On the Little Things

I am a firm believer in appreciating the little things in life. They are the bright moments in life that can unexpectedly lift you up at a moment’s notice. It could be a note your spouse slipped into your lunchbox to brighten your day, an unexpected text from a friend, or just a pretty sunrise that you have a split second to appreciate. I struggle every day to remember that this is what makes life good and surprising, and interesting. There doesn’t have to be a life-changing event or a huge success, so sometimes it seems trivial to celebrate the little things, but they are so important to notice. The little things can also be what gets you through the day, those little goals and baby steps that show your progress forward as you cross things off your to-do list. Sometimes I find myself adding a task I completed that I didn’t need to be reminded of, just so I can cross it off and feel as though I accomplished something.

But the little things can also just as easily derail me, I’ve found. These can be the tiniest moments or actions that, if arriving at just the wrong time, can disrupt an entire day and ruin what may have been a perfectly good, or at least neutral, mood. It could be that your husband ate that last piece of leftover pizza you had your eye on, or someone at work finds an inconsequential mistake in something you did, or maybe just randomly tripping and feeling like a complete and utter idiot, even if no one saw you do it.

What I am pondering now is why, if it is so easy to appreciate the positive little things in life, can the negative so easily get under our skin? I have had many bad days where I realize upon introspection that one tiny, inconsequential negative thing happened that day to cause me to chalk up the entire day as negative. Just one thing, that is all it takes. Just thinking about how stupid that sounds puts me in a bad mood. It seems like if more good things than bad happen in a day, that you should come out of it in the positive, right? Since when is the defining characteristic of a good day that absolutely nothing bad can happen?

In thinking about it from an engineer’s standpoint, it is all about the weight we put on each event that happens in our day. All else equal, the quantity of good versus bad should be what we chalk up as a positive or negative at the end of the day, but that is not how life works. We add value to everything. And it’s different for everyone. I am in general not a positive person, so I find myself falling victim to my own internal critic all the time. We put a lot of weight on the little positive things, but we, at least I, can put even more on the little negative things. If I don’t have a perfect day, then it’s bad, and that is just not a fair standard for anyone to hold themselves too. I know this logically, but it is much harder to put in practice, when you feel like you can’t recover from the tiniest misstep. Or worse, constantly anticipating bad things that haven’t even happened yet. Does anyone else feel this way? I struggle to appreciate the little moments that brighten my life because they seem so inconsequential, so why do I struggle with putting too much import on the ones that I should be able to move on and forget for the sake of my own sanity?

How can I stay positive when I am still foolishly expecting perfection? I set myself up for disappointment every time. Good luck clearing that low bar, self.

Quietly Seething

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