Why do so many people stop themselves from experiencing happiness, fun, and joy?
From the book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware, number five was “I wish I had let myself be happier and enjoy life more.”
We tend to live our lives thinking we have to experience burnout, prove ourselves worthy, reach the goal, get to the next milestone, put in the time, and check off all the things on the list before we are allowed to experience any fun or happiness.
We mistakenly believe that we have to earn happiness and joy when these are things that are available to us right now.
Notice in that dying regret the person didn’t say, “I wish I had more happiness and enjoyed life more.” They said, “I wish I had let myself….”
Living in a state of joy is not a reward or something you earn. You’re not a circus animal doing tricks for treats.
You’re an amazing human being who has things you want to accomplish and create so you can live a beautiful, meaningful, fulfilling life.
Rest, fun, and joy are required to create that life.
What is your personal desert?
Dave Crenshaw, who wrote The Power of Having Fun, notes that there’s an area between where we are now and where we think we should be before we allow ourselves anything that resembles joy. He calls it “the desert” – an extended period of deprivation in your life that may or may not also feel chaotic.
The desert in your life is created by a culture of WISH, which stands for “worth it someday, hopefully.”
A personal desert might look like these kinds of statements:
- “When I become famous, I’ll celebrate.”
- “When I retire, I’ll have some fun.”
- “When I finish my screenplay, I’ll reward myself.”
- “When I finish raising the kids, I’ll have my own fun.”
It’s easy to believe that someday, if you just keep trucking and exhaust yourself to death like everyone else trying to cross their own deserts, it will somehow, someday, maybe bring a payoff so big that all of that suffering and martyrdom will have been worth it.
In the book, Dave also reveals the antidote to the culture of WISH; he calls it the culture of WIN, and this stands for “worth it now.”
We want to start scheduling things you love to do every day, not as a reward or because you deserve them but because they are vital to your creativity and motivation. Your success depends upon having scheduled moments to recharge and have fun every day of your life because your life is worth it right now. Don’t wait for when you finally burn out from exhaustion or start having mental problems.
So, how do we start to bring more fun, joy, and happiness into our lives every day?
Create Your Fun List
Write down a list of small, medium, and large things that bring fun, relaxation, and joy and that help you to recharge. One small note: Don’t put things on this list that you are addicted to or that are harmful to you or others. This is to build you up, not tear you down.
- Read a book on the beach
- Have lunch al fresco
- Play your favorite video game
- Get a massage
- Have a special treat
- Play your guitar
- Try a new recipe
- Buy that kitchen gadget you’ve been wanting
- Take a bubble bath
- Watch a favorite show
- Plan quarterly retreats
- Flip through a magazine with your favorite beverage
- Work on a hobby
- Connect with a friend
Once you have your list, categorize it into how long each will take, and you can also put an estimated cost for each activity.
Under 15 minutes would make it a daily thing you could do. If it takes more than 90 minutes, you could make it a weekly or monthly thing. If you have some things on that list that take more than a day or two, schedule them yearly.
Of course, these are just guidelines; everyone’s list is going to look wildly different.
Remember that these are not rewards but necessary things to schedule daily, weekly, monthly, and annually.
Schedule Pockets of Joy
I like the way Dave describes this in his book – it’s scheduling an oasis or pockets of joy throughout your day, your week, month, year.
Take your list and schedule in one of your pockets of joy that is 30 minutes or less. Pick a time like right before you start on a big project, before or after a meal, right before or after work, or right before bedtime.
Next, schedule a weekly pocket of joy. This would be an activity that would take an hour or more. Schedule that activity on your calendar.
You’ll want to check in after about two weeks and evaluate. Did the activities you chose work out? Did they give you energy? Did you give yourself enough time to do them?
Make adjustments and swap in a new activity. It’s an experiment, so you can’t do it wrong.
Create the Feeling You Want
Fun is actually a feeling and it’s your thoughts that create your feelings. This means you get to choose thoughts that produce the feeling of fun for you.
What is the payoff you believe is on the other side of your personal desert?
I would love to spend a month in Tuscany. Can’t do it right now but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy Tuscany right here at home.
I can certainly create the feeling it would bring me through watching travel and cooking shows, trying some regional recipes myself, living like an Italian. I remember when planning my first trip to Italy, it was so satisfying and gave me such a wonderful feeling and if I’m honest, in a lot of ways it was even more exciting than the actual trip was.
Bring the Fun With You
When my daughter was in the children’s hospital for a month, there was fun scheduled every four hours. Not by me but by the hospital itself. They had some form of entertainment, a clown, visiting pets, an art room, a magician, or some other fun activity that the kids could enjoy and get a little break from all the needles and nurses.
I was really moved by this, and though I hated seeing my daughter in the hospital during the holidays, there were a lot of joyful moments because of how they built in fun and joy as part of the treatment and healing process.
When I was in community theater, we had work parties where everyone came to the theater for half a day to help build the set for the upcoming play. We would share pizza, stories, music, and then then all go out for appetizers and a drink afterward. Work parties are a great way to bring the fun to bigger projects.
Try these tips and you will most likely find that having more fun makes you smarter, more creative, and improves your health, mental wellness, and relationships.
Don’t be one of the people who leaves this world wishing they had let themselves experience more joy and happiness in life.
If you want to really dig into this topic, check out Dave’s book, The Power of Having Fun.
If you’re ready to rewrite your script I’d love to help you! Check out my one-on-one rewrite coverage and coaching programs here.