Dr Bev Smallwood

Articles Library: Coping

It's Bigger Than You Think

Vasti Jackson, my friend and business partner on our motivational music CD project, frequently says something that has begun to ring in my ears at the oddest times. Whenever we encounter a roadblock, experience a hassle, or fail to meet a short-term goal, he reminds me, “ It’s bigger than this.”

The more I think about that phrase, the bigger IT gets. When you fully grasp the significance of it, it will carry you through stressful times at work and home. It will enable you to set aside ego for the greater good. It will help you strive to find meaning and to live purposefully.

Living Purposefully

Trevor, the son of my good friend Darla, was four years old the day he was splashing by the pool while his grandmother Sandi sat by the edge watching. Sandi turned her head momentarily, and when she looked back again, Trevor had been under water. He came up sputtering and wiping his face.

“Trevor! You put your face under!” she said, knowing he hated to do that. “Did you do it on purpose?”

“Yeah!” he muttered. “Stupid purpose!”

Your own personal purpose…it’s bigger than whatever challenge you are facing right now.

Close your eyes right now and think back to times when you knew without a doubt that you were in the flow of what you were put on this earth to do. What scenes come to mind? What are the common elements of those scenes?

Many wonderful experiences flood my mind when I do this exercise. Allow me to share with you three prototypical examples from my own work life.

  • A CEO finally sees how his ego-driven, autocratic attitudes have been demoralizing the very people on whom he depends for success. His turnaround is a model for the entire team, freeing them to use their talents and creativity as never before.
  • A woman in my clinical practice begins to raise her bent shoulders and look me in the eye, realizing after years of criticism and abuse that she has hope and a future.
  • Dark faces in my South African audiences register a new realization of their own God-give worth and value, only weeks after the downfall of the oppressive Apartheid government that legislated and enforced laws and practices to the contrary.

I know, without a doubt, that my life has purpose, and that my personal purpose is to “bring out the best in people.” That’s what’s happening when I am at my own best. No matter what situation in which I find myself, if I choose attitudes and actions in line with that, I will grow through it.

The same is true for you. If you are still breathing (and you must be if you are reading this), you have purpose. When your purpose is finished, you’ll exit planet earth.

Give it some thought. When do you feel that you are at your best, no matter whether your circumstances are pleasant or difficult? What dreams and desires in your heart just won’t go away? What themes run throughout your most satisfying experiences, both work and personal? These are clues to your purpose in life.

Benjamin Disraeli said, “The secret of success is constancy of purpose.”

Remind yourself when things aren’t going the way you planned, “It’s bigger than this. I have purpose. Even in these less-than-ideal circumstances, I have the opportunity to stretch and grow so that I can learn to live my purpose more maturely.”

Setting Aside Ego

Once I asked a guy in my clinical practice, “What seems to be your problem?”

He replied, “All my life, I’ve had trouble getting along with people. Nobody gives me the respect I deserve. Can you help me, you no-good, money-grubbing quack?”

(OK, so that didn’t really happen to me, but it could have!)

Relationship-busting ego can take more than one form.

There are the obvious ones… the overbearing people whose mantras are, “Everyone has the right to my opinion” and “You have a right to disagree and therefore be wrong.” You can get hoarse just listening to them.

Could you be one of these people at times? ( I doubt that any of us are completely immune.) If so, remember…it’s bigger than you are! Others have valid and creative ideas. Listen and learn from them.

The not-so-obvious ego-driven people are those who are the chronic victims. They personalize everything, finding offense in the most innocent of comments and actions. They obsess about who meant what. Invariably, the conclusion is that whatever the meaning, it was directed toward them…and it wasn’t good.

I remember James. When he first came to me, he brought a laundry list of incidents proving his case about the constant disapproval he got from others. He described what he perceived as negative looks on people’s faces when he walked into a room. He imagined that they noticed his clothes not fitting right, or fantasized that they were really thinking about the small mistake he made last week. Despite what seemed to me to be helpful gestures or simply innocuous events, he remained convinced that whatever he observed was “all about him.”

Do you habitually feel slighted? I have news for you that is both disappointing and liberating.

It’s not all about you! People are going about their lives with their own agendas and their own insecurities. They’re not always focused on you and your imperfections!

Set yourself free by allowing your view of others to transcend your self-related fears.

It’s much bigger than that!

Finding Meaning When Work Gets Hard

Study after study shows that organizational team members who have a sense of meaning in their work are the most productive and the most loyal. However particular individuals define it, they want to feel that they are making a difference.

I’m sure you are familiar with the moving writings of Dr.Victor Frankl, the psychiatrist who chose to use his mind and heart productively while in a concentration camp. In “Man’s Search for Meaning”, Dr. Frankl observed that the people most likely to survive, both physically and psychologically, were those who were able to find some kind of meaning in that cruel existence.

If you are in a job that’s just a job, you’re in the wrong place. Without the sense that you are involved in something bigger than you are, something that matters, the daily hassles will be too much.

We are always calculating value in our work experiences. We’re weighing benefits vs. costs. Every job has its struggles, or “costs.” The question is, do the positives outweigh the hassles? Weighing in very heavily on the positive side is the meaning you find in your work.

I’ll never forget a conversation I had with one of the many Certified Nurse Aides who faithfully and lovingly attended my mother in the nursing home. (Perhaps you can imagine the unbelievably unpleasant task that precipitated my respectful curiosity.)

I asked her, “How do you manage to do this?”

She answered, “It’s not really hard when you know that you are making life a little better for these sweet people who can no longer help themselves.”

When you’re feeling tired and burned out, I wish for you the renewal that comes from the knowledge that what you’re doing is bigger than the effort you’re putting forth. I hope that you can say from your heart, “It’s worth it.”

Gainging Perspective

It’s all about perspective, isn’t it?

It’s about grasping the vision rather than being mired in the minutiae. It’s about realizing what’s really important and living that… despite unwise choices of others, plans gone awry, or disappointments in yourself. It’s about putting hardships and disappointments in context.

May I leave you with a closing story that reminded me to put things in perspective?

I twice had the privilege of traveling to Kenya to work with pastors and their wives from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Zaire, helping them to gain skills in leading their people. It was fascinating and rewarding to speak for four days through a Swahili interpreter!

Trip 2 occurred about 1 ½ years after Trip 1. I’ll admit I was feeling a little self-conscious, as I had put on several pounds (which felt like a ton) since my last visit. I knew that the difference would be noticeable to those I had met there before.

Sure enough, I was welcomed at the conference by Mary, a pastor’s wife with whom I’d made a special connection before. After giving me an obvious and enthusiastic head-to-toe once-over, she exclaimed, “Miss Beverly, the Lord has certainly blessed you since you were here!”

I had no doubt what she meant, but suddenly the pounds took on new meaning. Coming from a woman who both experienced a scarcity of food and ministered to those for whom hunger was an everyday experience, my apparent abundance was a BLESSING.

Focus on the big, wonderful picture when you’re in the middle of the muddle.

Remember just how big it really is… and you’re all set for a really big blessing!

Dr. Bev Smallwood is a psychologist and professional speaker who is the author of “This Wasn’t Supposed to Happen to Me.” Visit her website, www.DrBevSmallwood.com; or contact Bev at 601.264.0890 or by email, Bev@DrBevSmallwood.com. Also connect with Bev on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and her blogs, Shrink Rap and New Morning Devotionals.

back to stress and coping

linkedin video blogs new morning

Become more successful at work and home by applying tips in Dr. Bev’s monthly ezine. Sign up now!

Post Office Box 17918

2013 Hardy Street

Hattiesburg, MS 39401


Copyright © 2017 -- Dr. Bev Smallwood. -- All Rights Reserved | Web Development By: Hartfield Creative

Post Office Box 17918 • 2013 Hardy Street • Hattiesburg, MS 39401 • 601.264.0890 • 877.can.lead (266.5323)