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

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 realized 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 armor. 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 humor – 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.