My wife and I have been reading Richard Carlson’s Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff. It sounds easy: identify the small stuff in your life and let go. But, no. The real challenge is the subtitle: ... And It’s All Small Stuff.
According to Carlson, everything is ‘small stuff’: our ‘in basket’; our to-do list; waiting to be served; the driver who cuts in front of us; people who don’t listen; the need for perfection. None of these matter in the greater scheme of things. Even on the smaller scale of getting through our day with some measure of success, these things are far less important than the need to focus, live peacefully with our neighbours and create healthy, productive relationships.
Carlson says, ‘Fearful, frantic thinking takes an enormous amount of energy and drains the creativity and motivation from our lives.’
And he goes on: ‘When you have ... inner peace, you are less distracted by your wants, needs, desires, and concerns. It’s thus easier to concentrate, focus, achieve your goals, and to give back to others.’
Letting go of the small stuff, it seems, is good for our families and for business.
Modern business studies agree: effective leaders work through relationships to empower and engage the organisation. The most effective leader is not one who shouts and humiliates but one who develops effective relationships.
We are trained to look for the negative. Begin looking for the good in others. Discover what they are doing right, compliment them and build those invaluable relationships around you and your organisation.
Two of Carlson's points struck me in particular. He tells us to recognise the innocence in the words and actions of other people. Too often we attribute intent to others, and react accordingly, when the remark or action was not personal or intended to insult or hurt. When someone's words or actions hurt, practice taking a deep breath and asking whether this is really an occasion for social action, or just an innocent remark that we should simply ignore.
The second point came home to me when I was driving. I simply could not bring myself to attribute innocence to the dangerous manoeuvres of a few of my fellow road users. Clearly, not everyone is innocent. However, Carlson's point (in another chapter) is that, if you are not going to do anything constructive about it (and there is not much constructive one can do at 120 kph), then let go. Stewing about it, raging within and going over the lecture you want to give the other driver, if only he would stop for a moment, will do nothing for the situation and only add to your own stress. Let go. It might inspire you to start a safe-driving campaign. Great! But that's later, when you get out of the car. Right now, there is nothing you can do. Let go.
I recommend Carlson's book for practical suggestions towards letting go in all areas of your life.
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