“I am serious, so I laugh a lot. You need to laugh. You don’t laugh enough. I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t laugh.”
Whether you are trying to build a business… lose 20 pounds… learn French… or get that promotion you’ve been eyeing, you’re working hard to achieve something meaningful to you. You take that goal very seriously. And you should. You should work hard and be diligent.
But there’s one other thing you need to do: You need to lighten up. So today, I’m going to help you do that.
I’m not suggesting that you should laugh and shrug off any problems that come up. I’m just saying that you should be a little more flexible in the way you deal with them. You see, it is far too easy to become rigid in our thinking and the way we approach any challenge. Maintaining a sense of humor helps us get beyond that rigidity.
The value of humor is almost a “no brainer” when you think about it. It can help you get out of a tough spot… reduce tension… and put you in a more relaxed frame of mind. Simply put, when you learn to lighten up, the achievement of almost any goal will go more smoothly.
For way too long I was too rigid in pursuing my goals. I didn’t see it at the time, but this actually affected my ability to achieve them – the exact opposite of what I intended by being so serious.
A few years ago, for instance, I got caught up in my desire to complete a particular project on time and on budget. The accomplishment of that mission dominated my mind to such an extent that my team members did not enjoy working with me – and the project wasn’t getting done.
After enough negative feedback on my obsessiveness, I realized that I was the problem. I recognized that I wasn’t saving the planet or doing brain surgery… so I needed to step back and lighten up.
Once I did, we all started to enjoy the work. The lighter side of me brought tons of creative input and ideas to the table. And when the project was completed, there was an abundance of smiles and high-fives.
My sense of accomplishment was sweeter because of the camaraderie. And things kept getting better after that initial success. The entire team was on board and looking forward to our next goal to tackle, because the experience of working together had been so rewarding.
It’s a surprising and powerful revelation: You can make any process more productive and enjoyable when you lighten up on yourself and others.
If you find that you have a hard time giving up your serious side, even after you give it a good try, I’ve come up with five tips to help you.
Lighten Up Strategy #1: Don’t take everything so seriously.
Yes, life is serious. But in most cases, it’s only as serious as you want to make it.
When, for example, you are in a meeting where everyone around the table is offering ideas… don’t automatically shoot down any that seem silly or trivial. Be generous in your response, and really listen to everyone’s input. The team member who didn’t have a good idea in the morning may come back with a great one in the afternoon. And you don’t want to discourage them from voicing that great idea later by cutting them off earlier in the day.
Lighten Up Strategy #2: Let go of your need for control.
Nobody can – or should – be in control of everything all the time. Allow yourself to be open to new ideas. If you open up to all the ideas and input that comes to you from others (like the example I gave in Strategy #1), you stand a greater chance of finding the best way to achieve your goal.
It could feel risky at first, but stay with it and watch your progress and productivity grow.
Lighten Up Strategy #3: Be more spontaneous.
Becoming more spontaneous can be challenging if, like me, you enjoy the comfort of routines. Yet I have learned that spontaneity allows for moments of real joy and creativity.
I am much more spontaneous in person than in the written word. It is far easier for me to have a one-on-one conversation or give a speech than to write. However, writing for Early to Rise has helped me open up my “spontaneity gene” – and this has helped me grow.
I start with a blank page and a basic theme for my message. Then I just write. If I get too caught up in “This article must be fabulous” mode, I start to freeze. So I force myself to keep going, knowing that I can go back later and revamp or make changes.
Lighten Up Strategy #4: Smile every chance you get.
This concept is huge!
You always want to make a positive impression on people… and the easiest way to do that is to smile at them. Smile at the grocery clerk when you are checking out. Smile at the waiter or waitress taking your order. Smile at the toll booth operator taking your quarters. And smile at friends, family, co-workers, supervisors, and everybody else you encounter.
Smile even when you’re on the phone. If you are calling someone… start your smile the moment you begin dialing. If you are taking a call… start your smile even before you flip open your cellphone or pick up the receiver. Believe me, that smile will come across in your voice to the other person on the line.
Lighten Up Strategy #5: Don’t forget to play.
You never outgrow your need to play – in order to maintain your sense of humor and, by extension, a full and balanced life. Yet, too often, it is forgotten.
To play is to have fun, be delighted, and experience joy. Play time can be a solo effort or involve others. You might tell jokes, play a board game, have a paper airplane contest… anything that releases tension and gets your positive energy flowing. If you incorporate at least a couple of hours of play time into your weekly schedule, you will find yourself enjoying every part of your life even more.
All five of the above strategies will “power up” your sense of humor and help you embrace your sunnier side while you’re working toward your goals. And once you start enjoying the process, you’ll reach success that much faster. There really is time for humor and fun along the way.[Ed. Note: Take a tip from Bob Cox: Relax and let go a little bit, even when it comes to your most important goals. Bob’s a career goal setter – and he’s even helped four men become billionaires. You can get his expert advice and strategies for making your longest-held dreams come true.]