What Unimportant Things Do You Focus On Too Much?

Do you find that you spend your time worrying about unimportant things, while ignoring big ones?

If so, you’re not alone. Focusing on trivial things is such a part of the human condition, there are even adages warning against it.

For example, take the phrase, “Penny wise, pound foolish.” Saving money on little things is meaningless if you waste money on big-ticket items.

Also, consider the saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” If we can only focus on the important things in life, it will save us time and even health in the end.

And yet, we often obsess over tiny details. Why would a person may behave this way?

For one, you may not know how to attack a big problem, but you can solve a small one. Thus, you turn your attention to what you know how to do. I can’t fix climate change, so I’m going to obsess on cleaning my house.

Alternately, you may not even realize there is a bigger issue. For example, you may be promoting one political opponent over another, without realizing that money in politics is a corrupting influence on both parties.

Sometimes, a smaller concern is simply more appealing. Ultimately, watching a TV show may not be important, but it’s more fun than doing your taxes.

Whatever the reason, every one of does this to some extent.

To combat this, we need to accurately determine the relative importance of things. In addition, we need to have the determination to tackle the big problems or issues as they come up.

Are there specific minor things that you find yourself obsessing over, at the expense of more significant issues? What unimportant things do you focus on too much?

Related questions: What is important? Is our attention fractured? What deserves your attention?

4 thoughts on “What Unimportant Things Do You Focus On Too Much?”

  1. I spend too much time thinking about doing things than actually doing them. It’s not that thinking about doing things is bad or unimportant. It’s that I waste too much time staring blankly into a computer screen trying to process possibilities, which at some point becomes unimportant, rather than actually testing things out — processing through practice rather than daydreaming — as a way to make them happen.

    As someone who suffers from Anxiety (and, yes, I meant to capitalize the word Anxiety), I spend too much time regretting and beating myself up over the past (Michael, learn from it and move on) and fearing the future (plan in moderation, and, again, move on). I haven’t devoted enough time into reading about and practicing methods — from a mental health perspective — that will help me past regret and fear.

    I spend too much time on Facebook and YouTube.

    I watch the evening national news. This is not necessary as I already get them most reliable information from newspapers and magazines.

    1. I probably spend too much time playing and practicing the game of golf. I justify it by thinking of it as something I have a talent for, and as a healthy form of recreation. Today was a great day to be outdoors and so I spent several hours practicing golf. Sometimes I wish I was talented in some other way that would be more beneficial to my family and community. (I do sing in the church choir, but not since the pandemic hit.) I volunteer at a wonderful organization that provides home furnishings to people in need. I give platelets at my local blood bank. I’m working with others from my church to advocate for justice for those in need; who are struggling to survive in our society of “haves” and “have nots”.

      I try to practice moderation in golf and in other areas of my life. Moderation and balance are my mantras these days. Tomorrow I’ll be working in the yard, which is both good exercise and good therapy. And doing some yoga. My daughter said it would help my golf, but there I go again, talking about golf!

  2. What someone thinks is “unimportant” vs “important” can vary pretty drastically from person to person. What one person thinks is meaningless another may find crucial. So it’s important not to judge someone else’s choices.

    With that said, I can point to several things I obsess over that ultimately don’t matter. One is word choice.

    I write a lot of these questions with accompanying context, and often I spend an unnecessary amount of time writing and rewriting the words and paragraphs.

    In some ways, this may be justified. After all, the way we communicate with others, the way we let others know how we think, who we are, what matters to us, comes about through written and spoken communication. So in that sense, even a relatively minor difference in word choice can illuminate an important part of our character.

    On the other hand, one can overthink these things. For example, with this question, I had written everything up and was ready to move on to something else, then I decided to change the question from “What unimportant things do you focus too much on?” to “What unimportant things to you focus on too much?” Then I had to go through the text to see what I needed to alter to be consistent.

    It was only after I was done that it occurred to me that this was a good example of the premise of the question.

    1. I’ve been thinking about this question ever since it went live, and I had another thought I wanted to share here.

      Not only is the concept of “important” or “unimportant” quite variable from person to person (as I mentioned in my first comment) but it’s also true that we don’t really know what is actually “important” at all. It’s entirely possible — in fact, it is likely — that something that you are doing, and which you may actually consider “unimportant” may mean a lot to someone else.

      It has certainly happened to me on a number of occasions that a friend or colleague has thanked me for something — something I said, or did, or shared — which at the time I didn’t even give a second thought. And yet, that thing that I did meant enough to them that they went out of their way to thank me for it.

      In fact, it has long been a point of amazement to me that if you consider many, if not all, of the most important things in your life can be traced back to minor, unimportant, or trivial decisions.

      And so I think it is worthwhile to note that when I choose to focus on something that I consider “unimportant”, the fact of the matter is that thing actually may not be unimportant at all.

      So I just go about my day, doing what I want to do in the way I want to do it. I just hope that ends up being good enough.

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