Here's a thing that I didn't really pay attention to for quite a while.
I guess it became a kind of blind spot. Finding this obstacle and being able to remove it on a consistent basis has made things a lot easier and more enjoyable. I think it will be helpful to me this year and that's why it's the first thing I would like to share with you in 2008.
One problem with being involved in personal development is that you can get a bit too serious. There are a lot of big, perhaps life-changing words, choices and products in this field. So there is naturally often a pretty serious tone overall.
This is good because it can help people to take their life and time seriously and make them less prone to waste such valuable things.
But having a too serious mindset isn't that great all the time. It can lead to taking things way too seriously and create big problems and negative feelings and events from pretty much nothing. Lightening up can help you to drop unimportant stuff and leave you with more time and energy for the really important things in your life.
Now. This may sound all well and good but how do you actually lighten up consistently or at all? Here's what I have done.
Realize that you are not your thoughts or emotions.
One key to being able to lighten up is the ability to see that much of your seriousness, much of the need to for instance to be right comes from things that aren't really you. When you become more conscious of how your thoughts and emotions isn't all of you, when you are able to see a separation then it becomes easier to not take things – or yourself – so seriously and keep a lighter frame of mind.
Realize that you are not your ego.
If you are too much identified with your ego then the ego will – with a deceptive, negative inner voice – tell you things like “I'm very important” and “how dare they say such things as jokes or criticism about me”. This is the ego trying to protect itself from a perceived attack from someone. And so you may be convinced to go into a serious mood that leads to overreacting.
But when you realize more and more that such instances in you daily life is just your ego reacting and not you then it becomes easier to not take things so seriously. It becomes easier to just ignore what the ego is shouting and determine your own reactions, thoughts and behavior.
What you once may have blown up or been fuming internally about, you don't get that worked up over. I have found that quite often I just mentally shrug my shoulders and move on to the next thing.
Again, as I have mentioned before, good books to read and reread to understand more about yourself and your ego, thought and emotions are A New Earth and the Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. And then you need to practise the advice and see how it applies you. This isn't really something you fix in a week but something that you can make progress with over months or years.
Develop an abundance mentality.
Now, to lighten up is still about taking your work seriously, do well and not slack off. It's not about finding a way to rationalise away the hard work as unimportant.
It's more about not taking yourself too seriously.
And being able to not take negative events and results that seriously. One helpful thing here is to develop an abundance mentality. Well, overall I think it's a good idea to have an abundance mentality rather than a scarcity mentality.
An abundance mentality tells you that there are always new chances and opportunities. This relieves much of the pressure you may feel if you have a scarcity mentality that makes you think that you only got this shot right now. Or makes you feel like an utter failure just because you just stumbled and things didn't work out.
An abundance mentality allows you to see life in a more long-term perspective. And it can help you improve your performance since with it you're creating a lot less pressure and anxieties within your own mind.
Tests in school can always be retaken. New dates can be arranged. There will be new business opportunities. You can start anew online or offline. Few things will actually be the end of the world even though an overly serious mindset may fool you into believing otherwise.
One challenge with developing and maintaining an abundance mentality is that much of society is built upon using a scarcity mentality to make you buy stuff. So advertising and parts of social programming tries to reinforce the scarcity mentality in people.
One couple of ways that I have found useful to handle that challenge is to cut down on your media consumption – reading less papers and watch less TV – and to use your new free time for things that reinforce your abundance mentality.
Examples of such things would be self-improvement blogs. And books, tapes and dvds on the same subject. Because there you can find information and people that come from a place of abundance. Or you can hang out with people with an abundance mentality in real life.
And I think it's not the words that these people use that are of most use to you but rather the underlying feeling and frame of mind that is flowing from that person over to you.
Whatever flows into your mind will leave imprints, so be selective to be good to yourself.
Remind yourself constantly.
Your mind will easily slip into identifying with what your ego is trying to tell you or what your emotions are saying. It's very easy to forget to not take things so seriously. I have posted a reminder to Lighten Up! on my fridge so I see it several times each day. More on using such simple tricks can be found in How to Keep Yourself on Track: Using External Reminders.
When you meet people assume rapport. This basically means that you imagine that you are meeting one of your best friends. Doing this can help you to put yourself into a lighter and more relaxed mood. Often a more useful mood to be in than a really serious one when interacting with people. You can read more about this in How to Have Less Awkward Conversations: Assume Rapport.