Every day you are faced with a million little traps that encourage you to take your life way too seriously. The frustrations of 21st century living come in many forms such as slow internet connections, people who drive at a snail’s pace, and choosing what to wear to an event with an ambiguous dress code. It is easy to get caught up in perpetual flow of decisions and events that make up our lives and to forget that most of the challenges we are faced with are only as stressful as we choose to let them be. Next time you are tempted to smash your computer or lash out in a fit of road rage, remember these reasons not to take life so seriously.
Objectively speaking, civilization is ridiculous. Next time you are at a scenic overlook or an elementary school Christmas pageant, take a second to look around and count the number of people who are experiencing the beauty of nature or the adorable miscues through small LCD rectangles instead of with their own eyes. If that isn’t enough to convince you that our lives are ridiculous, consider the fact that it is customary for businessmen to tie a piece of cloth around their necks every day for no apparent reason, or that every suit they wear has a row of pointless buttons on the cuff. If you can stop and laugh at every day absurdities, you are two steps ahead of the game.
Time and time again when researchers have tried to figure out what makes people happy they have come to the same conclusion: personal relationships make the biggest difference. If we valued our happiness over money (as many of us claim to) we would do everything we could to spend time with friends and family and not worry so much about putting in extra time at work. When you look back on your life, you won’t reflect on the time you spent at work; you will remember family dinners, great vacations, romantic dinners, and your wedding. Prioritize people over your career.
Spending more time at home or with friends will probably have a negative impact on the balance of your bank account. Just reading that sentence probably sent a wave of panic through some of you, but consider the fact that wealth is not correlated with happiness. In fact, once you have enough money to satisfy your basic needs, money makes very little difference in your overall well-being. The only exceptions are if you give your extra money to charity or if it significantly boosts your social rank.
Some of us even end up stressed out in situations where it is totally unwarranted. For example, you might find yourself visiting a new city like London or Paris and end up thoroughly confused by the transit system. You can’t find out how to get where you want to go and it makes you want to scream. But what are you accomplishing by stressing yourself out? Nothing. Take a step back and laugh at yourself. Go with the flow and end up where you end up. Getting lost in a new city will lead to a way better story than going to some stuffy museum anyway.
If worrying is unproductive and money doesn’t make us happy, why do we waste so much time on those things? You only get to live one life. If you’re lucky enough to make it to age 90 you still have less than 800,000 hours between the time you are born and the time you die to cherish and enjoy all the things that make up life. One third of that time you won’t even be awake for, so you had best make the most of the remaining chunk. Do what you need to do to live a happy and fulfilled life, and forget what anyone else tells you.
Finally, if you need a reminder that your problems aren’t as big as they seem and you want to readjust your perspective, get out of the city and look at the stars. The universe is larger than you can imagine. It is filled with burning balls of gas, galaxies and solar systems beyond counting, and (in all likelihood) thousands of other civilizations fighting their own wars and facing their own challenges. In a very real sense, you are insignificant. What better reason could there be not to take your life to seriously? The only thing that really matters is enjoying your life as much as you can and helping other people do the same.
Featured photo credit: Loren Kerns via flickr.com
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