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Enjoying the Little Things in Life

By Linda Sapadin, Ph.D

We're often bombarded with messages that admonish us: "think big," "go for the gold," "learn the top secrets of success." And do all this NOW! Yet when we follow this advice, we're more apt to feel either exhausted, inadequate or both.

Why should this be so? What's wrong with "thinking big?" Nothing is inherently wrong with it. But when you believe that "big" is better than "small," that "stretching to the limit" is better than "taking it easy," that "be the best you can be" trumps "appreciating who you are," you are simply not being fair to yourself.

Not everybody is meant to make it "big." Not everybody wants to be multi-tasking all day long. Not everybody wants to have "crazy busy" be their new normal. Not everybody wants to devote their energy to going for the gold.

Indeed, many of us are more appreciative of the red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet in the world. We like color. We like contrast. We like to do a lot of things that have nothing to do with making it big or being on top.

And that's a good thing. Obviously, we can't all be at the top. Nor do we all want to be. For, at the top, it's lonely; the air is thin. And there's no place else to go but down.

If this article is resonating with you, it's time to make a shift in how you allocate your attention.

1. Begin With Enjoying the Little Things in Life
Why? What's so great about the little things in life? They are what we will remember and appreciate when we reflect on days gone by. A little thing may be a fun evening with friends. It may be the joy of learning something new. It may be listening to the giggles of your kids. It may be noticing nature bloom and blossom. It may be the warm feeling you get when you've done a simple kindness for a friend or a stranger.

If you neglect to enjoy these little things, what are you left with? It's the daily struggles, the disappointments and the disasters that plop on our doorsteps when we least expect it.

2. Appreciate That Life Is Made Up of Moments
We tend to think of life as the passage of days, weeks, years and decades. But, in essence, life is made up of moments. As you reflect on your day, what moments stand out for you? Is it the stress of trying to do it all? Is it the stuff that didn't get done? Is it harsh words for yourself for what you forgot to do? Or, failed to do? Or, a gloomy feeling about how far you are from the top?

If so, it's time for you to make a shift. Each day, pay attention to at least one or two moments that worked out well for you. Don't shrug your shoulders and conclude that "it was just a crappy day. Nothing worked out for me." For, even a bad experience has a valuable moment wrapped up inside of it, if only you're willing to dig deeper to discover it.

3. Pay Attention to What You Have Done
The constant barrage to "DO more," "GET more," and "BE more" negates what you have done, what you do have and who you are. It makes you feel deprived. Less than. Not good enough. In this competitive world of ours, we often need to remind ourselves of what we have accomplished, not what we still have to do. And always, always, we need to remind ourselves to be our best friend.

4. Create Your Own Definition of Who You Are
If you don't like how your mom (or anyone else defined you), don't keep that message alive. Take it out with the trash. Then, create your own definition of who you are and what you're about. Make sure this definition is not another version of "I have to be perfect" or "Superwoman lives here." Indeed, begin right now by saying out loud three words that define you in a positive way. Come on now, don't skip right past this exercise. Do it. And write it down so you can remind yourself of who you are (not who you're supposed to be).

5. Inch Out of Your Comfort Zone
We'd all like instant change. Snap our fingers and it's all different. Sorry, it doesn't work that way. Real change takes time. There's no instant fix to overcoming early self-defeating patterns. But if your aim is to bolster your ego and confidently face whatever challenges life presents you, you've got to move out of your comfort zone, inch by inch. Surely, you've been there long enough. Though it's safe, it's also boring. Outside your comfort zone? It's scary but it's also enriching, enlivening and empowering.

6. Feel Gratitude for Who You Are and for the Life You've Led
Gratitude? "But look at all the crap I've been through. Look at all that has happened to me. It's totally drained me." Yup, that's one way of looking at it. But another way is that despite everything you've gone through, you're still here. You've survived. You have bounced back from your worst moments. You have learned much. Be appreciative and thankful for YOU and for the kind, supportive people you have encountered on your journey. Resilient people learn how strong they are as a result of life's challenges. Give yourself credit for who you are and what you've done.

Copyright © 2013: Linda Sapadin, Ph.D
Linda Sapadin is a psychologist and personal coach in private practice who specializes in helping people enrich their lives, enhance their relationships and overcome self-defeating patterns of behavior. For more information about her work, contact her by email or visit her website at PsychWisdom.
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