We get this sort of advice all the time, oftentimes from people who mean well. Remember when I said that simple life lessons are the hardest the follow? Like when people say, “Don’t worry about the money.” Or that you shouldn’t compare yourself to others. Perfectly valid (and deceptively simple) insights, to be sure, but they’re far easier said than done.
In this way, are these helpful little tidbits actually all that helpful? Let’s explore a few more.
Don’t Take Yourself So Seriously, But…
Get all your Joker “why so serious?” references out of the way. Okay. Let’s more on.
Perhaps one of the best simple life lessons that I’ve really tried to take to heart is that you shouldn’t take yourself so seriously, but you should take the work seriously. By this I mean that you need to be willing to laugh at yourself, be willing to let go of your inhibitions and just be yourself. When my then-toddler dragged me in front of a live band because she wanted to dance, I did… even if I was really self-conscious about it the whole time. Dance like nobody’s watching, right?
On the flip side, one of my biggest pet peeves is when people don’t live up to their word. This is frustrating both personally and professionally (and for me, the lines blur between the two). If you say you’re going to do something, then make sure you do it. And do it well. Take the work seriously.
Don’t Worry What People Think
I know we come to revisit this notion on a fairly regular basis at this point. “You wouldn’t worry so much about what people think of you if you realized how seldom they do.” It’s a quote that has been attributed to everyone from Mark Twain to David Foster Wallace, Eleanor Roosevelt to Jack Allis. Regardless of who said it first, the second half of that quote is totally true. The first half… is a lot harder to internalize.
Intellectually speaking, I acknowledge that I am not the center of the universe. But maybe it’s almost because I know how seldom people think of me that I come to seek validation through views, likes, shares and comments. Social media has really exacerbated this problem. If you post a picture on Instagram, and no one “likes” it, did you really post it at all?
These Are the Good Old Days
Except that’s not true at all. As you make your way through your day-to-day, you might think that today is the day of hardship and difficulty. You’re just a hamster in a wheel, putting in those steps.
But heed this keen advice from the Nard Dog: these are the good old days. I just wish someone would tell us that while we’re still in them. That’s why it’s so important to practice gratitude regularly. Daily if you can. Chances are the good outweighs the bad in your life.
We Are Not Shiny People
Simple life lessons can also be remarkably contradictory. Just like we’re told that opposites attract, and yet birds of a feather flock together. So, just as we should recognize that the good likely outweighs the bad, we also have to acknowledge that everyone has “the bad.” Some people are just better at hiding it than others.
This relates to issues with social comparison, even if know intellectually that “what people post on social media is not an accurate representation of their lives or who they are.” It’s a shiny highlight reel, carefully curated to create a positive impression. You only see what they want you to see.
The truth is everyone has their challenges. So, be compassionate. You don’t know what obstacles they overcame or what demons they’re fighting.
You Are Enough
And really, so many of these simple life lessons boil down to our inherent desire to compare ourselves to others… even if we don’t really want to compare ourselves to others. You know that social media highlight reel? It also highlights the successes and achievements of my peers. So-and-so got a promotion, took their kids to Disneyland, and bought a Tesla.
Don’t get me wrong. I am genuinely happy for my friends when good things happen to them. But that happiness is also tinged with jealousy, which leads to feelings of inadequacy by comparison. Why can’t I do better professionally and with this blog? Why can’t I be a better dad or drive a nicer car? I really struggle with this, but nothing ever feels like it’s enough. Even when I know, objectively, it is.
Have you ever received any advice that’s way easier said than done? Did you manage to do it?