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Sweating the Small Stuff

Big stuff is made of small stuff.

We're often told not to sweat the small stuff, and this seems like good advice, but, when you think about it, not sweating the small stuff can be a recipe for disaster. Why? Because big stuff is made of small stuff and presumably we should sweat the big stuff, which suggests that we really should sweat the small stuff after all.

Let me illustrate with some examples that are familiar both from everyday life and from academic articles on the many ways in which we often voluntarily inch toward terrible results. We eat too much, save too little, and wreak havoc on the environment; but, as I've noted in a small--but certainly not negligible!--collection of contributions on the challenges associated with choosing well, in many cases, each step toward obesity, destitution, and environmental destruction is negligible in terms of making things worse than they are.

Now nothing is smaller, other than nothing, than what's negligible. So, not sweating the negligible stuff seems pretty conservative with respect to not sweating the small stuff. But, it seems pretty clear that we're not doing enough in the way of sweating the small stuff (a point I could insightfully elaborate on over coffee--preferably a whole milk $4 mocha latte in a disposable cup).

Presumably, if we consistently got worked up about the small stuff, we would avoid many of the terrible results we inch toward and then deeply regret. So maybe the really pressing question is not "How can I stop sweating the small stuff?" But "How can I get more worked up about the small stuff?" Step aside all you laid-back, happy-go-lucky types. It's time for sticklers to have their day in the sun.

More from Chrisoula Andreou Ph.D.
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More from Chrisoula Andreou Ph.D.
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