The happiness of most
“The happiness of most people we know is not ruined by great catastrophes or fatal errors, but by the repetition of slowly destructive little things.” – Ernest Dimnet
I tend to waste a lot of energy worrying, which is simply another way of focusing on the wrong things. Often when we worry, our conscious minds may be thinking of great tragedies or disasters, overwhelming things about which we can do nothing. Isn’t this a sneaky way of letting ourselves off the hook? As long as we focus on what we cannot possibly change, we are distracted from acting on what we can change.
Thus we fret over sad stories we see on television or in the newspaper, while we help ourselves to an extra snack only hours (or sometimes even minutes) after we have been complaining about our inability to lose that extra weight. We may complain about environmental damage or government inefficiency, while our own homes are disorganized and in need of a good cleaning.
Or, to come uncomfortably close to home, I may agonize about whether my spouse or son will survive his life-threatening medical condition, yet lose patience with him time and again, or complain about his lack of patience with me. Yes, I’m definitely talking about myself here. Ouch, the truth hurts!
While it’s important to do what we can to make the world better, it’s often more rewarding and far more effective to focus on improving our own immediate sphere of influence. When I’m feeling most anxious or sad, there is truly no more immediate remedy than to take some positive action, no matter how small or simple.
The really great thing is that such actions are not only the best way to improve my own mood; they almost always make a difference for someone else, too. If I plant colorful flowers in my front yard, they are there for the enjoyment of anyone who passes. If I tidy up the kitchen, it will be more welcoming to everyone who comes into the room. If I keep my tone of voice pleasant and cheerful, everyone I speak to will benefit from hearing a friendly voice.
Today there are a lot of upsetting or tragic news stories I could dwell on. There are many friends and loved ones who are hurting, and I hurt with them. But wouldn’t it be better to channel those emotions into some positive action? I can send a donation, write a note of cheer, offer up fervent prayers for those with trouble or sorrow, and try to make the home a soothing place of comfort for Jeff when he walks through the door today.
I invite you to join me in the ongoing struggle against slowly destructive little things. We are certain to win these tiny battles if we don’t allow ourselves to fall for the distractions that dilute our energy and undermine our efforts.
One year ago today: