Lifestyle Enhancement #5:
[PLAY/FUN/HOBBIES/CREATIVE SELF-EXPRESSION] At least once a week, I spend time doing something for the pure enjoyment of doing it - a favorite hobby, seeing friends, etc.
One of the best things about life is discovering those people, places, and activities that bring us pure joy. These are the times when we completely sink into what we’re doing and time just whizzes by unnoticed.
You can think of the things that fall into this category as your fuel – the energy that keeps you going through the rest of your day, week, and month.
So many of us have lived without these fuels for so long, we don’t even remember what they are and what it felt like to have them in our lives. We just know that we feel a vague sense of dissatisfaction with life – that something is missing.
Frequently that “something missing” is enjoyment.
As responsible adults, we do the things that must be done – going to work, taking care of the kids, paying the bills, making dinner, etc. And without our conscious intervention, those things can take up all day every day leaving nothing left but the two quiet seconds between when we lay our head down and when we zonk off to sleep.
In order to feel that zest for life – that “I can’t wait to get up so I can …”, you’ve got to have some things in your life that you do for pure fun and enjoyment.
If you don’t have these things in your life now or you’re seeking more, start by identifying what types of people, places and activities fall into this category for you.
You are a unique individual. The things you find fun others might find a bore and vice versa, so don’t strive to come up with things that “should” be fun. Get in touch with what your True Self gets a kick out of.
For example, many people get a high off of mountain climbing or jumping out of airplanes. I would sooner run over my foot with my minivan than do either of those things – especially in the name of fun.
But, that doesn’t matter. This is not a race, a competition, or a “to do” on your list of life. This is a treat, a reward, a joy.
To get in touch with your “fun” self, take out a piece of paper or a journal and write down 100 things that bring you joy. That’s right – 100.
Don’t freak out on me. It’s not so important that you come up with 100 but striving to do so will really make you work at thinking about what things you really like.
This is a Joy List, so it can include people you enjoy hanging out with, places you like to go, and activities you like to do. Include things from your everyday life as well as things, people or places you might have only experienced once.
There are no wrong answers. This is your list. No one needs to see it. It’s your own private look into you. It will be one-of-a-kind. In fact, you will probably never meet someone who would have the exact same things on their list.
As you’re writing it, think about your present life and what things you would enjoy if you had the time and money. Think to previous stages of your life from childhood to adolescence to the various phases of your adult life.
Don’t worry if it’s hard to come up with 100 items. The first time I did this exercise, I could only come up with eight (8) things to go on my list – and this was after working on it for 20 minutes. That shows you just how far out of touch I was with experiencing joy and fun in my life.
I was always working on what needed to be done. I put off spending time on those things I would truly enjoy until after I did my “work” – whatever my responsibilities were that day. But somehow the time for pure enjoyment never came around – there was always something else to do.
It was only when I realized that I was the only one who could change the situation that I started to “make” time for having fun. Did the dishes have to be done before I sat down to read a magazine that just came in the mail? No, it was a choice I could make.
Did all of the toys have to be picked up before I could go take a long soak in the bath? No, they would still be there waiting for me when I finished relaxing in the bubbles.
Many times this takes some major re-programming of your brain. Most of us learned our patterns and habits from our parents – whether through reward and punishment or by simply modeling their behavior.
It’s not really a lack of time or money that keeps us from doing those things we’d enjoy, it’s our deeply-held beliefs, copied patterns, or ingrained habits that tell us we should be doing something else.
For example, maybe your mother cleaned the entire house every day and never took a break to sit down to read a novel, even though she would have greatly enjoyed it. You spent years watching her clean and hearing her say she didn’t have the time to rest or relax. It would be no surprise to learn that you do the same thing.
As children, we took what our parents said at face value. But, as adults, we have the ability to question our own behavior. What impact does saying you want one thing then doing another have on you? What impact does it have on those people around you?
Take this example, if a person is always cleaning the house and never making time for those things they’d enjoy, I could imagine them feeling resentful when their spouse had the nerve to relax for 20 minutes after a long day at work. I could imagine them chasing after their kids with a hand out to catch the crumbs as they fell from their mouths before they hit the floor.
I would think this would be a stressful situation for everyone involved and all because one person in the household had an extreme view of how clean their house should be as imposed by their mother 30+ years ago.
What if they made a choice to only clean the house 3 days/week? That would probably give them 2 extra hours a day for 4 days – that’s 8 hours/week. What might that person do with an extra 8 hours a week? Take up running? Sew some curtains? Write short stories? Hit a bucket of golf balls? Plant a garden?
How would accepting a lesser degree of cleanliness and injecting some joy into their day affect how they treated their children? How would it affect how they greeted their spouse when he/she arrived home?
It’s important to recognize that our behaviors and patterns have a two-fold effect. The first is on our enjoyment of our life and our treatment of those around us. The second is our impact on our kids.
Like our parents did for us, we are modeling “normal” behavior for our kids. They will either copy or rebel from what they see. Even those who rebel often grow into adults that go back to what they know – what they saw and learned at home.
If you don’t have children, 100% of the rewards for making time for “fun” are for you to enjoy. But if you have kids, not only do you get to experience a fuller life, but you model it for them so it’s only normal for them to balance work and play as they grow up.
How much longer do you want to continue living in the patterns you’ve established? Is this what you would wish for your children when they’re adults?
After you’ve made your Joy List, go back and add things to the list as you think of them. Again, it’s less important that you have 100 items than it is that each item you include be one that really fuels you with renewed energy.
Begin to incorporate some of these things into your life. Try to do at least one each day – even if it’s small. Write down in a journal or start each day with the statement, “Today I get to …” and fill in something that you will look forward to.
As you get more comfortable with this process, you’ll start to plan things ahead so you can extend the amount of enjoyment each activity brings for you. If you schedule a manicure for Friday, you can look forward to it all week, enjoy it while you’re getting it done, and revel in it each time you look at your hands.
Cheap thrills, I know. But so many of us don’t allow ourselves these very small luxuries. Remember, it’s all a matter of prioritizing time for yourself and loosening your grip on the “shoulds” of life.