“The one serious conviction that a man should have is that nothing is to be taken too seriously.” – Samuel Butler

Do you think of yourself as a serious person? Do you find little to laugh about or is it difficult to let yourself go and enjoy what you’re doing, who you’re with, what you must look forward to tomorrow? There’s a difference between being thoughtful and earnest and being serious. I like to think that seriousness must involve an important situation or problem, not a demeanor I want to portray on an everyday basis. Some might say that I’m too easygoing, but that’s not it, either. I simply want to take life as it comes, do the best I can, and be hopeful and positive in the process.

Looking back on my early life, when I was a kid and saw a much older person hobbling along with a mean and grouchy look on his face, I automatically thought, “What a sourpuss!” As children, we’re keenly intuitive to the emotions of others. We can read people well, even when they try to mask their feelings from us.

Yet I also know and remember that children are quick to forgive, easily able to see the joy in life, to laugh and cry and laugh again. I might have noticed the old man’s grumpy nature, but it didn’t stick with me or put a damper on my enthusiasm for life.

Somehow, however, many of us seem to lose some of this natural ability as we mature.

It doesn’t need to be this way. There are ways to turn that steamroller around. Instead of allowing negative emotions to lay waste to your life, make it a point to stop being so serious and find what’s good and true and hopeful. Then, maximize your enjoyment of it.

What about the things in life that are, well, serious? You can’t avoid those, right? While it’s true that you must deal with situations, people and things that may be unpleasant, painful, contradictory, horrendous, exasperating, even evil, there’s always the other side of that experience. You won’t be in it forever, although it may seem like it’s lasting far too long at the time.

Change your outlook first.

Perhaps the most difficult part is trying to change your own outlook from one that’s too focused on how terrible things are or how difficult it is to get through events or times to an attitude that allows for some breathing room, levity, and being able to see opportunities hidden within challenges.

If you’ve lost your job, been dumped by your spouse or partner, got hit by a speeding driver, had your identity stolen or experienced some other nasty or traumatic event, it’s hard enough to pick yourself up and go on, let alone do so without feeling dour, helpless and hopeless.

But you can do it, with the help of your friends and loved ones who support your efforts and will always be by your side no matter what. There’s joy and solace in knowing you have allies. That’s a positive and will help lift you up out of the seriousness of your current situation.

Look for the positive in every situation.

You also need to have the desire and fortitude to insist that you will look for the lighter side of life’s difficulties. It won’t just happen. If you go around with a grim face that mirrors your equally serious thoughts, you’ll keep on having the same outcome. The situations and experiences may change, but your attitude won’t. For that you need to vow to turn that ship around.

If it’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that life is short. My wish for you is what I strive to do each day: Intend to live life to the fullest, taking every opportunity to experience joy and happiness – even amid sadness, trouble and pain.

And, lest you think that I don’t know what I’m talking about, let me assure you that I’ve experienced many tragedies and much misfortune. These included surviving a car-train crash, being broadsided by a speeding tow truck, rescued unconscious from a burning building, getting shot at, robbed at knife point, given mouth-to-mouth resuscitation after a near-drowning. I’ve lost both mother and father, stepfather, grandparents, aunts, a brother and several close friends. Cancer, concussions, burns, broken limbs, severe back injury and being diagnosed with atrial fibrillation are also part of my life experience. Then, there’s also the list of fractured relationships, lost loves, broken friendships and so on.

Still, through it all, I remain hopeful, upbeat, confident and joyful. While I may have had more unfortunate experiences than most people, I don’t consider myself unique or special. I also don’t get depressed or anxious or feel that I’m unlucky, star-crossed or cursed by fate.

One thing that has helped me overcome sadness, regain self-confidence, believe in myself and ardently pursue my dreams is counseling. Psychotherapy may not be for everyone, but for those with overwhelming problems and emotional difficulties, it can be a life-saver. Therapy also helps reaffirm what’s good and true and hopeful in life.

Tips to Live By:

Everyone likes lists. They’re quick to digest and easy to remember. At least, the short ones are. Here are some quick tips to live by when you want to stop taking yourself so seriously:

  • Have a goal for each day. This gives you something to look forward to.
  • Begin each day with gratitude. You have a lot to be thankful for, so express that in a silent prayer as you awake.
  • Let go of grudges. They’re counter-productive and lessen your joy.
  • Live in the present. Now is the only time you can act, not yesterday or tomorrow. Be conscious of this moment, fully aware and present. This helps maximize your joy of experiences and relationships.
  • If you make a mistake, learn from it. You’re only human, after all, and humans make mistakes. By finding the lesson in the mistake, you add to your knowledge and increase your problem-solving ability so that you’re more confident the next time.
  • Pursue your interests and dreams. Life is enriched when you go after what you passionately believe in or desire to experience.