Don't Sweat the Small Stuff!

I first came across the phrase “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” a few months ago in an interview in the Sunday Times Magazine with the successful and very savvy business woman Tamara Mellon, founder of luxury brand Jimmy Choo shoes. She provided this as one of her mantras – a principle that had served her well in both her personal and business life.

At its simplest, it is all about focusing on what matters most - putting your energy where you can have an influence or impact and where you can be most happy. It seems to be an almost universal human trait that in our crazy, busy, rat race lives we take on so much “stuff”, wasting energy and time trying to do everything, without stopping to think if it is even necessary. And of course too much “stuff” can so easily spiral into stress and illness. You only need to watch the behaviour of busy commuters during rush hour on a hot evening to see a melting pot of stress! Since they have no influence over the volume of traffic, the failure of the points at Clapham Junction or the road works on the M25, so why get wound up about it?

Here are my top “small stuff” tips

1: Stuff happens and sometimes it isn’t fair
We are all dealt a different hand in life, it is how we deal with it that matters. So focus on living with what you’ve got and dump any perceived injustices.  Life’s unfair – get over it!

2: Life is a transition – have no regrets
It is very easy to become set in our ways, to live in our comfort zone and to think that things are forever. Remember that everything is just a moment in time, the future is unknown and the only guarantee is that it will be different! Every experience you’ve already had has now gone. So recognise the transitional nature of everything – enjoy it and then let go. Regrets get you nowhere, reframe regrets into learning.

3: Become flexible
In today’s world, flexibility is a must! The goal posts change in even the best laid plans – and “stuff” will happen to those plans. Expect change, plan for it.

4: It isn’t a popularity contest – you don’t have to please everyone
Accept that not everyone will like you, so focus your time and energy on the people that do like and appreciate you.  If other people expend energy on not liking you, that’s their “small stuff” – just ignore it.

5: Practice calm
Be the calm in the eye of the storm. You do not need to be stressed and panicked just because the people around you are stressed and panicked.  Take time to work out what you can and can’t influence and focus only on that.

6: Don’t live your life in the ER
When we turn little things into urgent actions, our whole life becomes a constant emergency. Become aware of how often you get angry, frustrated, overwhelmed by what in reality is small stuff. Put a name to your triggers and learn to catch yourself.

7: Will it matter tomorrow?
Remember, today’s news is tomorrow’s chip paper. If it won’t matter tomorrow, it is likely to be small stuff and not worth bothering about.

As the esteemed author Steven Covey famously demonstrates in his “First things First” seminars, if you don’t tackle your big objectives first, you will never find the time to tackle them at all.

The reason people like Tamara Mellon succeed is because they focus all their energy on their “Big Hairy Audacious Goals” and do not waste their time on the small stuff – it’s a good lesson for us all.


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