The rest of the world, including me, takes things way too seriously.
So what if you fail at implementing self-improvement advice? I’ve failed countless times in my fight to get organized and acquire laser-like focus.
So whut if you make a couple of speling errors or typos? It doesn’t change the person that you are and it’s not that big of a deal because people understand you 90% of the time when you make a mistake anyways. And this is coming from a person who’s a total grammar Nazi. Do typos bug me? Yeah. But do they matter, in the grand scheme of things? Not really.
For all the serious stuff we preach — like getting your life into order, figuring out how to live “well”, cultivating good habits — we hardly ever take a step back and laugh at ourselves, at the absurdity that we feel like we need to absorb all these self-improvement concepts in order to live a good life.
You don’t, guys. Life isn’t that serious. It’s a tragicomedy, and you should be laughing at it often.
Taking Yourself Too Seriously
Everyone takes themselves and their personal drama way, way too seriously sometimes.
So what if someone insulted you? So what if your girlfriend broke up with you? So what if you’ve tried so hard to accomplish something, but when it counted, you failed?
They all don’t matter. Have a short memory, laugh at your emotions (as best you can; I’m the first person who’ll tell you that some things take time to heal), and move on.
Think about all the petty stuff you pour your energy into every day. Things like gossip. Arguments. Getting angry at the asshole that just cut you off on the highway. All of those things make you generate negative energy for a reason that you’ll probably forget about a week from now. In short: they don’t matter. If they don’t matter, why do you care so much about them? Learn to let go and to take this life a little bit less seriously.
Yes, I know that this may be the only chance we have at living, and that makes this life really, really serious business, but… Given the choice, wouldn’t you rather laugh at the absurdity of a situation rather than get angry about it?
Quick anecdote: a couple of weeks ago, my best friend and I got into a fight. Well, we didn’t really get into a fight, but I was pretty upset at her because of things that transpired over somebody’s blog. I didn’t approve of her actions and was so disgusted with what happened with regard to that blog that I thought of ending the relationship. Just turning my back on her, forever, because she participated in something that really, really irked me.
We’re still best friends. When we were talking about the situation, she said something along the lines of – “Listen, Brett. This argument over this person’s blog is stupid. It’s so stupid and unimportant. But our relationship — that’s what’s important. How can we let something petty like that destroy what’s truly important in our lives?”
I realized, then, that I was taking myself way too seriously, and had let my sense of self-righteousness get in the way of preserving something that was (and is) truly dear to me.
Life As A Comedy of Errors
After letting go of the idea that life is incredibly serious (because it’s not unless you make it that way), how can we view the negative things in our lives?
As a comedy of errors. The idea is that, when things go wrong, it’s inherently humorous (especially when the people committing the errors take themselves way too seriously, thus making the irony even greater). We’re humans, and we, in our arrogance, think we can transcend our nature and become perfect.
Wrong. We make errors all the time, guys. And when we do, we shouldn’t berate ourselves over it, like this — “Goddamnit Brett! You burnt the burgers again!”
Instead, just be cool with it. Laugh it off, realize that, while dinner may be ruined for one night, it’s not a big deal. It’s not going to effect me for the rest of my life. At worst, if I failed in particularly bad fashion, then I’ll have a nice humiliating story to tell about myself for posterity.
Either way, I win.
Even though I’m telling you not to take life too seriously, it isn’t the same as telling you not to take life seriously at all.
There are some things in life that should be taken seriously, like your values, relationships, and work. Those deserve all your energy and dedication, and you should focus on them because they’re what matters in life. If things go wrong there, the comedy of errors theory works — to a point. Obviously, if you get laid off from your job or your significant other rejects your proposal, you’re not going to be smiling and saying to yourself, “Oh, what a comedy of errors life is!”
You’re going to be hurt. And that’s okay, because, in order to experience life to the fullest, we have to experience a full range of emotions.
The idea that we shouldn’t take life too seriously only applies to the mundane things that bother us. Short-term failures and things out of our control are what deserve to be laughed at; we need to relax more and stop going into crisis mode when anything goes wrong.
This also means that all the other advice I’ve given you — most of which, if you’ll recall, is pretty serious — still applies. That is, if you think improving yourself and living a better life is important, then you can’t just laugh at it all the time. You’ll need to be serious and disciplined in order to form positive habits.
When you screw up, sure, you can laugh at yourself. On one condition: that you try again.