This morning, I started my walk early because it was going to be a hot day. I put on my sunscreen and comfortable clothes and sneakers, selected my audiobook, and went on my way.
About a quarter of the way into the walk, I felt a small pebble in my shoe. It was annoying, but not painful. I kept walking, thinking it wasn’t worth the effort to remove the pebble. But then I stopped and asked myself, Why am I continuing to walk in discomfort when this is so easy to fix?
So I stopped, balanced on one leg, removed my shoe, and the tiny pebble fell out. Ahhhh, walking felt so much better.
I have always thought of myself as overly sensitive, overly needy. I suppressed so many of my needs in order to fit in and seem cool. I wanted to be “casual,” “easy,” to “go with the flow.” It took me until my 40s to realize that the only person I was hurting with this approach was myself. Everyone else was thrilled that I would just go with the flow—because it meant I would go with their flow and not insist on my own preferences. It was so bad that I have had to spend my 40s finally figuring out what my preferences are.
So back to the pebble in my shoe. It wasn’t a big deal … but it was annoying. I go for walks to clear my head, to feel the breeze on my skin, to hear the birds, to learn from my audiobooks and podcasts, and smell the flowers. A pebble in my shoe distracts me and diminishes all of the good. Little adjustments can have a big impact.
In her book We Should All Be Millionaires, author Rachel Rodgers talks about how one of her clients had a broken cabinet in her kitchen. As a result, she had to stuff her food and supplies into the remaining cabinets, which made navigating the kitchen more difficult. Not only did it make her time in the kitchen unpleasant, the messiness caused her to break things and waste time searching for what she needed. As Rachel writes, the cabinet was “stealing precious minutes of her precious time.” Finally, she took the time to hire someone to fix the cabinet, and $500 later, she no longer had to deal with the annoyance and she could feel good about her kitchen.
Little annoyances feel silly, but they steal our energy, our attention, and our productivity. Think about the things that annoy you on a daily basis or interfere with your ability to get things done in a satisfying way. What would it take to deal with those things and smooth out the edges of your day? We all deserve that.
I used to think that having preferences made me appear needy and fragile. What I realize now is that people who have preferences have the capacity to create an environment that works for them. Knowing your needs can make you empowered, practical, and self-aware. Yes, there are some things that are out of our control, but if you can fix something small and bring more happiness into your day, why not go for it?
What little annoyances in your life steal your joy, your attention, your energy? How can you fix them? You have my permission to deal with them and make your life feel a little easier.
Amy Alpert, a graduate of the Certificate in Positive Psychology, is a solutions-focused coach with a practice based in positive psychology. A former human resources executive at Goldman Sachs, she holds a master’s degree in organizational psychology from Columbia University. This article was originally published on Amy’s blog at amyalpert.com.