The Little Things
If there are this many results for “It’s the little things in life,” on Pinterest, it’s safe to assume that it’s a bit of a cliché.
Of course, me being me, I want to dig into why the little things are so important.
This chart is a standard normal distribution. “Cool,” you may be thinking. “Why should I care? I didn’t come here for a stats lesson!”
No, you didn’t come here for a stats lesson, but you’re getting one anyway.
The standard normal distribution shows how often you can expect something to happen compared to the average (that’s at 0). I won’t get into the technicals of how the distribution is formed, but here’s how it works.
Let’s say that, in life, the average day is just “ok.” Not good, not bad, just ok. That’d be at 0.
There are some days that are good (i.e. your boss said you did well on a project), and some days that are bad (i.e. you get a flat tire on the drive into work). Those are at +1 or -1.
There are a few days that are really good (i.e. your boss said you did well on a project and you got a huge raise) and a few that are really bad (i.e. you got a flat tire on the drive into work and your car lost control and hit a wall – it was totaled). Those would be at +2 or -2.
Then, there are the incredible few days in life (i.e. your boss said you did well on a project, you got a huge raise, and your first child was born – all on the same day!) and the end-of-the-world-type days (i.e. you got a flat tire on the drive into work, your car lost control and hit a wall, and that wall was actually the wall of your house – the car was totaled and the house was condemned).
Those days are at +3 and -3.
We tend to focus on finding the next incredible day and preventing the next end-of-the-world day. All our effort goes into finding the next emotional high and fearing the next catastrophe.
There’s a problem, though. If we focus on the 5% of incredibly good and exceptionally bad days, we totally disregard the other 95% of our lives. If I live a hundred years, that’d be the same as spending 95 years focusing on 5 years of our lives.
That’s what scares me.
We spend so much time dwelling on our end-of-of the world days and looking forward to the incredible days that we let 95% of our lives slip by unnoticed.
No wonder time flies – we aren’t paying attention to 95% of it!
I’m not saying to totally disregard the extremes; it just isn’t worth missing most of life focusing on them.
What if, instead, we focus on finding little enjoyable moments during the other 95% of our lives?
I tried doing that, and a funny thing happened. I started enjoying life more. Sure, sipping a cup of coffee on a spring morning with the windows open won’t be as much of a milestone as my wedding day (we’re talking hypotheticals here).
There will be so many more coffee-filled days in my life than there will be wedding days (hopefully) that we find more joy simply by acknowledging them.
By focusing on the little things, we start to reclaim that missing 95% of our lives. We shift our thinking and, suddenly, the average day isn’t just ok.
The average day is pretty good.
Yes, the end-of-the-world days will still come, but they’ll be a little easier to stomach.
The incredible days will still come, too, but they’ll be a little bit sweeter. Especially if we start them with a good cup of coffee.