When my friend invited a bunch of us to go to the beach on a Thursday to celebrate her birthday, I almost didn’t go. How could I possibly? It’s a school day. A, er, work day! Still, I kept the day open and tried to see if it would remain appointment-free. Maybe that would give me incentive to throw caution to the wind and try to live la vie boheme. Wednesday evening when my husband asked me what the rest of my week looked like, I floated my plans. Mostly to hear myself say it. But I didn’t — couldn’t — even be straight about it.
“I’m going to Long Island on Thursday with J. and A.”
“What are you doing on Long Island?”
“We’re, um, going to go to the beach,” I said, sheepishly. “It’s J’s birthday,” I made sure to add.
“Great!” he said. Then he added, “Enjoy it. Because it’s the last time you’ll probably go to the beach by yourself, without a child in tow.”
Okay, so he didn’t judge me for playing hookie on a school day. He didn’t say, “Are you kidding me? You aren’t ‘doing enough.’ You aren’t taking your business seriously enough. You aren’t busy enough.”
He didn’t say any of the things I’d been saying to myself!
Why do we take ourselves, and our work, so seriously that we totally sabotage the fun we could be having with it?
I was in a workshop a few weekends ago with an excellent teacher named Russell Delman. He said that in order to do the work of self-reflection and self-improvement, (I’ll add: anything creative, revolutionary or risky!) you need two things: You need to be kind of yourself. And, you need to be willing to have fun. He said his teacher Moishe Feldenkrais once said to him, “This work is too important to doing without a sense of humor.”
I knew I was guilty of taking myself and my work too seriously. I wanted to write about this. But I couldn’t think of an example of when I exhibited this behavior or what I said to myself. So I asked my friends for examples from their lives.
Laura said that when she lets herself “play” at some point in during the day she literally makes more money. More things find their way to her. Some might say she’s more “attractive.” The day before I floated this question she had that very experience: she got three great business leads and a free house cleaning!
Jill recounted an interview she saw with Emma Stone. This insight particularly resonated with her: “My best friend and I have also recently been saying, ‘bones.’ I just went to the Catacombs and saw all of these bones of people stacked on top of each other where it once was a functioning city. So, when I lose perspective, I try to remember that we’re all just bones trying to get along and we’ll all eventually be bones again one day. Sorry to be so dark,’ she laughed.”
I read their emails. Then I went to the beach.
It wasn’t until I let myself have a little time off…a little FUN…that I got a little perspective. “This is it. This is my example of taking myself less seriously. I almost didn’t come here!” I thought to myself as I sat on a delightfully breezy Robert Moses beach with two beautiful soul-friends and few other people around (on a Thursday in September!!)
If I hadn’t given myself the chance to relax I wouldn’t have opened up space to let inspiration come in.
Take yourself too seriously and you get tunnel vision. There is no room for anyone else’s ideas, no room for universal input, no room for creativity, no space to deviate from the plan you’ve already laid out.
So, how might you take yourself less seriously?
Imagine yourself saying out loud the crazy stuff you say to yourself.
“It’s a Thursday!!!” (So what!?) “You’re not doing enough!!!” (What else should I be doing!?) “You should be busier!” (How much busier!?) It’s crazy crap that sounds kind of, well, crazy, when you say it out loud. And if you don’t stick a pin in this conversation, it could threaten to bury your business! It’s all evolving. And you have to let it.
You are doing enough. And you could do more, more creatively, if you gave yourself space to enjoy your life.
How will you give yourself a break? How will you take yourself less seriously? Will you start randomly shouting the word “BONES” into the ether? Let us know in the comments below.