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12 signs you’re taking life too seriously and need to lighten up

Being too serious and having a strict plan in life can have its own drawbacks.

Part of the excitement of life comes from spontaneous moments: job opportunities you stumble upon online, late-night invitations from your friends, a random book that you read that changes your perspective on the world.

While reducing the uncertainty of the future definitely brings comfort, it also helps you miss out on the other great things that life has to offer.

Having a healthy balance between serious and silly is the key to living a fulfilling life. We are human beings, after all, not human doings.

Watch out for these 12 signs that you might be too serious and what to do about it.

1. You Rarely Have Time To Unwind

Optimizing for efficiency; always finding pockets of time to be productive; working on the weekends.

While you might call it passion, such behaviors make it much faster to burnout.

The human body can only handle so many tasks in a single day.

There is bound to be a point where quality begins to decline.

An engine can’t run continuously without heating up and breaking down.

Without time to unwind and let yourself relax, you’re only adding pressure to your body.

There’s more to life than meeting deadlines and jumping from one task to the next.

The human brain needs time to recharge and rest; sometimes, the most productive thing to do is to go to sleep or spend time with friends.

2. You Don’t Joke Around With Your Friends

While your friends talk about the movies that they recently saw or the funny joke that they heard, you’d rather get back to work on something more “meaningful”.

What people with this behavior tend to overlook is the value of laughter and joy in relationships — or the value of relationships themselves.

There is never going to be enough work to get done.

There is always going to be a task to do. But moments with friends are fleeting.

Before long, they might migrate to a different country, or find work in another company, or simply spend more time with a new friend group.

Sometimes, leaving the door open to your room or office is more important than finishing what you have to do.

That time that you spend with your friends is going to be more memorable to you than the task that will inevitably get lost in the endless sea of tasks.

3. You’re Strict With Others

When you agree to meet your friend for lunch at a certain time, and they arrive 7 minutes late, you’re quick to reprimand them like you were their parent.

It’s as if you’re telling them off for a grave offense — when in reality, it isn’t.

There are some things not worth fighting or erupting with rage about. There are forgivable mistakes and faults. I

n his biography written by Ashlee Vance, Elon Musk tells a story about how one of his employees at his early startup wrote an incorrect mathematical equation on the office whiteboard.

After Musk corrected it, the employee felt angry. Musk reflects back on that moment saying that, while he did correct the equation, he made an unproductive employee.

Sometimes, you need to put things in perspective; not everything has to be a big deal.

4. You’re Strict With Yourself

You tend to punish yourself for not achieving what you wanted to achieve.

After breaking a diet with sugar, you might start sleeping on the floor and only eating bread as an extreme way to get yourself back on routine.

You tell yourself that if you don’t complete your work by a certain date, you’re a failure of a human being that doesn’t deserve love.

Not only is that false, but it’s also toxic behavior. If you truly respect yourself, you’d treat yourself with the kindness that you would treat others.

You need to remind yourself that you are made of flesh and blood; you aren’t always going to get what you want, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

5. You Always Feel The Need To Explain Yourself To People

You’re constantly telling someone why you’re doing the project that you’re doing — even if they didn’t ask. It could be a sign that you’re insecure about what you’re doing.

It always feels like you have to defend your choices — from the shirt that you wore going out to the choice of hairstyle.

It isn’t as big a deal as you think; there’s no need to apologize for liking what you like or enjoying what you enjoy. You can simply just be.

6. You Always Follow The Rules

While following the rules maintains order, life has no strict rules to follow. Imposing rules on life only limits the joy that you get out of it.

When you read a self-help book that lays out a way to improve your productivity, you follow the imposed rules without even questioning whether the system works for you or not.

Sometimes, you’ve got to break your own rules to truly live a meaningful and enjoyable life.

7. It Always Feels Like A Competition To You

You always feel like you have to be the fastest worker in the team, or the most successful among your siblings.

Not everything’s a competition. There is no awards ceremony at the end of life, so why bother treating it like a race?

It only sucks the enjoyment out of life and turns friends into lifelong opponents.

8. You Delay Your Happiness

One of the reasons why people tend to feel unhappy is because they tell themselves that they aren’t allowed to feel happy until they finally reach all their goals.

The problem with this is that the future is uncertain.

If you have a goal to own a house and be married in 10 years, are you going to wait that long to be happy?

There are always things to smile and be grateful about when you simply return to the present and look around.

You’re allowed to be happy today. No one’s stopping you.

Enjoy a sunny al fresco lunch with your friends, take a day off; there are pockets of happiness right now in more places than you think.

9. You Stick To Your Comfort Zone

Since you want to minimize any risk or mistake in life, you’d rather stick to the road most taken.

You follow the path of the doctor or the lawyer because it means that your future is at least clearer from the start.

You order the same meals when you visit a restaurant, your daily routine is rigid; wake up, brush teeth, coffee, work, lunch, work, dinner, sleep.

Sticking to what you know works and doing it over and over again is what robots do.

You aren’t a robot.

Try to explore a bit: mix up your routine, order the chicken instead of the fish.

You might just feel more satisfied than you have in some time.

10. You’re Always Worried About Small Details

There are some things not worth losing sleepover.

Just because someone said Hi to you in a certain tone doesn’t already mean that they hate you.

Likewise, when you see a misspelling in a document that you’ve submitted, you think to yourself that you’ve ruined your chances of ever getting accepted at a job.

Not everything is as major as you think. It’s this perfectionist mindset that expedites burnout and causes unnecessary stress.

11. You Get Hurt Easily

One of the reasons why you don’t joke around with your friends is because you can’t handle it when someone lightly teases you.

When someone takes a light jab and references a time when you slipped in the kitchen or accidentally greeted the wrong person, you take it as an assault to your very being.

There’s a difference, however, between an outright insult and a cheeky joke between friends. You don’t have to take everything personally.

Learning to laugh at yourself is one of the best ways to live a more satisfying life.

12. You Keep Trying To Remove Uncertainty In Life

No matter how much you think, there’s only one guarantee in life: that we will all perish and return to dust.

It may be a morbid thought, but it puts everything in perspective when you think about how little time we actually have.

It could either spur you to continue working or shift your time towards the things that matter.

No amount of preparation can totally remove the uncertainty of the future, so it’s best to live in the moment while you still have it.

When you take life too seriously, you begin to make problems seem more serious than they actually are. Being constantly worried, however, is a stressful existence.

Loosen up a little. Slouch your shoulders, lean back on the couch, have a drink with your friend.

While each productive day could definitely help you make incremental progress on your goals, life isn’t just about who makes more money or who achieves more.

If there’s anything worth being serious about, it’s living.

It’s spending time with the people that you truly care about and on the things that truly give you fulfillment; it’s about optimizing for happiness, not getting more things done.

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Written by Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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