It’s an idea I first encountered in Stephen Pressfield’s “War of Art,” and I loved it!
Going pro means taking your work seriously: setting a schedule, showing up consistently and beating resistance every time. It’s a great way to get work done.
But can you be too serious when it comes to work?
I think so.
Last week, I experienced more success with my blog than I was used to. Traffic was picking up and more visitors were commenting than ever before. I should’ve been thrilled.
And I was! But I was also scared, because with this victory came pressure. I started to take my work too seriously.
“Oh damn…People are reading now, and commenting…You MUST succeed!!”
I became a little frantic, a tad uncomfortable. I wasn’t used to the attention and the progress. It threw me off and made me realize that maybe this is the real deal. Maybe ZenCaffeine really will be what I want.
That was scary - SO scary that I avoided writing all of last week.
But after a nudge from my grandpa (thanks, gramps!) to get writing again (he missed his Zen, he said ), I’m back, and feeling a little more comfortable.
However, I must remain vigilant. I could start to take my work too seriously again at any time, so I’ve come up with a list of symptoms to look out for.
Here are some signs that you might be taking your work too seriously:
- You’re paralyzed. Afraid to act. You can’t move forward and do the work because you’re making it such a big deal that you’re afraid to fail.
- You can’t imagine quitting. I’m not sayin’ you should think about throwing in the towel every day, but if you’re putting all your eggs in THAT basket – you might be taking it too seriously and closing yourself off to other great ideas.
- You’re stressed out. Stress happens, but if you’re feelin’ it constantly, something’s wrong.
- You’re inflexible. Your mom’s 70th birthday is this weekend, but you can’t take her out because you HAVE TO write that post. That’s a little extreme, but if you can’t take unscheduled breaks once in a while, you might be taking it too seriously.
- You don’t find joy in your work. This kinda goes along with being stressed out. If you’re not enjoying yourself most of the time, why are you doing it?
- You’re scared by success. Things finally start going well and, rather than feeling joy and moving forward, you screech to a halt.
Have you experienced any of these? How did you combat them?
Here are some of my tips to lighten up when things get too heavy:
- Look at the big picture. It’s likely a long journey from where you are to where you wanna be. Why take every little step so seriously? You don’t have to tread so carefully – try skipping for a while!
- Have a little fun! Make a list of all of the things you really enjoy doing – things that may not have any other purpose than to make you smile. On mine are: watching kid movies, going dancing, playing video games. Enjoy one of yours, forget about work for a minute.
- Try a little flexibility. Can you work outside today? Would it hurt to take a longer lunch and invite a friend? Try something outside of your routine today. Notice how the world doesn’t end.
- Imagine other possibilities. It’s normal to be attached to your dream – it’s like your baby! Trust me, I get it. But shake loose that attachment for just a sec, and imagine other possibilities. What else could you be successful at? If you weren’t doing this, how else could you express your passion? It may feel uncomfortable, like you’re abandoning your dream – but you’re not. You’re simply recognizing that there are other options. When you can recognize this, it takes the pressure off.
- Answer this question: What if I fail? What if your current dream doesn’t work out? What if your blog falls apart or you quit? What if your business doesn’t produce profit? You may come up with a horrible scenario, but remember: the end of one thing can be the beginning of another. If you fail, so what? It’s not the end of the world – it’s the beginning of a new one. Accepting the possibility of failure relieves some of the anxiety you feel when you think you must succeed.
- Take a break. Whether you like it or not, breaks are necessary to maintain your sanity. If you can’t bring yourself to take them on a whim, pencil ‘em in: from 1pm-2m, for example, nothing work-related allowed. If you’re super stressed, could you take a weekend off? Or even a few hours? The work will always be waiting; don’t let it stop you from taking care of yourself.
- Change your attitude about success. Take it with a grain of salt. Let it excite you and fuel you, but don’t let it intimidate you. Appreciate it for what it is, smile at it and recognize that there will be more of it.
- “Instead of focusing on how much you can accomplish, focus on how much you can absolutely love what you’re doing.” - Leo Babauta
It can be tough to lighten up when it comes to your work. It’s your heart and soul, your passion – that’s serious biz!
But remember: it’s also your joy.
Or it should be! If you’ve lost that bliss, join me in reclaiming it.
You’ve already heard some of my ideas…Now let me hear yours in the comments!
What do you do when you’re taking your work too seriously? How do you get outside of yourself and lighten up?
Peace, love and a steaming cup of Zen,