“This crown it tilts atop my head
I think I’ll need a new one
This sapphire has a tinge of red
I said I want a blue one
Ah, I look so dreadful in this dress
Where is that wretched little seamstress?
She’ll yield to me a pound of flesh
No room for an ounce of weakness
You there! What’s your name again?
Pick that up from the floor!
If you ever drop my train again—
Who is that knocking at the door?”
“Ma’am I loathe to bring these tidings
But I’ve been asked to be the martyr
The prince has gone in hiding
Stricken with cold feet at the altar
He asked to give this rose
Please forgive me for the hassle
But since the prince is indisposed
I must escort you from the castle.”
Focus on the very little that is actually important.
Important things should vastly outweigh unimportant things, yet the latter seems to vastly outnumber the former. When disproportionate weight is given to these unimportant things, everything starts to look critically important. Soon, the fact that there are so many problems becomes a critical problem in itself. The actual significant facts about a situation become diluted, and are difficult to fish out from the sea of drama you have engulfed yourself in.
What is actually important? One measurement is how chronic the problem is. If the problem is permanent, or at least frequent, it’s reasonable to attach importance to it. If attention is not paid to temporary problems, time alone will take care of their existence. If priority is given to less frequent problems, energy is being wasted. This doesn’t mean they should completely fall off the radar, but drama should be judiciously given to those problems where when a solution is applied, the greatest benefit will come about. Be careful not to use this threshold as an excuse to deliberately avoid something you don’t want to confront; letting it fester will only make it worse. But when your initial reaction is to rush to judgment, think about how chronic the problem is, and whether or not your energy is best spent on it.
Another effective approach is to filter out problems that only affect you. We have a tendency to attract attention to the things we feel others are not aware of, and unfortunately the subject is often ourselves. When your own well being, or your own way of thinking, is exclusively being taken into consideration, the importance of the problem diminishes greatly. Important things tend to affect many people, and if the solution to the problem will lead to a positive outcome for all, it is worth paying attention to.
A fair criticism of this line of thought would be that people who do blow things out of proportion will always be able to get their way. To be clear, you should not be a push over. When it matters, you absolutely need to push back. You will find, however, that if you take the time to filter out the nonsense, there is very little you have to expend your energy on, and it can be honed and concentrated for those few important situations. So what if others are winning the small, unimportant battles? Their time and energy is being wasted, and when they are confronted with an important problem, they will be ill equipped to handle it. You, on the other hand, will have been waiting for such a moment, and will have a fresh and uninhibited mind to attack it.
Finally, though the focus so far has been on problems, achievements are also prone to have drama creep up on them. Just as a problem can bring about unnecessary panic, an achievement can lead to unnecessary grandeur. This is less severe, since feeling overwhelmed with problems is much more damaging than feeling overwhelmed with glory, but maintaining humility concerning an achievement goes a long way. It should be enough that you are aware of what it means to you. Let someone else unselfishly provide the drama for it, if there is reason to do so.
- Do you find yourself interrupting other people? Is it that you feel you need to be heard, in which case, are you just adding noise? Is it that you feel you have something more important to say, in which case, are you unwittingly blind to the importance of what is already being said?
- When you ask something of someone, or celebrate an accomplishment, do you use the term “I” or “we”? If you use the term “I”, are you feeling an extra sense of drama with what you are saying? If you use the term “we”, is it tempered with the realization that you share the responsibility with others?