How To Stop Taking Things Too Seriously

by Josh Hanagarne on February 8, 2010

Eduard Ezeanu

Note from Josh: It’s been a good week.  I’m on the road again in pursuit of awesomeness and glory and I just got invited to lunch by Seth Godin next week.  While I try to calm down, please enjoy this guest post from Eduard Ezeanu from People Skills Decoded.

by Eduard Ezeanu

A couple of days ago, somebody asked me a very powerful question: “What one advice would you give your younger self?” I only thought about it a couple of seconds and I immediately new the most important advice: “Stop taking things too seriously”.

Looking at my coaching activity and the people I work with, I realize a lot of people take things way too seriously and they sabotage their happiness this way. We live in a world where we have more money, more comfort, more options, more knowledge than any of our ancestor ever had, and yet we manage to make ourselves sad, anxious or frustrated, because we’re having a bad hair day.

There are certainly a lot of tips & tricks out there for changing this. But which ones have the most value and are worth applying the most? Here is my answer, some of the top ideas I believe you can use to stop taking things too seriously:

1. Look at the big picture. Losing a client can seem like something very important when you look at it like that. But when you realize all the other clients you have and the entire stream of clients you will have over the years, it really doesn’t matter anymore.

Taking things too seriously is almost always associated with focusing too much on the immediate impact and not seeing things in perspective. As you look at the big picture, you realize that almost any negative consequence fades away in the big scheme of things. This gives you more peace of mind and freedom.

2. Do goofy things. One exercise some therapists and coaches give to clients who take things too seriously (me included) is to intentionally do things which might seem goofy, weird or stupid to them and notice what happens. Like going out with a big umbrella in a very hot summer day.

As people do these kinds of things and notice the real results, they realize a lot of the consequences are not that bad, far from what they expected. They had just blown things out of proportion in their heads. So now that they understand this, they can relax and have more courage in behaving in new, different ways.

3. Celebrate your results. One thing which often makes people take negative things too seriously is a lack of awareness and a lack of enjoyment of the positive things in their lives. Because they don’t celebrate them enough.

Getting into Harvard is good enough to celebrate, but not writing a good article. Why not? I think this is silly. It’s important to see every progress, every result, and reward ourselves for it. As we do this, we amplify the positive in our lives and we are better able to respond constructively to the negative.

Asking people about their lives and what they want, I discovered in time that what almost every person truly, deeply wants is to enjoy her life while it’s still there. The rest is just fluff. By learning to stop taking things seriously, you’re taking one big leap toward enjoying your life to the fullest.

About The Author:

This is a guest post from Eduard Ezeanu, a communication coach who writes personal development advice at People Skills Decoded. You can follow him on Twitter at @eduardezeanu.

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{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Michelle T T February 8, 2010 at 12:53 am

This has been something I have been guilty of in the past. When I was a teenager I struggled with perfectionism, I got past it when I finally realized how much we actually have. Not getting a perfect grade is not going to ruin your life!!

I know focus on how to get the most out of my life, and enjoy every step and every occasion. I strive for that elusive balanced life, each and every day.

Wow, that was kind of cheesy for me :-p

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Josh Hanagarne February 8, 2010 at 11:02 am

Cheese is okay from time to time:)

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Anthony Feint February 8, 2010 at 1:52 am

Great article and advice. Sometimes I’m guilty of focusing on something a little too much. I think I work best when Im more laid back.

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Eduard @ Ideas With A Kick February 8, 2010 at 2:24 pm

Me 2. You might say I’m a pretty focused guy. We all need to back up sometimes.

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Srinivas Rao February 8, 2010 at 8:22 am

Great thoughts Eduard. Van Wilder in his movie said my favorite quote “you shouldn’t take life too seriously or you’ll never get out alive.” Sadly most people get really caught up in things that don’t benefit them, because we’ve been conditioned to worry so much.

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Josh Hanagarne February 8, 2010 at 11:03 am

I wonder how many people’s favorite quotes are from “Van Wilder?”

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Eduard @ Ideas With A Kick February 8, 2010 at 2:30 pm

I started using quotes from The Dark Knight recently.

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Isao February 8, 2010 at 8:44 am

I totally agree that not taking things too seriously is on the spot as an advice, but the younger me would argue that “I am feeling like shit exactly because I take things too seriously and I don’t know what to do about it.” And the older me still has no persuasive answer to his question…

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Eduard @ Ideas With A Kick February 8, 2010 at 2:26 pm

Well, for me, it’s all in the head, and it’s about changing beliefs. That’s why I like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

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Stacey Cornelius February 8, 2010 at 11:34 am

The younger me wasn’t good at taking advice. The older me got too tired to stress over the little things, then realized it wasn’t necessary.

Freedom!

I still stress over things sometimes, but only the really big, important, earth-shattering things. (*cough*)

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Eduard @ Ideas With A Kick February 8, 2010 at 2:27 pm

Nice. I think this is an important part of maturing, a part only few people go trough. So in a way, most people never truly grow up, because they never truly learn to let go.

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man with a brain..mddarch August 22, 2010 at 7:55 pm

more people grow up and mature then you know!!!

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Arvind Devalia February 8, 2010 at 11:48 am

Life is what happens when you are too stressed about all those things that will never go wrong!

Great post Eduard and a healthy reminder to continue to remind ourselves not to take life seriously.

At one seminar I attended, I learnt that when you woke up in the morning and found that you were not buried i.e. you were still alive, was enough to celebrate and start each day by jumping out of bed with joy:-)

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Eduard @ Ideas With A Kick February 8, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Haha, ain’t it the truth. You’ve put a smile on my face Arvind. :)

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Boris Bachmann February 8, 2010 at 2:39 pm

Josh – that’s great! I’m a Seth Godin fan and jealous. I really enjoyed The Dip (and all his others too for that matter. His new book looks very interesting.

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Josh Hanagarne February 8, 2010 at 6:49 pm

It does look good. I may have to grab one so he’ll sign it.

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Eric C February 8, 2010 at 6:00 pm

First off, congrats on the lunch Josh. that’s pretty amazing stuff.

For the article, I totally agree with each point. I wanted to say that because I’m about to disagree with the larger point.

I guess what I’m saying is I see people not taking things seriously enough. In particular, in America, our country is at war and I just don’t think people know, care, or think they can do anything. Same thing with environmental living. We live in a country with wealth and comfort, as you point out, but the people of Haiti don’t. I don’t know.

But like I said, I enjoyed reading the post. I believe I’m thinking about something that wasn’t in the post.

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Arvind Devalia February 8, 2010 at 6:38 pm

Eric, I can see where you are coming from and I do agree with you in that not enough people are taking seriously some of the huge challenges the world faces today.

But Eduard’s article is referring to the small things in life that people get so hung up and where they could do with chilling out.

Maybe if people were not so hung up on the small, petty things in their life they would have more energy to take seriously the real challenges we face today globally.

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Eric C February 8, 2010 at 7:14 pm

“Maybe if people were not so hung up on the small, petty things in their life they would have more energy to take seriously the real challenges we face today globally.”

Arvind, you said what I wanted to say so much better than how I expressed. Makes me wonder why I majored an English major…

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Arvind Devalia February 9, 2010 at 5:31 am

Eric, you are not taking yourself too seriously now, are you?!

:-)

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Eduard @ Ideas With A Kick February 9, 2010 at 7:46 am

Hey Eric,

Arvind is spot on. War and having a bad hair day are 2 very different things, and I’m referring to the second one. This is the paradox of a lot of cultures: we don’t take the serious stuff seriously, but we do the unimportant stuff.

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Josh Hanagarne February 8, 2010 at 6:51 pm

Eric, I couldn’t agree more. I also couldn’t agree more with Eduard. I think some of the most provocative posts I’ve ever read led me to places that had nothing to do with the post itself.

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Terresa Wellborn February 9, 2010 at 1:03 am

I like the “do goofy things” suggestion. Especially the big umbrella on a hot summer day. Come June, I have 3 big umbrellas that will do nicely. In the meantime, during this winter weather, I’ll improvise! ;)

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Eduard @ Ideas With A Kick February 9, 2010 at 7:43 am

Teressa, try wearing jeans with your pajamas outside this winter :)

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mk akan February 10, 2010 at 11:43 pm

i am totally guilty of this but ..i try to goof around as much as i can… i try to add humor to it all .i keeps me going.life is too short for me not to be a sport…

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