“I have a WHAT!?”
“You probably have an ulcer. It’s like a small hole in your stomach.”
“Yeah, but I’m 27. How the hell can I have an ulcer?!”
It was 2012, the day before I was getting ready to move to Ecuador for a month. I had just hired my first full-time team member for Nerd Fitness (Hi Staci!), and I got some news from my doctor after having stomach pains for the previous three weeks.
Now, I know there’s no TRUE evidence that says stress causes ulcers, but all I could think of was how stressed I had been for the previous few months: working 16-hour days, freaking out about the tiniest things, having absolutely no balance, etc. I had started Nerd Fitness to help people get healthy, and I was driving myself to an unhealthy existence.
It was a wake-up call.
Until now, I haven’t told many people about the ulcer – in fact, I’m not even sure I told my parents. Ooops, sorry Mom!
At the time, this inspired some serious self reflection: What was I doing? Were my priorities right? Why was I so stressed?
This all came back to me just a few weeks ago when tragedy struck a close friend of mine, reminding me what’s truly important in this big game we call life.
Everything is amazing and nobody is happy
A few weeks ago, a close friend of mine lost a relative in a tragic car accident. His life, and the life of his family, was turned completely upside down in a matter of seconds.
I spent that afternoon counting my blessings, and realizing how freaking lucky I am. Suddenly that stressful Friday morning didn’t seem so stressful; the five minutes of traffic I had sat in was absolutely a non-factor in the rest of my AMAZING day.
I feel absolutely terrible that it often takes a tragedy or close call to remind us of what’s really important, and is many times the only thing that can truly put everything else in perspective.
It reminded me of the incredible Louis C.K. skit “Everything in Amazing right now, and nobody’s happy,” which is well worth four minutes of your time:
My favorite section is the following, where he’s talking to somebody who had a flight delayed:
“First of all we didn’t board for 20 minutes (right) and then we get on the plane and they made us sit there on the runway for 40 minutes. We had to sit there.”
“Oh really, what happened next? Did you fly through the air incredibly like a bird? Did you partake in the miracle of human flight, you non-contributing zero?”
You laugh, and then you probably think to yourself (like I did), “oh crap…that’s me…many, many times.” Whether it’s a delayed flight, or slow service at a restaurant (where we’ll overeat and then complain about being full) it’s amazing what we can complain about just so we have something to complain about!
I want to share with you a system I’ve created over the past few weeks to insure I remember what’s important.
Does it REALLY Matter? REALLY?
Over the past few years, I’ve gotten much better at not stressing out over the unimportant – AKA “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”
Whenever I get stressed out, I think, WWLD? AKA “What would Leo Do?” AKA Leo Babauta, mr Zen Habits.
I remember going to meet up with Leo in San Francisco a few years ago. I was a huge fan of his, and due to traffic, I was running late for our lunch/tea meeting. I was panicking and hyperventilating, which is not the best thing in the world when you’re going to meet probably the most LAID-BACK AND HAPPIEST DUDE IN THE WORLD.
I called him on the phone and began making up excuses about traffic (boooo excuses!) and apologizing profusely for being late. He simply said, “Steve, I just want you to get here safely, please take your time and relax.” You could actually HEAR his smile through the telephone.
Suddenly, my blood pressure dropped about 50 points, I stopped sweating, and realized he was absolutely right. Shit happens, life can get in the way, and things can change in an instant.
I now actually have a post-it note on my computer screen to remind me of this fact. It simply says “Does it REALLY matter? REALLY?”
If I’m overly stressing about something that has gone wrong, whether its my fault or not, I ask myself if in the grand scheme of my brief existence on the planet this issue really matters. 99.9% of the time, the answer is NO.
If I’m stuck in traffic, or my cell phone call drops, or my computer crashes, I ask if it REALLY matters.
If I start to feel sorry for myself for one reason or another, I slap myself in the face and ask if what I’m complaining about REALLLLLY matters.
It’s so easy for us to stress about things at our job (that we might not even like). We skip engagements with friends, or miss our kid’s soccer games for things that might SEEM important now but will honestly have NO significance in our lives in the big picture.
I remind myself: “Hey…did you wake up today? That’s a good start. Build on that.”
And don’t worry, I don’t have all of this figured out either. It’s so easy these days are so easy to get caught up in the unimportant rat race that we struggle to remember what’s truly important.
If you ever need a reminder as to the scale we’re currently working with, watch an episode of COSMOS to put things in perspective, as Sweet sassy molassy that’ll make your brain explode.
As morbid as it sounds, “Tomorrow is no guarantee” is something that I think of every day.
I have to remind myself that working all the time, stressing out about everything, and complaining doesn’t make my day any better, and tomorrow everything might change. It did recently for my friend, and tomorrow it might change for me too.
I was reminded of what’s truly important in our pursuit of happiness from my friend Eric’s recent article: The “8 Things that the Happiest People Do Every Day“, which covers scientific proof about what makes us happy:
- They devote a great amount of time to their family and friends, nurturing and enjoying those relationships.
- They are comfortable expressing gratitude for all they have.
- They are often the first to offer helping hands to coworkers and passersby.
- They practice optimism when imagining their futures.
- They savor life’s pleasures and try to live in the present moment.
- They make physical exercise a weekly and even daily habit.
- They are deeply committed to lifelong goals and ambitions (e.g., fighting fraud, building cabinets, or teaching their children their deeply held values).
- Last but not least, the happiest people do have their share of stresses, crises, and even tragedies. They may become just as distressed and emotional in such circumstances as you or I, but their secret weapon is the poise and strength they show in coping in the face of challenge.
I realized that without even planning it, I really focus on a lot of these things already and it’s probably why I feel so freaking lucky and happy.
I make it a point to do a few things every day purely for enjoyment (yes, even if I suck at them). For me, it’s hearing live music, playing music, reading, exercise, and adventure (you know, those lifelong challenges on my Epic Quest).
Do you make it a point to spend even a few minutes each day doing something purely for the joy of it? Whether it’s gaming, or music, or volunteering, or sitting on a bench in a blue hat…enjoy today dude!
Don’t worry, be happy
I want you to look at that list of things above that happy people do every day.
I then want you to pick ONE thing on that list, and work on it today:
- Sign up to volunteer once a month at a children’s hospital or homeless shelter. Remember how lucky you are to have the opportunities you do.
- Take the afternoon off from work to spend more time with your children.
- Stop worrying about tomorrow – it hasn’t happened yet! Enjoy today.
- Call somebody who’s in your life and tell them that you’re grateful for knowing them.
- Find 10 minutes to do something that makes you happy.
- Exercise! Stop putting it off, skip that extra 30 minutes of TV and get it done.
I want you to be happy and healthy, so I’m literally going to bribe you. I want you to STOP stressing out about one thing that would normally drive you crazy, and instead pick ONE thing from that happiness list and get it done.
Leave a comment here before midnight on Thursday, October 23rd, telling me what you stopped worrying about, and how you’re actually going to ENJOY TODAY. We’ll pick one winner at random from the comments to win a free Nerd Fitness shirt.
So, leave a comment, and let me know.
And freaking stop worrying about useless shit!
IT DOESN’T FREAKING MATTER.
Oh, and smile.