Details vs. Big Picture: Two Great Walks
I was fortunate enough this morning to wake up in a house on the beach – the day after a big storm. A really big storm – 50+ MPH sustained winds, intermittent power loss, and rain driving so hard sideways that it found its way through any leaky window or door in the house.
But big storms mean a chance to see things fresh after they pass. I took advantage of some time this morning to go for a long walk on the recently storm-rearranged beach.
It was during this walk that it dawned on me: there are amazing details on a beach – the rocks, the sea glass, the driftwood, the shells, the life amongst your feet as you walk. And yet, there are amazing and expansive views if you look up – the waves rolling in, the clouds, the vast body of water, the islands, the mountains, the sun, and the open space you feel as you walk seemingly without any progress.
It quickly became apparent that I could not pay attention to both at the same time and do either any sort of justice. If I wanted to look at the rocks, down in the details, I would be oblivious to the waves, the sky, the mountains. And yet, if I wanted to take in the water and the big picture view, I would miss every single rock underfoot.
This is a perfect analogy for life, as well. If you are buried head-down in the details – and there’s nothing wrong with that – then it makes it incredibly difficult to see, much less enjoy, the big picture of what you may be working towards.
Conversely, if you spend your time with your head in the clouds of life, it’s likely that the details will escape you from time to time. Or always.
The same situation occurred on an afternoon walk in the park. There were plenty of leaves and other things to enjoy on the details level, but a great sunset on the big-picture level. But while I couldn’t have both at the same time, it was nice to be able to switch back and forth between them. That’s how things go in life, as well.
Sometimes, it’s about focusing on the details and ensuring that every little thing is in its place. Other times, take it all in for what it is – and what it isn’t – without regard for the more minute components. Ultimately, if you can’t relate these two views into one cohesive narrative – Sunday morning on the beach, Fall in the park – you’re the one who loses out. In life, this can manifest in many different ways, but it’s ultimately up to the individual to reconcile their details and their big picture. You’ve got to have both, and they won’t make much sense without each other. That’s not to say that putting the pieces together is easy, but it’s also not an excuse to give up on trying.