minding the little things

ownerlessA few months ago my car’s air conditioner stopped working. To be more exact, the fan quit working except on the 5 (high) setting.  I could have the A/C off, or blowing like a hurricane.  I didn’t think about it too much, since I drive with the windows open except when it’s raining, and I don’t drive my car much (a couple of miles to the train station each weekday).

Some other things broke down a few months later and I decided to take the car in for an overhaul. The mechanics were mystified by the fan problem, and ended up keeping the car for an extra day.  When I picked it up, I found out that a non-standard part had been substituted at some point in the car’s repair history and the result had been that the fan had shorted out not only itself, but a lot of the wiring in my ignition.  I didn’t follow all of the technical details, but the mechanic summed it up this way: “you were lucky the steering column didn’t burst into flame when you turned the car on.”  I let out a “whew” and decided that in the future I would try not to let “little” repairs go too long without checking them out.

The same is true for most aspects of your life. Think about all the areas where you need to check out the “little things” to make sure the “big problems” aren’t lurking:

  1. Your health. Going to a doctor once a year is a must, but I realized that my insurance covers vision, dermatology, podiatry, etc.  I am trying to make a better effort to work visits to specialists in occasionally to make sure that no problems are lurking (for example, getting a glaucoma test once a year from my optometrist, whether I need new glasses or not).
  2. Your financial future. Check on your insurance policies and your will.  I am up-to-date on insurance, but Bubelah and I still don’t have a will.  I wonder how I can really offer much financial advice when I haven’t gotten that one piece of critical financial planning done myself, but do as I say, not as I do in this case.
  3. Your family future. Make sure you check on the little things with your family.  Understand what’s going wrong with your relatives, your spouse or your kids before it becomes a bigger issue.   This could be health, school, social life, finances, etc.  Anyone you feel responsible for needs a “checkup” from you once in a while.
  4. Your home. If you own, making sure your home is in good shape is no small exercise.  From alarm systems to air systems maintenance to just checking out the drafty places around the window, fixing little problems now can prevent big problems tomorrow.
  5. Your political future. I know most people get excited about presidential politics in America, but let’s face it – your Senators and Representatives (both federal and state) and even your local officials have more day-to-day influence on your life than the President does.  I know worrying about who gets elected to the state senate isn’t as “big a deal” as Obama v. McCain, but it matters.
  6. Your life, the universe and everything. Little things that bother you today can become a bigger problem tomorrow.  If you’re unhappy about something today, don’t let it fester.  Even if you can’t fix it today, take one tiny step toward correcting it.

I am often more worried about the long-term, big-picture issues and grand questions about life and history and whether the Jets will win a Super Bowl in my lifetime, but little things like avoiding a fiery steering wheel column through dumb luck remind me that I need to pay attention to the details in life, too.  Don’t wait until the little problems become big problems; I don’t know of too many problems that disappear on their own.

photo credit: swambo