Are you having fun yet?
“I’m going to keep having fun every day I have left, because there is no other way to play it.” - Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture
Consider these fun facts:
Norway has a smaller population than Wisconsin, yet once again it finished atop the medal table at the Winter Olympics. One of the reasons cited for its repeated athletic success? Norway encourages children to try a variety of sports just for the fun of it.
Nick Willis has run a sub-four-minute mile for 20 consecutive years. How does he do it? Willis says part of the reason is that he doesn’t just run: he plays basketball and skateboards. He has fun.
In a viral article published in The New York Times, Professor Adam Grant described the “meh” feeling of languishing that many of us have experienced during the pandemic. How did he stop languishing? Grant played Mario Kart with his family. He had fun.
All these examples of the invigorating effects of fun to cure languishing, maintain motivation, and kindle Olympic success beg the question: when was the last time you had fun? I'm not talking about the fake fun of scrolling through social media that can leave you feeling empty. I’m talking about the true fun of the type described by Catherine Price in her new book The Power of Fun: How to Feel Alive Again.
According to Price, true fun has these 3 characteristics:
Playfulness - fun is lighthearted and free, unattached to any outcome or reward
Connection - fun involves a shared experience with someone or something outside yourself
Flow - time really does fly when you’re having fun—you lose your self-consciousness and your sense of time passing when you're in a state of flow
Distraction is the enemy of fun which is why you be having trouble recalling the last time you had fun. The key to inviting more fun into your life is to know what goes into your fun recipe so that you can add more of those ingredients to your day.
To get on the path to a more fun-filled life, Catherine Price instructs you to write down 3 examples of times in your life when you had true fun. Recall the elements that distinguish true fun from fake fun—playfulness, connection, and flow. When did you feel carefree and engaged, and time joyously flied by? When did an activity make you say, “That was soooo much fun!”
A delicious meal is always enjoyable, but a delicious meal that you made on a holiday with friends and ingredients that you bought at a local farmers' market is more likely to be fun.
Think about what made these experiences fun for you. Now think about what you can plan for the future that have the same or similar features.
If mining your past for examples of fun doesn’t sound particularly fun to you, how about simply noticing those fleeting moments of fun — of playfulness, connection and/or flow — as it naturally occurs during your day? For the next couple of weeks, take a few minutes at the end of the day and write down moments of fun that made you feel alive and energized.
As I reflect on my fun history, a whole lotta fun occurred while writing the book Acts of Friendship with my friends Deb Mangolt and Julie Smethurst. Connection was built into all of the activities, but playfulness and flow often ensued. Trying on vintage clothing, attempting children’s art (my papier-mâché dinosaur was so funny bad that it startled my husband during power outage) or simply sitting around for hours asking each other random questions are just a few top-of-mind examples of my Acts of Friendship fun.
Recent moments of fun during my day include a favorite Ricky Martin song popping up on my shuffled playlist during a workout, lip syncing Adele’s “Hello” to my husband with over-the-top dramatic flourishes, and going to see a movie for the first time in two years.
As you reflect on what you find fun, think about repeating themes. For me, silliness, physicality, and novelty are key ingredients of fun. Wendy Wood, an expert in habit formation, suggests adding fun to any new activity that you want to make into a habit, but you can never go wrong with having fun for the sake of fun.
“At the end of the day, if I can say I had fun, it was a good day.”
- Simone Biles
Get Fully Charged on Fun
Check out Catherine Price’s The Power of Fun and discover your fun personality type on the howtohavefun website.
Everybody is trying to figure out why Norway keeps winning. Norwegians know that the people who are most successful had the most fun getting there and continue to have fun while they win as described in “Fun and Friendship fuels Norway’s Olympic Gold Rush.” Reuters, February 18, 2022.
Running a sub-four-minute mile isn’t fun. That's why Nick Willis needs some fun in his life so that he could keep running. Check out “What it Takes to Run a Sub-Four-Minute Mile for 20 Years Straight” by Martin Fritz Huber in Outside Magazine, February 1, 2022.
Adam Grant found the cure for languishing in Mario Kart. Read about it in The New York Times article “There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing,” April 19, 2021. Enjoy Adam Grant's TED Talk, “How to stop languishing and start finding flow.” Listen to Adam Grant talk to Dr. Laurie Santos about his languishing experience on “Fight the ‘Meh’ feeling of Languishing” episode of The Happiness Lab podcast.