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Advice From A Friend

“Be serious about everything that you do, but never take yourself seriously.”

These were words shared with me by a childhood friend, who had been given this advice when he was a young man, about to enter a new phase in his life. Though I was well past the ‘younger part’ of my life when I heard these words, they immediately made sense and sounded right to me. I liked how they swirled and tumbled around in my brain and encouraged me to rethink; about myself and how I handle situations in my own personal and professional life. (I mused about family and friends and briefly thought about becoming an ‘armchair psychologist’, but soon decided it was a waste of energy and that my time was better spent understanding and improving myself).

“Be serious about everything that you do, but never take yourself seriously.”

It is a simple concept, yet takes time to fully understand and can be difficult to put into practice. Maybe because it involves dealing with our emotions and our egos; those wild card personality traits that often work against common sense and our better angels. Maybe because of our tendency to take ourselves too seriously, whether from arrogance or insecurity or both. We may incorrectly assume that if we don’t take ourselves seriously, no one else will. It also dawned on me how annoying people can be when they actually do take themselves too seriously (and if we are honest, we all know people like that) and walk around with a sense of their own perceived importance, but I will save this discussion for another time. Ultimately, I believe it is a mindset; a philosophy on how to conduct yourself, as you live your life and accomplish your goals…a way of viewing your place in the world and how to best achieve your life’s mission.

“Be serious about everything that you do, but never take yourself seriously.”

Upon reflection, I believe this is how I have tried to approach my life and accomplish my goals. I often used humor to reduce the anxiety and stress levels in my classroom and also as a non-confrontational way to emphasize an important point in both my personal and professional interactions. This does not mean that I was not serious about helping my students or accomplishing my personal goals. This does not mean that I did not give homework assignments with due dates. It means I chose to keep the focus in my classroom on learning and a willingness to admit that many of the classroom rules did not work with my students. This does not mean I do not set boundaries or defend myself when dealing with friends, acquaintances and family. It means I choose to keep the temperature low, as I focus on communicating my point.

You can live a serious life and accomplish meaningful things with humor, a sense of humility and a drizzle of mild self-deprecation (when you feel yourself slipping into the “self-important” zone)...and because she passed away as I was completing this blog, I will take the opportunity to quote Betty White: “If you take yourself lightly and don’t take yourself too seriously, pretty soon you can find the humor in our everyday lives. And sometimes it can be a lifesaver.” Yes, recognizing the humor in being human can have a positive impact on our emotional well-being, which may actually be the most important benefit.

Yes, transitions can be times of change and challenge, whether they are planned or unexpected. How we navigate through these transitions can be raw and emotional and knock us off balance. It is during these times that we can and should keep life as normal and routine as possible, while we strategize our way to the other side. Additionally, we should also use our philosophical and/or spiritual toolbox to help steady us on our journey toward re-balance. The above mentioned words of wisdom definitely have a place in my toolbox and I humbly suggest you add it to yours.

**This was written to honor the memory of the friend who shared these words with me.

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