffee, of course.