Why So Serious?
Lightness of being helps you become a light in the world!
I am not talking about the times when we are being serious about something we value deeply – times when we feel on purpose, in our element, paying attention to detail and fully engaged.
I am talking about times when we get stressed about things that are not that important but that we have made important for the wrong reasons. You know the times? When our shoulders start to hunch and we lose our sense of humour? Times when our attention moves between the pile of bills and the pile of washing-up. When we keep emptying our inbox only to have it fill up again. When a small personality quirk in another becomes a constant source of annoyance.
We find our sobriety but we lose our joie de vivre.
Think about it for a moment. What is actually going on?
For me, when I start taking life too seriously, I can become tunnel-visioned. I over-focus on work but am far from productive. I feel heavy, burdened, even though I know in my mind that I have so much to be grateful for. I fall into a familiar trap of thinking I have to do more and achieve more.
It feels contracted, right? Whereas playfulness feels lighter and more expanded.
Notice the difference between the two states:
being overly serious about life
AND meeting life with more joy and with a greater spirit of playfulness.
Which would you rather?
My thinking is that we think we have to be serious.
We take things seriously because we want to be taken seriously.
We want to show up as if we mean business because we need business.
We want to appear to know what we are talking about. So we sound all serious.
We think we have to take life seriously because this is what we learnt. Children play; adults are grown up. We learnt to take life seriously from adults. Adults are serious. They have to be serious. Because, after all, life is serious.
This is not to say that adults don’t play. It is just that they don’t play in the same way children do.
As adults we play sport. We may play games with our children. We play differently with our lovers. We may have “fun and games” in the bedroom but mostly this is compartmentalized. We make time for it. We plan our holidays and set our adult play dates. And when the holidays are over we get back to “real” life.
As adults we have a tendency to dismiss playfulness while still playing games.
Just as kids learnt to be serious from us so we learnt about adult games from our families and society at large. We are complicit in each others games. We play the survival game, the game of deception, the game of competition, the games of being good, the game of doing the right thing, looking good and saying the right thing. These are the games of the Ego.
We play the game of winning, whether as a sport or in our careers. And one day we wake up and realise that we have been playing the wrong game or, as Joseph Campbell says: “reaching the top of the ladder and discovering that you’re on the wrong wall”.
Sometimes we have moments of silliness which we quickly reign back, putting the lid on anything which might give others the impression that we are not serious about life.
God forbid. Life’s fucking serious, after all.
Have you ever found yourself being light-hearted, or even silly, and then up pops a voice, a real voice or a voice in your head, saying:
“Don’t be so silly.”
“Stop mucking about.”
“You’d better at least look like you are taking things seriously!”
“You have got to make a living.”
We may let our hair down once in a while. What a relief! Have a glass of wine or two. Make that flamboyant phone call. Dress up. Be loud. Laugh hysterically. Flirt a little.
But flirting with life, because you can, because you are having a love affair with life, is not the same thing as flirting with a one-night stand. Playfulness is not something that we do once in a blue moon. Rather it is something that infuses our life.
I like the notion that life is a game. But I am inspired less by the adult version and more by the raucous version of children. Children play for fun, play to learn and they are not scared to lose. They may be upset if they lose but they don’t always play to win.
As adults, we no longer inhabit a natural state of curiosity, awe and wonder. We take on responsibilities and all too easily become consumed by them. We forget what is important and what brings us joy. We get too serious about life.
Playfulness is a choice.
Not long ago I was facilitating a Resilience Workshop for a high-functioning team. They were top of their game. What they wanted to achieve or master was more fun and playfulness! They understood that playfulness is a quality that keeps one light on one’s toes.
Playfulness allows us to review what is important, when to take what seriously without becoming too serious. Playfulness keep us creative, open and receptive to others and to ideas. Playfulness between colleagues, between lovers, between friends helps bring down our defenses and keeps us real.
So… why so serious?
Here’s an invitation – some Presilience Gold.
Notice your behaviour when you start getting oh-too-serious about life. Notice what you are thinking and feeling. Then take 1 minute just to shut your eyes and breathe. Drop your shoulders. Ask yourself what are you are assuming in this moment. What are you telling yourself about yourself? Feel into the tension as it is held in your body. Breathe into this area. Say aloud: “I let go of this tension. I choose to take this weight off my shoulders. Life does not need to be this serious. I am willing to drop the fear and frustration. I choose joy instead”. And then put a beautiful smile of your face, crunch up your face, make a silly face and get on with your day!
Lightness of being helps you become a light in the world!