Feeling the Fun

This picture always makes me laugh. I can just feel the abandonment of fear and sheer joy in it.  I want more of these moments in my life, not actually jumping naked off a pier (I hate cold water!), but I want more of this feeling, that feeling of unabashed FUN, don’t you?

Last year, my colleague Kristie Boltz, recommended this TED talk in her newsletter. (If you haven’t subscribed to Kristie’s newsletter, you should, and you do so here.

While the entire talk was really good, one line struck me hard, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since:  Fun is a feeling, not an activity.

As I write this, I just finished decorating a cute St. Patrick’s Day table for tomorrow’s celebration on March 17th. Tom walked by me as I was doing it and said, “You just love doing that, don’t you?”

“How can you tell?” I asked.

“Well, if your off-key singing of old Irish ballads didn’t give it away, your smile and sheer joy would.”

People ask me sometimes why I go to the trouble to decorate my table or make special meals for silly occasions like Cinco De Mayo, St. Patrick’s Day, Valentine’s Day, or Texas Independence Day when it’s only Tom and me at home? My answer:  It’s fun. I know it’s not fun for everyone.  I know that many of you would rather take a beating, or at the very least let someone else do the work (hopefully at a nice restaurant), but for me, it’s fun. That’s it. I don’t do it every day.  We eat most of our meals on small tables in the living room without any adornment at all while watching our favorite series. But throughout the year, we look forward to the fun of our special days, and I have a blast planning and experiencing them, especially when they fall in the middle of a normal work week. I can’t explain it, but I like the way it makes me feel. It engages my creativity, allows me to touch and play with dishes, linens, and objects that I treasure. It suspends my everyday demands and lets me (us) feel celebratory, special, and connected.

In her talk, Catherine Price states that the characteristics of fun are playfulness, connection, and flow. Playfulness meaning a feeling of lightheartedness and joy. Connection meaning that sense of having a shared special experience. It’s not that you can’t have fun alone, but she believes we are often more likely to feel fun when we’re sharing it with others. And, Flow meaning “a state of flow” or “being in the zone.” It’s those moments when you lack any resistance, any worry about the past or future, or any fear about the present, when you are so engaged in the activity that you lose track of time, as if it is somehow suspended.

Catherine says that to feel the feeling of real fun is to feel alive, and that fun has been proven to be an important component of human thriving. She reminds us that there is great value and worth in truly experiencing fun and in remembering that fun is not an activity but a feeling. The lesson I take is that we should worry less about doing the things that others tell us are fun and reach for the personal feeling of fun for ourselves.

But what about at work? Catherine says something incredible on this topic, but you might miss it if you aren’t paying attention. She says, “Fun is energizing. Fun makes us present. Fun unites us. Fun is the first step in being able to work together to solve problems.” Wouldn’t we all like more of these qualities at work—people who are present, energetic, and united? I raise my hand.

At LionSpeak, we facilitate a lot of annual team retreats throughout the year, and one of the things we encourage is taking the retreat off-site to a creative location, not necessarily an expensive location but a creative, fun, and surprising one for the team. We are there to do some serious work, but we make sure to also create a huge dose of fun for the team. It’s amazing to watch people who have just had fun together, laughing, cooperating, and enjoying each other, dig in to solve problems with a renewed sense of teamwork and creativity. Having fun is a purposeful pre-cursor to solving problems. Now, there’s a concept to consider!

So how to do we get more fun in our life and work?  Here are some ideas:

  • Make a list of the moments in your life and work when you felt the most alive, joyful, present, and in a state of flow. Find the common themes that are replicable and work on getting more of them into your daily, weekly, or monthly activities.
  • Prioritize it, for yourself.
  • Give yourself permission to play.
  • Increase your interaction with real human beings (like Catherine says, “consider a ‘break up’ with your phone.”)

Here’s my list. I feel most alive when I’m:

  • Traveling to a new place, having a new experience, or learning about the history or culture of the new place or people
  • Spending time relaxing and laughing with my 3 best girlfriends
  • Eating a deliciously prepared meal with a perfectly paired wine
  • Watching a great live theatrical or musical performance
  • Eating a tree-ripened peach or a vine-ripened tomato
  • Cuddling with my husband on the couch next to a fire, watching an epic movie
  • Helping someone unexpectedly and spontaneously, especially if they will never know it was from me
  • Singing Broadway musical songs while doing the dishes or cleaning my house
  • Decorating a table
  • Looking at or holding beautiful or ancient art
  • Listening to my sons talk excitedly and optimistically about their lives
  • Discussing books with my dad or listening to him tell stories
  • Sitting quietly inside of a beautiful cathedral or building
  • Seeing the light of hope, awareness, or understanding turn on in the face of my audience members or clients
  • Walking or hiking through nature (I love walking slowly with a small child who is marveling at rocks, seashells, bugs, flowers, etc.)
  • Laughing with a great comedian
  • Drinking a deliciously prepared margarita and eating chili con queso blanco with crisp, thin tortilla chips

Okay, there’s definitely a food, travel, and musical theme to my fun and joy, but you get the idea. Figure out and do more of what puts you in a state of joy. Stop justifying, apologizing, or comparing what you love with others. As my mom used to say, “In the end, we all go one-to-a-box.”  This is your journey. And it’s good for your health, your loved ones, your team, and your business when you get more fun and joy into your experience.

Remember, at the end of our life, we will not regret that we didn’t do more of the things we “should” have done. We’ll only regret the moments of joy we missed. Our life is now. HAVE MORE FUN!

And in this spirit, I couldn’t pick just one quote about fun so here’s a few. Have FUN with them!


“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”
~ Hunter S. Thompson, The Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman, 1955-1967

 “It took me over three decades to realize you’re not supposed to think about paintings, flowers, or God, you’re supposed to merge with them.”

~ Pete Holmes

“We are never more fully alive, more completely ourselves, or more deeply engrossed in anything, than when we are at play.”

~ Charles Schaefer

“Fun is at the core of the way I like to do business and it has been key to everything I’ve done from the outset. More than any other element, fun is the secret of Virgin’s success.”

~ Richard Barnson

“I am going to keep having fun every day I have left because there is no other way of life. You just have to decide whether you are a Tigger or an Eeyore.”  ~ Randy Pausch

“Fun is not to be planned. It is to be found.”

~ Ihsan

“I had too much fun was no one’s last regret ever.”

~ Jonathan Heatt

“We are game-playing, fun-having creatures, we are the otters of the universe.”

~ Richard Bach (Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah)



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