Take Life Seriously...But Don't Exaggerate

Joan Marques - Ed.D., MBA.
Burbank, California

It is so easy to fall into the trap of taking things seriously: Too seriously. We hold on to partners, possessions, careers, and lifestyles, long after they have lost their meaning to us. This tendency to hold on may stem from a deep insecurity in most people. The reasoning may be, in many instances, "I know what I have, but I am not sure what I'll get."

And yet: how happy do these considerations and conservatisms make us? When we make up the inner-balance, which side of the scale tips? And what do we see when we take a critical look around us? Are the ones who release their constrictions not the more relaxed ones? Think of them: The colleagues that chose for a career-change instead of dragging themselves to an undesirable workplace everyday, while you are still stuck there; the friends who got a divorce instead of undergoing emotional abuse any longer, while you are still scraping your self-esteem off the floor everyday; The acquaintances that exchanged their expensive home for an easy apartment in a simpler living area when times got rough, while you're still struggling to pay the bills every month?

Letting go, whether psychological or physiological, is an art that only develops through thorough examination of ourselves, and the society we live in. It requires critical thinking and the development of an own insight, independent from indoctrination. It also requires seeing things in a perspective that starts with freeing ourselves from the burden of guilt and devotion to the status-quo, which so many of the institutions we attend teach us, and ends with releasing all factors that disturb our inner-connection, which is the connection we have with ourselves.

If we know that life is limited and that it will end sooner or later; why do we, then, cling to anything at all, especially if there are signs that either our interest toward those things has diminished, or the interest of those things toward us? Is imprisonment, whether physical or mental, not the most humiliating of all states? So why, then, do so many of us settle for it?

The answer, as indicated before, probably boils down to cultural and societal indoctrination: expectations that we feel we have to live up to, just because we were taught to do so: Marriages should last forever because they are sacred; jobs should be cherished because they are so scarce; status symbols (houses, cars, expensive outfits) should be maintained because they make such a good impression: that's indoctrination, and we can only start enjoying life if we see through this trick, and free ourselves from it. For what is so sacred about a marriage that only drags you down emotionally? And what is so precious about a job that you dread? And what is so impressive about status symbols that force you into having 3 jobs and no time to yourself at all?

Once we concur on these insights, we can start our strategy toward freeing ourselves from indoctrination. How? Among the many ways that undoubtedly exist, we could consider the following:

What do the three abovementioned ways of freeing ourselves from indoctrination have in common? Right! They all represent an awakening. And being awake means, being aware. And being aware means, freeing ourselves from pressure and silly influences. And the only way to free ourselves from pressure and silly influences is to learn to think for ourselves. And the only way we will learn to think for ourselves is when we expose ourselves to new things and ways; critically evaluate the sense of the things we currently do; and determine whether they still mean anything to us.

It is this determination of what still means something to us and what not, that will eventually guide us toward leading a life that is less pressured and controlled by all and everything but ourselves. It is this determination, too, that will guide us toward the formulation of what really matters to us at this moment and what not. And by consequently eliminating those things that don't matter anymore, we will have established a less complicated life, and we will have reached the point where we take it seriously, but don't exaggerate.