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6 Reasons Not to Take Life So Seriously

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6 Reasons Not to Take Life So Seriously

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.

1. The world is ridiculous

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.

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2. Relationships are all that matter

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.

3. Rich people aren’t happier people

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.

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4. Worrying isn’t productive

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.

5. Your time is limited

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.

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6. You are a speck

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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Last Updated on October 21, 2021

How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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