I was sprinting at full speed through the Houston airport with my half-open Victoria Secret duffle bag dangling behind me, hitting every traveler that stood in my way. I had under twenty minutes to make my connection to Detroit and I still had to go through customs. You couldn’t find a more perfect scene for a hit comedy. How did I let myself end up in this situation?!
I used to ask myself that question almost daily until I finally found a solution. It came to me one day last October while observing my grandma as I sat with her and Alex on a beach in Florida. Whether it’s been a missed train, traffic jam, or spilt wine, my grandma’s mantra has always been, “don’t sweat the small stuff.”
As Alex turned to me and said, “You have the chillest grandma! She’s just… figured out life,” I realized that I’ve been asking myself the wrong question all along. The question isn’t “how did I let myself end up in this situation”, it is “how am I going to let this situation affect my attitude?” Let me give you an example...
A few months later, on a trip to Costa Rica, with Alex’s family, I was introduced to his Mexican grandmother, Abuela. One night, as we were sipping on mojitos and eating dinner on a patio overlooking the ocean, Abuela started choking on a piece of shrimp. As the wait staff called the paramedics and the rest of the family jumped out of their chairs and panicked, Alex’s dad calmly performed the Heimlich Maneuver. After nearly twenty minutes of painstakingly watching the scene unfold, the shrimp became dislodged and Abuela was able to sit back down.
After recovering, Abuela apologized to the family for the scare, assured us that she was completely fine, and then said, “What’s with the long faces? Let’s all get some ice cream!” Despite the fact that her life had been in danger, she didn’t prolong the drama, or dwell in the past. Instead, she had accepted the situation for what it was, and decided to move on with her life.
So the next time you find yourself in a situation that gets under your skin, ask yourself, “What would grandma do?” Are you going to let it affect your attitude and the rest of your day? Or can you accept the situation for what it is, and put it past you? There are some people, things, and events that actually matter in life, but most of the stuff we get caught up in doesn’t. According to The Essence of Success by Earl Nightingale, only 8% of worries are real and legitimate:
Let these percentages be a wake up call to reduce the number of meaningless and unproductive worries you create throughout your day.
The following three steps can help you decrease your percentage of miscellaneous worries so you can focus on the things that truly deserve your attention!
1. Do Some Light Reading.
If you’re looking for a good read, Richard Carlson has an awesome line of books appropriately titled Don’t Worry, Make Money and Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, both related to worrying less and succeeding more. These are some of my favorites because they are short, sweet, and to the point.
2. Be Like a Hawk.
See situations from a higher perspective. Although it’s oftentimes hard, try to remove yourself from the situation and ask yourself what you’d tell a friend if he or she was in your situation. What advice would you give that friend? Then, most importantly, take your own advice!
3. Stop People-Pleasing.
Coming from a fellow people-pleaser, this step is especially difficult for those of us who love that magic, three-letter word – YES. This word can lead to over-committing and compromising our own well being for “the good” of others. What we don’t realize is that we are actually being ingenuine when we over-promise things we don’t intend or truly want to deliver.
Scott Fetters articulates my final point above with perfection: “saying 'no' is not the equivalent of flipping a giant middle finger.” Think about this the next time your co-worker invites you to their Friday-night mingle. Don’t overcommit and say yes if you don’t truly want to go. Instead, reply with a smile, “I have plans tonight, so I’m sad to say I can’t make it, but if my schedule changes I will let you know!” Be cheery, and optimistic, but do not say yes.
Not only will it help others better plan their nights, but it will also give you a sense of relief knowing that you didn’t commit yourself to something you don’t care for. And if you are really worried about what people will think when you say “no”, chill out and take a lesson from your grammy, or whoever else might inspire you to “not sweat the small stuff."