Brendon Towle Coaching

Friday Bonus Book Review: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

I’m going to start intermittently reviewing books that have been meaningful to me in my journey. I have been blessed to have some excellent teachers, some physically present in my life and some through their writing, and I want to acknowledge and share that. (I have some disclaimers about my reviews here, but basically they’re all unsolicited, I have no connection with the author, I get a small commission if you buy the book from the link, and I won’t review anything I didn’t personally find valuable.)

Today’s topic: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff (commission link) by Richard Carlson. This is not a new book; it was originally published in 1997, and I was fortunate enough to be introduced to it shortly thereafter. It’s a collection of 100 short essays on how to live a calmer, happier, more peaceful life. They’re all roughly on the same theme, but about different topics (sometimes wildly different), and so some of them may sing to you more than others. Because of that, this is definitely a book to approach with the philosophy of “Take what you need, and ignore the rest.” Some of the ones that have helped me the most over the years are:

16: Ask Yourself, “Will This Matter a Year from Now?”

It’s really easy for me to find myself bent out of shape about things without taking any kind of perspective as to how important it really is. If I ask myself “Will this matter a year from now?”, the answer is almost certainly “No.” It’s really easy for many of us to lose perspective on the events of the moment, precisely because they’re happening now. Remembering to refocus my attention on how this will affect Future Me is a way for me to gain some perspective.

41: Avoid Weatherproofing

When he talks about weatherproofing here, what he’s talking about is the tendency to be on the lookout for things that need to be fixed — often in relationships, often with other people. While this habit can start with the genuine desire to be helpful, it easily turns into the habit of frequently offering unsolicited (and usually unwanted) advice to the people closest to you. One of the things this really helped me learn to do was to ask “Are you interested in a suggestion?” If the answer is no, then that’s the end of the conversation.

43: Become an Anthropologist

Obviously, this is not career advice; the world needs anthropologists, sure, but it’s not going to be everybody’s gig. But, the suggestion here is to approach your relationships with other people from the perspective of trying to understand them. What are their values? What makes them tick? If I can focus on trying to understand other people, it’s easier to not be in judgement, and easier to be calm and collected.

45: Develop Your Own Helping Rituals

My experience is that lack of inner peace is often angry, or frustrated, or bitter. And, although it’s not impossible to be any of those things while doing something nice for someone else, it’s hard. I don’t know about you, but I get a little rush from doing nice things for others. My personal favorite is holding doors open for people while smiling and gesturing them through. I usually get a smile and a thank you in return, and that’s a good feeling.

76: Get Comfortable Not Knowing

While this essay is based around a parable, which would normally not be my thing, the point is so important to me that it’s stuck. We often think we know what’s going to happen, but, in fact, we don’t know. We think we do, but we don’t. Even when we’re utterly convinced, we still might be wrong.

As a part of my morning routine, I’ve made it a habit to do some reading from books that inspire me and help remind me of who I want to be and how I want to live. Exactly which books I’m reading changes from time to time as I get bored with them, or need reminders, or discover new things. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff is one of the books that continually comes back into rotation. The lessons in it are always good for me to remember, and a reminder of them never hurts me. If you’ve never read it, I highly recommend checking it out.

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