A few months ago, I wrote a column from an interview with high-powered executive coach and bestselling author Wendy Capland. As a follow-up, we decided that she would coach me and I would write about the process in this column.
How much time do you spend having fun? And how often do you do something purely for fun, and not because it's good for you or expected of you? For many of us the answer is not often enough. Here's why that has to change.
My coaching experience began with a questionnaire that asked for details about why I do what I do, my values, and history. But then I came to this question:
What do you currently do for fun?
Uh-oh, I thought. I may be successful in general but I fear I'm a failure in the fun department. Not that I don't do things that I enjoy, but I rarely do them because I enjoy them. If they're fun, it's usually secondary to some other purpose, such as getting exercise, spending time with family members, furthering my career in some way, or supporting our musician friends. But how often do I do something purely for fun and no other reason? Not often enough. And too many times it involves an hour's TV watching right before bed.
The problem with this approach is that it can suck the joy out of your work life, your home life, and your most valuable relationships. Self-improvement and career advancement are great, but if you spend all your leisure time focused on what's good for you, and what others expect and need, you'll miss out on enjoying the benefits of all your hard work. And because it's hard to be fun if you're not having fun, the people around you may stop enjoying you as well.
Don't let that happen. No matter how busy you are, you have the time-and you must take the time-to follow these steps:
1. Ask yourself what you would most like to do.
If you haven't done anything purely for fun in a while, you may find this question difficult to answer. But it's important to answer it. If you're stuck, try daydreaming a little and see if you can come up with your fantasy for a perfect way to spend one day or one evening. If that fails, try thinking back to the things you enjoyed as a child. (For me, going to the beach and playing in the waves is high on that list.)
2. Block out some time for fun every week.
It can be a day, an evening, or even a lunch hour, but you should set aside some time to do some of whatever you came up with as a pure fun activity. You don't have to do it by yourself, but if you bring along family members or friends, they must agree that the purpose of the outing is your enjoyment, and you will only do things that you really want to do. Offer to accompany them on a pure-fun outing of their own some other time, when your roles will be reversed.
3. Try something new.
Is this a requirement? Of course not-there are no rules about how you have fun. But if you use some of your valuable fun time to try something you've never done before, you'll expand your horizons, activate newness-loving pleasure chemicals in your brain, and create very vivid memories. And as this fascinating TED talk explains, when it comes to fun, it's all about the memories.
4. Silence the sounds of "should."
These can be external-a spouse, co-worker, or friend telling you what you ought to do for your own good. Or they may be internal, since most of us have a self-criticism reel playing in our brains at all times. (I certainly do.)
Either way, thank the naysayers for sharing and then get on with what you were doing. You blocked out this time for pleasure, so there's nothing else for you to prioritize right now. You'll get back to whatever you "should" be doing afterward. And do it better because you took a little time for yourself.
What will you do just for fun? Tell me in the comments, or by tweet.