“Don’t sweat the small stuff… and it’s all small stuff.”
That is the name of the game and the title of a book by Dr. Richard Carlson. When invited to write about this topic and to answer the question about “what is the small stuff?” I had to really stop and think. I have lived by this mantra for much of my life but only now have really started to reflect on what the small stuff really is and not to my surprise, “it’s all small stuff!”
I work in Residence Life, which means late night phone calls, odd work hours and occasionally having to make judgment calls that can literally mean life and death for someone. I am sure most of us can relate to a similar situation. Now, I preface this with a clear understanding and separation between a professional call and a personal call: making a tough personal decision is a totally different topic.
Many of the large components that make up your work can create the small stuff.
That major deadline that has to be met;
That huge presentation you have to give to your supervisor and their supervisor;
Working with a student who is struggling to pay for college;
Taking on the extra club or organization that needs an advisor;
Even having to de-escalate and complete a referral for service for a student who tried to commit suicide last night.
No, that list was not the small stuff, what comes after these things – that is the small stuff. [Enter Your Internal Dialog Voice]
How do you meet that deadline for tomorrow when you have not even started?
What happens when my supervisor gives me that all knowing look of, ‘you should have done better’?
How can you help this student pay for college when you know all of the money for scholarships is gone?
Do you have to cancel personal plans now that you are responsible for this new club?
How do you go back to sleep after sending a student to the hospital for an attempted suicide?
How do you talk to them tomorrow?
Could you have done more before they got to this point?
This is the small stuff, that nagging, worrying voice inside each of us that says, “what if?” This small stuff gets to us, our very inner core that makes it hard to sleep at night. It makes waking up in the morning hard and at the end of the day really burns us out. It can cause anxiety and stress that does not always have to be there. If you sum up your week and think about the energy you have given to the small stuff, how much more energy would you have for everything else? This energy could have been used working with students, faculty, staff, with your own family and life.
“Sometimes life is hard, but sometimes we make it harder than it is.”