I subscribe to a blog called Zen Habits. It’s a wonderful place that’s written and managed by Leo Babauta who offers terrific, down to earth advice on just about the most ordinary things but with heart and, well, zen. The thing I love most about his advice, though it never feels like advice, is that it’s always warm-hearted and with direction and it always, always feels real.
A recent blog entry was about doing things for fun. Which really isn’t always that easy, because most of us are usually setting expectations for ourselves that are too high or not realistic. It could be the perfectionist in us that drives us to those expectations, or the need to prove something, or maybe even a fear of failure. But the key to having fun is to let go of those expectations and to just enjoy the moments for what they are because that’s where we experience joy.
It also has a lot to do with mindset.
Babauta brought up an example about writing a book (which piqued my interest right away), but the example could really apply to just about anything. He said that if you write a book and only get halfway through, is that success or failure? If it’s all about the accomplishment, or the lack thereof in this case, it would feel like you failed, right? But if you flip this thinking on its head and write a book — or exercise, or learn to cook, or start a new business, or whatever your fill-in-the-blank is — and do it from the point of view of just having fun, then no matter what happens you’re always going to experience success! Why? Because your expectations aren’t driving you anymore. Only your pursuit of joy is.
How cool is that? And how liberating!
I’ve recently been watching the sales for my book slowly lessen. It was to be expected, given that I’m a newbie author with practically a zero following and who is working her little butt off to expand readership, and I was starting to feel disheartened by it. Friends and family were encouraging me, telling me that getting published alone was a big deal and to enjoy that success. But a little voice inside my head kept barging in, warning me that, no, this wasn’t good enough. Ah, the expectations that Babauta talks about.
So, yesterday, in the midst of a beautiful and unusually warm Fall day, I let go of those expectations and reminded myself of why I started writing in the first place. Because it gave me, and still gives me, great joy. I can’t imagine doing anything else that makes me happier. Then I started feeling at peace with myself, and you know what happened next? I was calmer, and my trip to the supermarket was also joyful. As was my laundry detail and my ironing. And so was making dinner. And when Left Brain and I went to the East End to visit LiV Vodka, I was in a freaking amazing mood. All because I’d let go of those pesky little (and sometimes big) expectations.
So, the next time you feel stressed because things aren’t going well enough, or fast enough, or to your satisfaction, sit back and figure out if you’re doing whatever you’re doing out of joy. And when you do, you’ll discover a whole new world around you, one that’s more beautiful than you ever could have imagined.
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