Stop taking life too seriously – 5 ways to enjoy the journey

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career change, career development, find work you love

Chillax

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In pursuit of perfection

Have you ever felt like you are trying way too hard?  Are you stretching and straining every sinew striving for the happy life?  Waking at 5am to run 10 miles before an intense yoga session, then hitting the office and working flat out til 8pm.  Cooking that macrobiotic tofu stir fry, washed down with a superfood smoothie, before updating your seven blogs, tending your organic zen garden and finishing the reading for tomorrow’s philosophy class.

Things may not be quite that extreme, but trying to live life to the full all the time can be exhausting.  Perhaps even more importantly, it can also lack zing, spark, energy and just plain fun.

Fade to grey

I have had a fascinating time over the last few months working on improving myself.  I dedicated myself to a regime of meditation, have been training hard for a marathon and cutting back on my alcohol intake.  As a solopreneur with extrovert tendencies I was interested in exploring the concept of being self-sufficient and so spent a lot of time alone in my inner world.  Don’t get me wrong, this has all been great and I’ve learned a lot about myself.  Yet I woke up one morning and realised that somewhere along the way I’d lost myself.  I was trying way too hard.  I had shut down from the world around me and felt like a silent ghost fading into the background.  I’d forgotten to enjoy the journey and have fun.  Time to lighten up.

Back to Life

I took a deep breath and said b*ll*cks to it.  I started talking, laughing, bringing people into my life.  I started to be kinder to myself – if I’m tired I won’t run, if I’m not in the mood I won’t meditate just to tick a box, heck I might even enjoy a glass of wine or three on a school night.  All the pressure and stress I was feeling started to melt away.  It was like taking off a suit of armour.  Slowly but surely the smile has returned to my face.

The Middle Path

Once I stopped trying too hard, balance returned to my life.  I still have ambitions to live life to the full and am pursuing that.  Yet I remember that this means finding pleasure every day, not just chaining myself to a rock in Spartan self-denial.  Every day I’m looking for the middle path – doing something meaningful and enjoyable.

The best thing of all is that this change of attitude has had a big impact on the way the world responds to me.  It sounds clichéd, however when you smile the world smiles back.  Suddenly people are responding differently to me.  Before they stared straight through my ghostly apparition, now they are talking and engaging.  Things are flowing where before they were stuck.

So what have I learned from this?  Here are five simple yet important lessons:

1)   Life has a sense of humour – the world has an astounding way of playing with us.  If you take things too seriously this can be very stressful, if you play along and laugh about it life becomes delightful.  So lighten up and enjoy the joke, rather than being the joke.

2)   People matter – there is great power in exploring our inner-self, yet even monks live in monasteries.  People bring energy, creativity, joy and learning to life.  Surround yourself with great people and revel in it.

3)   Stress is a killer – taking life too seriously is extremely stressful.  All the expectation and pressure feels like wearing a heavy backpack.  Stress drains our energy, dampens our enthusiasm and makes us sick.  Lightening up takes the stress away and helps us live life.

4)   Let it go – there are some things in life that are fundamental and worth fighting for.  There are many more things that are trivial and we should let go.  Letting go of some of this weight brings more joy to life.

5)   Enjoy the journey – it is vital to have some long term vision and goals to motivate us.  Yet we need a balance with enjoying life each and every day to experience true enjoyment.  Life is precious, so enjoy it every day.

Wherever you are on your journey, I think these are valuable lessons to keep in mind.  If you find your face frozen in a grimace, if you can’t remember the last time you smiled (never mind laughed), if you feel like life is an endless hamster wheel, it might be time to ask if you are taking it all too seriously.  Please share your thoughts on these ideas with the world by leaving a comment – thank you!

Photo credit: Sasha W – From Flickr creative commons

Related posts:

  1. The Lost Art of Being Happy – 5 Steps to a Happier Life
  2. Life's Too Short to be Ordinary
  3. How to Think Big for your Life and Career – 5 lessons from Rudyard Kipling
  4. Think Big – Four Steps to get unstuck and start living life to the full
  5. Finding Inspiration All Around

Comments

  1. Phil
    February 25, 2010 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

    How do you enjoy the journey? What are your secrets for taking life less seriously. Any golden rules to share. Please comment – it makes me really happy.

    Thanks

    Phil

  2. February 25, 2010 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    Love it, Phil! Thank you for empowering me to say “b*ll*cks”! When the absence of smiles is apparent, it is indeed time to unclench. Personally, I’ve been working on doing more of the things I love doing: practicing yoga, playing silly games with my son and my husband, hanging out with fun people who love to laugh, savoring delicious food, cooking yummy vegetarian meals for anyone willing to try my experimental recipes, listening to music, getting Vitamin D when the sun’s out. So many ways to enjoy the journey.
    BTW, I’m guilty of cooking up that macrobiotic stir fry.

  3. Catherine Morgan
    February 25, 2010 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

    I have always said that the Universe has a strange sense of humor. Be careful what you ask for or it may be delivered in a way you did not consider! Stress IS a killer. And so is taking yourself too seriously. Friends and family can help with that.

  4. Phil
    February 25, 2010 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

    Belinda – I know that you are always looking for ways to enjoy life and not take it too seriously. Thanks for some great ideas on how to do that. Having relocated from CA to the UK a year ago, the vitamin D one resonates with me particularly. Although I did enjoy a long run in the rain today. Keep cooking the stir fry – and writing the great blog posts.

    Phil

  5. Phil
    February 25, 2010 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

    Haha – the universe having a sense of humour is something I got from you Cat and we both know its true! Thanks for the comment!

    Phil

  6. February 25, 2010 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

    I think you last point is key! Sometimes we get so caught up in our goals and the end product that ewe forget their is a beautiful scenery along the way.
    .-= Tom | Build That List´s last blog ..The Aweber Code….And Why You Need To Promote It! =-.

  7. Raj Gupta
    February 25, 2010 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    Great post Phil! I’ve been recently working on all of these things myself as I just re-entered the wonderful world of corporate america. Trying to implement a meditation routine, working standard hours, while trying to enjoy the moments not just after work but during work. It’s been a great experience so far and your tips will definitely help in the process.

  8. February 25, 2010 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

    Phil, I could resonate with this post greatly. That\\\’s what I call a survival mode (lots of pushing, striving etc). I lived in that mode for too long. Not anymore! I still slip and fall into it sometimes, but I am watching myself and doing it less and less. Thanks for the reminder and great tips, you are an inspiration!

  9. Tracy Sullivan
    February 26, 2010 at 1:14 am | Permalink

    I totally related to this Phil. I loved the picture of the tod list with RELAX written across it. Too funny! I have had many days where I am literally doing that and then I feel guilty b/c I never actually get around to doing it! This really spoke to me b/c I recently blogged on Carly’s website about how life is about the journey and not the destination. Thanks for making me laugh out loud! I’m going to crack open a bottle of red wine and enjoy it (even on a school night!)

  10. February 26, 2010 at 3:07 am | Permalink

    Thanks for your post, Phil. I enjoyed reading it and need to revisit some of the points you make, once again.

    Maybe this isn’t exactly figuring out how to not take life too seriously (I do), but as you mention, balance is important and I always felt a lack on the spiritual side. What I discovered is other people can’t decide what’s spiritual for you. So, now I intentionally allocate time for those things that support this for me – and lot of this involves nature and growth. I finally managed to figure out what activities give me peace and try to put some of this in every day of my life.

  11. February 26, 2010 at 5:34 am | Permalink

    This one’s a gem, Phil: “Even monks live in monasteries.” And I love your story of working your way towards the middle path. Very wise. Right now in my life I just don’t think I can go all out anymore. My soul resists heartily. Oh, and your post and Belinda’s make perfect bookends for just living life.
    .-= Patty – Why Not Start Now?´s last blog ..Being Alive =-.

  12. Phil
    February 26, 2010 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    Thanks Patty – my soul rests heartily – that is lovely to hear. Keep resting heartily!
    Phil

  13. Phil
    February 26, 2010 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    Nanette – I appreciate your insight. there is no magic bullet for spirituality and it is such a personal journey. Nature can be so inspiring and bring a sense of peace and understanding. I just enjoy taking a walk in the park near my house to clear my mind and be fascinated by the beauty. We have snowdrops and other winter buds stating to peek through here, must be nearly spring.

  14. Phil
    February 26, 2010 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    Tracy – I loved the picture too. It really summed it all up for me. I loved your blog on Carly’s site – you captured the essence of how we can get worked up about the smallest things. Have a glass of something nice for me!

  15. Phil
    February 26, 2010 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    Lana – striving, grasping, pushing. Ikk that is survival mode. We can all fall into that place sometimes. I know that you put your heart and soul into living life well and it is obvious from your writing. Please keep up your great work!

  16. Phil
    February 26, 2010 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    Raj – great to hear from you. Yes the wonderful world of corporate america. I’m putting together a series on how to love work at the moment, so stay tuned. I admire you for being brave and looking after the most important priorities (yourself, others, the world), rather than towing the corp. line. Stick at it and inspire those around you.

  17. Phil
    February 26, 2010 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    Thanks Tom – I’m glad you enjoyed the post. We are all on an interesting journey and might as well make the most of every second – otherwise what is the point?

  18. February 26, 2010 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    There was a time in my life when I too was on that formidable hamster wheel. I took way too much for granted. Sadly, I was forced into submission after breaking my neck in a car accident.

    I didn’t realize (or appreciate) what I had until I lost it ALL.

    Tracy
    .-= Tracy Todd´s last blog ..A Letter from a Soldier =-.

  19. Phil
    February 26, 2010 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for your perspective Tracy. Appreciating what we have can certainly help in not taking life too seriously – we all take a lot for granted and we should enjoy that.

  20. February 26, 2010 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

    Hi Phil,

    Great topic. Love your Middle Path idea. Take the best from the other two paths and create your own! Too many of us are galloping faster and faster toward the ends of our lives. Why not slow down and enjoy it?

    Off to laugh …

    Giulietta, Inspirational Rebel
    .-= giulietta´s last blog ..How do you define rich? =-.

  21. Phil
    February 27, 2010 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    Thanks Giuletta – I’m really fascinated by the Middle Path at the moment. I feel a book coming on about it… probably in a year or so once I’ve enjoyed life some more!

  22. February 27, 2010 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    Phil – quick funny story I have to share based on this post. Years ago one of our top black belts in my karate dojo just jumped into the whole zen lifestyle. Shaved his head, moved to Sri Lanka and joined a monastery meditating 18 hours a day. Complete self reflection and total self discovery, a hard existence. About a year later he came back and I asked him what he was experiencing. He said he was learning a lot about himself, but it was very lonely. He met another monk and they would sneak off and talk and laugh for a few minutes (no talking was allowed). Another year past and he moved back to the US giving up the monastic life. I asked him why when he got back. He said “I was living my life before I left, I moved half way across the world and didn’t say hardly a word for 2 years. I’ll I did was think about myself, I gave up material possessions and a social life. All that self reflection made me realize what I was giving up – my life. It only took me two years to figure that I need to stop being so serious and just enjoy what I had.”

  23. Phil
    February 27, 2010 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    Marc – I love this story. I’ve been chuckling about it all day. Thanks so much for sharing.

  24. March 1, 2010 at 3:43 am | Permalink

    Good stuff Phil! I particularly like the part about letting things go. I learned years ago that letting go was the best way to relieve stress. The things we cannot change are not worth worrying over.

    Great post!

  25. Phil
    March 1, 2010 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    Ralph – thanks for the feedback. How do you let go? I’m starting to find a better perspective on the little irritating things and not worrying about them – however it takes time to get there!

  26. Milan
    March 2, 2010 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    Great thoughts in this post. I must say this helps a lot when we take time to sit back and evaluate why we always keep going at 100 m/h and do not find time to enjoy life.

  27. March 5, 2010 at 12:36 am | Permalink

    I love your number 5. I feel that life is really more about the journey than the destination. After all, what’s at the destination; a big pile of bones buried in some hole. The journey is what it’s about, it’s why we are here.

  28. Phil
    March 5, 2010 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    Eric – Thank you! You made me think and laugh. The destination is a big pile of bones – that is so true. Wise words. I’m sitting here figuring out how to enjoy today’s journey.

    Phil

  29. June 3, 2010 at 3:39 am | Permalink

    yes definitely we all need this reminder -to take life easy.
    everyone has their ups & downs -must learn to smile thro’ time is a great healer

  30. Winston
    November 21, 2010 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

    If you don’t enjoy the journey, how will you ever live at the destination?

  31. February 12, 2011 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    Fascinating – i felt like these words were coming out of my mouth as I was reading them. I couldn’t agree wholeheartedly with what you’re said and the points you’ve outlined – especially points 1 & 2.

    I am only 20 years old, and already I’ve had a track record of thinking too much and “trying too hard” – and lightening up is critical.

    Also, life seems to be pretty empty & meaningless & easily stagnated when other people are not involved. So amen to that brotha

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