One of my goals this year is to be a grace-first person. You know the type. This person never gets upset, always has a smile, and even when you think you should have offended her, she just laughs and says, “Oh, it’s no big deal”.
I have a long way to go.
Yesterday I watched my curbside garbage collector pick up the trash in the can but leave the 3 extra bags sitting on the ground. The holidays just passed so we had more trash than usual. I emailed the garbage company and got the following response, “We do not take anything outside the container. Please take them to your local landfill or add them to your empty container for next week’s services.”
I immediately composed my reply, “If I cared to load my garbage up and drive it to the landfill, I wouldn’t be paying you.”
Just before hitting send, I hesitated.
Do I really want to get into a pissing contest with my trash company?
In the years they have serviced me, have I had ever had a problem?
When do I foresee this issue happening again?
Could I pack the trash bags in better to eliminate the issue?
All of these thoughts occurred to me, and I didn’t send a reply. Also, changing companies is a pain, and for what good reason?
I realized that I need to be better at letting little things go. I’ll never achieve my goal of being a grace-first person if my garbage company can set me off over a stupid, silly thing that’s never happened before. Where was my grace with them?
This event got me thinking of how I can do better about letting the little things go. I came up with a few ideas/questions that might be useful for you as well.
Here we go.
Will I Regret it Tomorrow?
We all say and do things we regret. Many times, the regret is instantaneous, but the words or deeds are like putting toothpaste back into the tube.
It’s messy. It’s impossible.
But if in that split second before we open our big, fat mouths, if we could just ask ourselves that question.
Will I regret it tomorrow?
Our lives would be less messy with fewer things for which we need to apologize.
I’m going to write this question on a sticky note and put it on my desk.
Will it Matter Tomorrow?
In other words, if I don’t react to or say something about this thing that just occurred, will it matter tomorrow? In my case with the garbage collector, I summoned the restraint to let it go and today my life is just fine, no worse for the wear. Maybe I didn’t like his response, but who cares? I’ve been pleased with his service for 5 years and chances are, I’ll probably not have a good reason to be unhappy in the near future.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing,” is a quote often attributed to eighteenth-century Irish philosopher and statesman Edmund Burke and while debate exists over if he really said it, there is truth in the statement. Some things do need to be said or done, but more often than not, fewer words are best.
There’s always tomorrow if it still matters.
Don’t Assume the Worst
Let’s be honest. We struggle with letting little things go because we get offended.
We think someone is attacking us. We assume the worst.
Yet the person could be having a really crappy day. We could be the next person he encounters five seconds after his wife yelled at him and hung up on him.
It’s just bad timing, not bad intentions.
It’s not always about me. Or you.
If we can muster the superhuman resolve to always assume the best or at least not assume the worst, the split-second moment will pass, and all parties involved will be better off for it.
An advanced level strategy to employ when we feel that someone has attacked us is to respond with a smile, not a counterstrike. That’s a disarming way to let a few seconds pass and discover if the threat was real. If it was, a smile is still probably the best reply.
Consider the Source
This thing that set me off, was it something someone said in an email or text message or some other digital format? If so, here’s an important reminder — the smile on the person’s face as he typed the message doesn’t come across in the message. When I receive the message my lack of sleep from the night before might affect how it hits me. My little flare up could be misguided.
So just let it go.
Or follow up with a polite clarifying question with a 😊
Fake it Until We Make it
This is just a snappy way to say we need to recognize we have an issue sweating the small stuff and we have to work purposefully to overcome it. When we’re out in public, let’s plaster on a smile, allow someone to move ahead of us in the grocery line, tip a waitress generously even if the service doesn’t warrant it.
Winston Churchill said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
The world right now is a bit upside down and stressed out, and we’re making big things out of little things, and often creating some-thing out of nothing.
Let’s recognize we are part of the problem until we decide we aren’t going to be any longer, even if we have to fake it until we make it.
Check Under the Hood
Life moves pretty fast as Ferris Bueller said and we often don’t slow down to take time for self-reflection. I’m not talking about being self-absorbed; that could be part of our problems.
It’s all about me, so screw you.
No, that is a sad way to live. In our fast-paced, frenetic, always connected, perpetually distracted world, we never pause to think about…well, much at all. We constantly react, consume, and scroll, all the while becoming more and more disconnected from our own souls.
If little things keep setting me off, it’s time to slow down a bit and examine why. Ask myself questions, such as, are there deeper things at play here?
Do poor health habits have my blood pressure high?
Am I unhappy in my job?
Is there unresolved conflict in any of my important relationships?
Do I need more sleep?
Slight, simple adjustments to my life — taking my dog, Toby for regular walks, getting more sleep, or saying I’m sorry to someone could have profound effects on my ability to let little things go. Even if not, they are good habits that are bound to help me somewhere in my life.
What’s the alternative to learning to let little things go? I guess it’s just holding on to them and letting them pile up higher and deeper. That’s a sad way to live, if not tragic. It’s also a recipe for a lonely life as who wants to be around a person like this? Since I’m writing this article (preaching to myself) and you’re reading it, we’re both without excuse now.
We are aware of the problem. We recognize that it is us, and we are the only ones who can fix it.
Let’s get started.