Big picture vs tiny details

You know Einstein’s quote (and I’m paraphrasing here) that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. (Aside: I actually didn’t know it was an Einstein quote until I googled it to get the right wording.) Well, I realised today how key it actually is.

I was chatting on msn to an online friend this morning. This is a guy who is perpetually complaining about being single and how there are no decent girls out there or how they’re scared off by his job  (he moves a fair bit for work).

He says he’s not asking for much: looking for a girl who is laid back, low maintenance, fairly casual; someone honest, with good morals and values and who is loyal to their friends. These are the big things – he doesn’t care about the small things, like someone who makes him smile and laugh, someone who gets his jokes and references and someone who he can look at and laugh, knowing what the other is thinking. The small things like that.

Small things? Really? They’re small things?

I started laughing when I read his list of big things. That is the most GENERIC list I’ve ever read. As if someone’s going to say, no, I’m looking for someone really high maintenance who is willing to drop her friends in an instant and who thinks that morals are for virgins. Theoretically, everyone is looking for the girl he’s looking for.

I tried suggesting making some of the small things more important and refocusing. Obviously he didn’t agree because, well, that would mean he’d have to stop complaining and start doing something.

But this brings me to my point, which seems to have changed as I’ve written this. Maybe I should start with the whole drafting business … Anyway, my point: obviously this big picture focus is not working for him. His generic goals (which could be taken from a book or a magazine for all their specific details) are not helping him find that needle in the haystack. Much like generic health and fitness goals don’t really motivate people to get fit. Generic goals like “I want to be healthy” give you nothing to work towards. As soon as qualify and quantify your goal, it makes it easier to focus.

How about changing “I want to be healthy” to something like “I want to be able to carry my groceries 2 miles home without needing to take a break” or “I want to be able to go for hikes in the summer without feeling like death” These are simple but achievable – they give you something specific to focus on. These are not small things. The day I realised that I no longer had to choose between buying milk or juice because I couldn’t carry the bags from the store – that was a momentous day. I realised how much stronger I was.

In my opinion, my friend is going to be struggling to find this mythical perfect girl for a long time, until he realises that it’s often the small things that matter more than the big picture. It’s the details you live with, not the grand scheme of life. My big picture never included sitting and watching The Princess Bride and laughing as we both realised that we knew all the lines. That small detail is one of the things I fell in love with. Sometimes it’s the small details that make the difference.

My latest fitness goal: to get back to bench pressing 40lbs easily and then move to 50lbs. I can do it because it’s specific. Oh, and I want to do it by the time I leave Canada.

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4 thoughts on “Big picture vs tiny details

  1. Who in their right mind would not know all the lines in “Princess Bride” ? I have learnt since starting to ask that so many people are now dead to me 🙂

  2. My favorite PB line? Glad you asked! Um…sorry there’s not enough room to quote the whole movie!

    As for your friend, I have learned that for some people, it’s easier to gripe and complain than to actually DO anything about it. It’s their comfort zone, so that’s where they live…sometimes for the rest of their lives. Sad, but true.

  3. “As if someone’s going to say, no, I’m looking for someone really high maintenance who is willing to drop her friends in an instant and who thinks that morals are for virgins.”

    That made me laugh. And I think you’re right, being able to laugh with her (or him) is probably one of the most important things. Because if you’re going to spend a lot of time with them, it’s important that you know how to have fun with them. Otherwise what is there to look forward to?

    Also, I could find a guy who might be able to meet everything in a checklist, but if there’s nothing to interest me beyond that, it’s not going to go anywhere.

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