Fine Print

Sometimes one thing holding us back from doing what we want and need to do is the fact that we spend so much time getting back up from falls that could have been prevented if we paid more attention to details.

Chasing a dream can feel wonderful and turn out very wonderful having few detrimental hiccups along the way. When this happens, consider yourself blessed. I enjoy focusing on the big picture while I chase my goals; it keeps me optimistic, hopeful, and focused on charging forward. While this is a good practice, I have learned that God gave us two eyes and two ears for a reason — to figuratively keep one on the big picture and one on the details and fine print OR to enable us to focus more efficiently on one at a time.

I really dislike when the fine print and details — that I didn’t pay close enough attention to — throws me a curve ball that I wasn’t expecting. In most cases I could have been prepared for it, but I missed it because I was focusing on the wrong thing at the wrong time. It is important to discern when it is time to focus on the big picture and when it is time to focus on the details. Paying attention to the fine print and details takes time and patience, so it is no surprise that we usually want to rush through things. However, within the fine print typically lies the keys to avoiding unnecessary pitfalls. In a way, paying attention to both the big picture and the details is like running straight ahead while making sure to check the ground beneath you for rocky surfaces and ditches!

Personally, I like looking at both the big picture and the details. However, I have found that I am less motivated to pay attention to the details when I become fatigued mentally, emotionally, or physically. When life hits, I allow certain things to slip through the cracks. It is kind of pitifully funny to think about it because sometimes I see the matter walking toward the crack and I tell myself “it will not fall through that crack because I have sealed it enough to prevent it from fitting through there!” Then boom, through the cracks it goes! In other cases, I don’t even see the matter moving toward the crack because I am too distracted or tired to take the time to inspect the area for cracks.

Over the past months I have learned that fine print and details come in many different forms; yet, in most cases they are to be paid close attention to. From my experiences, these are the types of fine prints and details to pay more attention to — both literally and figuratively:

Written and explicit: There are certain things that are spelled out quite thoroughly and clearly. Whether we choose to pay attention to those details is another story. From contracts, directions, warranties, and signs to health, relationships, work, money, or business, there are rules and guidelines that are to be followed and adhered to. It is not hard in this case to understand that failure to comply usually results in a clearly stated reaction or result. Typically, when I let something fall through the cracks in this area I feel that I deserve little sympathy. I should have read or paid attention to the details, right? Thankful I have learned this lesson before, but every now and then it comes back to bite me in the hind parts!

Is there obvious and accessible information in your life that you are simply not taking the time to pay attention to?

Written and implicit: I think this combination confuses me the most! This is the area in which the fine print and details exist within a gray area that is only implemented when and if the people that created them feel like utilizing them. A small scale example would be store return policies: the enforcement depends on the store and the sales associate. On a larger scale, there are other areas in our lives when people have the option of deciding whether they want to uphold the rules of the fine print or whether they want to let things slide and/or override them. I love it when someone overrides something or pays less attention to the fine print on my behalf; but, I also get annoyed when I know they have made exceptions for other people, yet chose to say “no” in my case. The truth of the matter is that it is usually my fault for being in a situation in which I have to rely on someone overlooking/overriding the fine prints. The only person to be upset with in that situation is me. For the most part, erring of the side of caution and paying attention to our own details puts us less at the mercy of other people’s discretion. And if those people are not fond of you for any reason, you are screwed (which is a whole other story)!

Are you often relying on other people to get you out of situations because you failed to pay attention to details?

Unwritten and implicit/explicit: There are instances in life when the rules are not written, but people in the know or with experience accept and follow them. These are the most challenging details to detect and keep up with — in my opinion. This area gets a little tricky when it comes to people, politics, institutions, and society. In general, these made-up rules will only be applicable depending on the emotions, moods, characteristics, classes, or even demographics of the people involved. These dynamics are harder to trace, but I have found that it is still important to pay attention in order to minimize being caught in the gray area. When in Rome, you may not do exactly as the Romans, but you might find it important to know the unspoken rules the Romans live by.

In other cases, sometimes things have been done a certain way for so long that they can appear to most people as actual law. You may know that it is not written anywhere, but in that context it doesn’t matter since everyone else believes it to be an unwritten rule. You might choose to shed light on their ignorance, but it will inevitably cost you energy and stress that you may or may not be willing to deal with at that time. For example, in certain professional settings male facial hair is frowned upon. It is not written but it is understood by the players in that arena. It is also polite to hold the door for the person entering behind you, but where is that written? Sadly, these rules and practices are not written but you will be judged by them.

What unwritten rules or behaviors do you need to pay more attention to?

Fortunately enough, things falling through the cracks may not ruin the end goal. However, in other times failing to pay attention to the fine print and details can be detrimental. It can cost you time, money, resources, energy, or even your life. In our personal matters, goals, relationships, jobs, and associations, we had better start paying more attention to the writing on the wall, the fine print, details, or whatever you want to call it.

We will make mistakes, but making mistakes that are the least damaging for us is the ultimate goal. When are you paying least attention to the fine print and details of life? — when you are tired, having fun, around certain people, etc. What areas do you need to go back and pay a little more attention to? Whatever you missed, take the time to pay attention to it now.

Photo Credit: Phil Roeder

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