By Tammie Allegro
This weekend, a friend shared a story of her son learning how to put his socks on all by himself. Her son, during a moment of frustration, said a quick prayer and asked God to tell him what to do. Shortly after his prayer, he put his shoe on over his inside-out sock. She quickly realized that it doesn’t matter. After all, it is just a sock. Since he is 4, most people aren’t going to care that his sock is inside-out. It is a trivial issue - one that I now refer to as an “inside-out sock issue.”
We all have inside-out sock issues. For instance, each morning when I drop my youngest child off at school, I take a moment to admire her most recent outfit selection. In recent months, I have decided not to argue with her about what she is wearing to school. Even though every part of me wants to exclaim from the rooftops: “That doesn’t go together!” I choose instead to say: “That is totally you!”
Life is too filled to the brim with “big stuff” to sweat the “small stuff.” The challenge is to recognize when something is big vs. small. For instance, battling with your insurance carrier about coverage or reimbursement is definitely not small stuff; having to get out of line at Target because your child can’t make up his or her mind - that’s small stuff. Using your insurance deductible before the end of the first month of the new year - definitely not small stuff; driving around the parking lot three times trying to find the perfect spot only to have it taken by a thoughtless driver is small stuff. Taking 30-plus years to get a proper diagnosis and finally treatment that works is big, big stuff; your kids eating food in the living room is really small stuff.
On days when the small stuff is getting the best of you, it is important to find ways to deal with all of it. In his best-selling book Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and it’s all small stuff, author Richard Carlson, PhD, says: “Often we allow ourselves to get all worked up about things that, upon closer examination, aren’t really that big of a deal. We focus on little problems and then blow them way out of proportion.”
Boy, can I relate. This wonderful little book offers way more helpful tips than we have time to cover in a blog, but one of the standouts for me is: Ask yourself the question: Will this matter in a year from now? Carlson elaborates: “Whether it’s an argument with your spouse, child or boss, a lost opportunity, a lost wallet, a rejection at work, or a sprained ankle, chances are a year from now you are not going to care.”
Carlson’s second lesson that helps me gain perspective is to “make peace with imperfection.” As Carlson explains, when dealing with things like a dent in the car or a few stubborn extra pounds (or inside-out socks), just letting go of the idea that things must be perfect can dramatically reduce stress.
To apply this principle, when my children come to me now with challenges, I ask them: “Will that matter in 10 years?” “Will that matter in 10 days?” Typically, their answer is “no.” That is the stuff that can be let go. Now, I also ask my kids: “Is that your inside-out sock?” That brings a smile and perspective.
What are your inside-out sock issues? How do you deal with them?