7 Principles You Can Install for a More Carefree Life

Max Phillips

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Let me start by saying I don’t think anyone can be permanently carefree. Sure, there may be phases, but they’ll eventually pass. There have been moments where I have felt as such — reading a book on holiday or attending a good party. Even so, those were fleeting.

In an attempt to understand what it takes to be carefree a bit more, I delved into the realm of personal development books and recently came across Stillness Is Key by Ryan Holiday.

In it, Ryan outlines how stillness is at the core of every religion and belief there is. The Buddhist word for it is upekkha, Muslims called it aslama, the Hebrews, hishtavut. As there is such breadth in the teachings of stillness, it would be foolish not to listen.

Stillness, Ryan writes, is “to be steady while the world spins around you. To act without frenzy. To hear what needs to be heard. To possess quietude — exterior and interior — on command.”

To be carefree, I realized, is to possess the ability to sit, perfectly still — present in the moment. To not be distracted by what is for dinner or the exam you need to sit in three weeks. So how do you become more carefree? Let’s take a look.

Don’t Worry About Other People’s Opinions

Too often, the voices of others influence us. You think you are sure in your opinion on something, only for someone else to cast a shadow of doubt with a negative view.

You may act tough, but it hurts. The problem is, if you let every other opinion swallow you up, you’ll never believe in yourself. You’ll never be carefree. Instead, you’ll be working to fit into the judgment of everyone else, when you are the only one that matters.

How to apply this:

When someone rudely disagrees with, remember they are likely reflecting their issues on to you. If they’re talking negatively about your side hustle, know that it is probably out of jealousy.

It may be hard at first, but only worrying about what you think is the first step to becoming carefree.

Learn to Be Present

Being present requires you to be still. It is also one of the most challenging tasks any human can undertake. If we all could, the world would be a much more harmonious place. As philosopher Blaise Pascal said nearly 400 years ago:

“All of man’s problems stem from his inability to sit alone in a room for any length of time.”

In 2010, an artist named Marina Abramovic sat for six days a week, seven hours a day in a plain chair, totaling 700 hours of sitting. Guests came in and sat in front of her. That was it. That’s the art. Called “The Artist Is Present,” the performative piece optimized what a calm state looks like.

She sits and stares. There is such intent behind the eyes. She isn’t focused on what she wants for lunch or the other people in the room, only the moment.

Some people would sit in front of her for hours, others for a few minutes. Thousands of people lined up, all of whom had differing experiences. Having someone’s undivided attention seems almost unnatural.

How to apply this:

The obvious answer would be to meditate. I’ve tried it, and it is more difficult than you might think.

Essentially, you need to stop your mind from wondering. When trying to think about nothing, you realize the genuine effort it takes to pull your thoughts back to the present.

I find it best to practice this before you go to sleep. As soon as you notice yourself going off on a tangent, say the word “breathe” in your head. If it helps, say “in” and “out” to match your breathing.

It feels like the brainwaves in your head are finally slowing down, allowing you to relax and be present in the moment.

Filter Through Unnecessary Information

Ryan Holiday says if you want to become still, and subsequently carefree, you need to limit your inputs.

Famously, Napoleon instructed his secretary to wait three weeks before presenting him with letters. After the period, the non-essential matters usually resolved themselves. If a problem persisted, then it required his attention.

As I mentioned earlier, the chances of constant carefree living are minimal. It is situational. While Napoleon wasn’t carefree, he was free to care about the genuinely essential matters.

If you adopt a similar approach, you’ll find yourself wondering why you ever cared about some things in the first place.

How to apply this:

Of course, times have changed, and it is difficult to ignore the news these days. Coverage is 24/7. You can limit your exposure, however.

Delete some social media apps from your phone. I deleted Twitter for a week and realized I wasn’t missing out on much at all. The simple act of re-downloading wouldn’t take long, but the reward doesn’t feel worth the effort now.

I did download it after the week to see if I missed anything significant. I didn’t; just a bunch of people quarreling about anything and everything. By all means, keep yourself informed, but only on the issues that matter.

Stop Focusing on the Outcome

Goals are great and essential for every successful person. However, there comes a point when they begin to override your life, and all you care about is the goal.

So, you think if you achieve it, all your problems will dissipate. Well, not necessarily. Once you reach it, your brain starts to wonder what’s next. As the previous goal has taken up so much of your life, it’s only natural.

As such, you’ll never be carefree, but on a constant hunt for the next outcome. You’re setting yourself up for disappointment.

How to apply this:

Focus on the process more. The process is what you go through day in, day out. You need to enjoy it. The more you do, the higher chance you’ll achieve flow. When in a state of flow, your worries and cares melt away. It’s just you and the task at hand.

If you love your process, the pressures of the outcome begin to fade. The burden of disappointment stops looming, and you become more carefree. The process will be what you care about, not the fear of failure.

Plan Some Fun Into Your Day

As you get older, the consequences of having fun become apparent. Money, work, and relationships all begin to factor in. We become conditioned to become numbed robots, obsessing over our productivity.

If I asked you when you’ve felt the most carefree, I bet it would be when you have the most fun.

During my second year of university, the worries of coursework seemed to melt away as I was having one of the most fun years of my life. The more you focus on all that needs to be fixed, the more your mind gets conditioned to see what’s wrong.

When we have fun, bursts of dopamine fill our brains. This has been proven to motivate us to learn and improve our ability to retain information.

How to apply this:

Remember, time spent having fun isn’t time wasted. When you wake up and go about completing your to-do list, ease the pressure on yourself, and add something fun in there.

Send a risky text, listen to a comedian’s podcast, or play a video game. Whichever suits you.

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Accept Life Doesn’t Need to Be a Struggle

Although school and university were very positive experiences in my life, a large part of them did feel like a struggle. Exams, deciding on my degree, and picking a career path are times I don’t look on fondly.

We are told to set our goals and pursue them with every ounce of effort we have — no matter the toll.

As a consequence, life can feel like a stopwatch. The longer it took to start my career, the more it felt like I was falling behind. The truth is, you are on your schedule, just as I am on mine.

Life doesn’t need to be filled with hardship. It can be filled with beautiful, loving, and happy moments. Remember, glass half full.

How to apply this:

You can do two things.

  1. Use positive affirmations. Research from Carnegie Melon University has shown they make us more receptive to our mistakes, boosting productivity and results. To be more carefree, start by telling yourself that you can enjoy life and it doesn’t need to be a struggle.
  2. Don’t compare yourself to others. People who struggle may try and make you think the same way. On the flip side, when you compare to wildly successful people, it is easy to think your life is going nowhere.

Understand You Won’t Always Be Carefree

If you read this article searching for the answer to a 24/7 carefree life, then I have some bad news for you. If you go actively looking for it, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment, as I touched on earlier.

Being carefree is the ability to tune out of what matters and hone in on what does. The less you have on your plate, the more effort you can put in.

Of course, caring is important. If you didn’t care, nothing would have any importance. Being carefree is fleeting. You shouldn’t need to care to the point where it negatively affects you.

How to apply this:

Think back to the times when you have got yourself into dramatic situations and how you wish you hadn’t. I remember at school there would be constant drama and I would be so glad I wasn’t involved. It’s just easier.

Hold on to those memories. Life will deal you unfair hands from time to time, but that makes your ability to bask in the carefree times all the more glorious.

Final Thoughts

As our generation is wired in, we are all exposed to one another. Consequently, it is almost a duty to care about anything and everything — if you don’t, society sees you as a bad person.

You’re not a bad person. You care about what matters to you.

Of course, all of the principles I’ve outlined might not be 100% applicable to you, but if there was one thing I want you to take away from this article, it is to sit back and enjoy the ride. Or don’t. What you care about is up to you.

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