1 Critical Piece That Might Be Missing From Your Life

adventure fun goals Nov 30, 2021

 

One Saturday night after making herself dinner, my friend Ingrid realized something: she had the whole night to herself, and no idea what to do.

Her kids were in their teens, growing more independent by the day. Her husband had his own hobbies, working out in the garage. She'd devoted the last twenty years to work and family—going to law school, raising two kids, working seven-day weeks. When she wasn't working, she was cooking, cleaning, chauffeuring, or sleeping. But now that the kids were older and her own work was done for the day, she had no clue how to spend her time.

A colleague had invited her to one of my Moticise events in New York City, and that night, Ingrid decided to sign up. Later that month, Ingrid stood with a group of other women as I asked them to look at different areas of their lives—Relationships, Money, Health, Career, and so on—and reflect on how each one was going.

            One of those areas was Fun.

            "I can't believe this is a category," Ingrid spoke up. "I never would have thought to consider this a major part of life. Fun has always been an add-on. You know? Something extra. There's always something else to do first." Many other women nodded, as if to say, Same here.

            "What's fun for you?" I asked.

            She stared at her worksheet, like it was a crystal ball that might give her an answer. "I don't even know anymore," she said. "It's been decades since I did something just for fun."

            "What if you did know?" I said.

            That broke her trance. She met my eyes and laughed. I waited. "I don't know," she said again, and then after a minute, "I used to love singing. I sang in a choir in college, and it was the highlight of my week." When she said that, her face changed from confused and uncertain to glowing.

I challenged Ingrid to come up with some ways to bring Fun back into her life, and she rose to the challenge. In the next few weeks, she joined a jazz choir, bought a keyboard, and started singing and playing every day. She also signed up for a paddle-boarding meet-up—she'd always wanted to try paddle-boarding—and she met new people while having a blast on the river.

Today, Ingrid still practices law and takes care of her family. But now she makes time for fun. She laughs more; she's less stressed. She's happier. She loves her free time. Music, getting outdoors, and socializing are priorities now, just like work and family. When I asked her how having fun changed her, she told me, "There's a new vitality in my life. I feel more alive, more vibrant. I feel better. Is it possible that having fun makes you healthier?"

            It's not only possible, it's proven! Scientists have found again and again that play has enormously powerful effects on the brain and body. Here are some of them:

  • It physically expands your brain. In the 1960s, Dr. Marion Diamond of the University of California, Berkeley, the brains of rats living in enriched environments where play was an option were physically larger than the brains of rats who lived in impoverished environments. Their dendrites had expanded in response to their environment, which allowed for a higher level of processing information.[1] More dendrites means more synaptic connections, more blood vessels, and more neurotransmitters that facilitate memory and learning.[2]
  •  It decreases stress. This one might be the most obvious, but don't underestimate it. Stress is an extremely destructive force in our lives, wreaking havoc on our immune systems, nervous systems, and physical and mental health. When we relieve stress, we not only heal our bodies and minds, but we clear out space in our hearts, making it easier to hear our intuition and listen to the answers that are deep inside of us. We return to our center, where our strongest, most peaceful selves live. Having fun is an immediate connection to our inner child, who always knows what's right for us.
  • It improves every system in your body. Studies have shown that laughing--a natural byproduct of play--stimulates your muscles, boosts oxygen intake, releases endorphins, shuts down the stress response, and stimulates circulation. And those are just the short-term benefits! Over time, it can strengthen your immune system, improve your mood, release natural pain killers, and enhance your quality of life. My husband actually likes to watch stand-up comedians when he’s stressed - he’ll find a video online, watch for a few minutes, then get back to work.

But wait—what exactly is fun?

            There are plenty of definitions of "fun" and "play," including "any activity that is not 'serious' or 'work'"[3]. When you're having fun, you're able to let go, forget about what's coming next, and lose yourself in the moment. Play means laughter, concentration, enjoyment, pleasure, excitement, ease. It means you're enjoying yourself without worrying about the end result. You're living in the present, not the past or future.

If you're like Ingrid (and many other adults), you might have a hard time answering the question, "What's fun for you?" So I invite you to give it some thought.

The answer might lie in what you loved when you were a kid. Did you play a sport? Did you love art or music class? How did you spend your free time? Chances are, many of those activities will still be fun for you. 

*

Having fun doesn't just make our lives better. It also helps us reach our goals.

What are you talking about? Goals are serious! Goals arent supposed to be fun!

Think about it. If we have to force ourselves to work on something, we come to dread it. And that makes it harder. Often that turns into us procrastinating, or even giving up altogether.

On the other hand, if our work is fun, then we can skip over the I hate thisparts and get straight to it.

That's why we want to bring fun not just into our lives as a whole, but into our work and goal-setting. We want to look for ways we can make working toward goals more playful.

            Of course, most goals will require you to do things you're not crazy about. (If yours doesn't, please tell me what it is so I can do it, too.) So it's not realistic to expect that every single aspect will be all play, all the time. But, since we know that play is one of the strongest motivators, we can use that to our advantage. We can approach life—including work—with a sense of play.

            What might that look like, exactly?

            When I presented at the EO (EntrepreneursOrganization) Global Conference in Alberta, one company brought in a Ping Pong table, and before every pitch meeting, theyd play. That energized the group, helped everyone focus, and imparted a sense of lightness and fun - which they then brought in to the meeting.

            Another company used walking meetings. Their building was located on a beautiful riverbank, which had always been a great view--but now they decided to take advantage of it. Any time they had a meeting that didnt require computers, they would take it outside. They always came back refreshed, with more ideas and energy, than if theyd stayed in a conference room. (Of course, this has as much to do with the gorgeous view as with walking.)

            What about you?

            What’s an area of your life – maybe your career, your business, maybe a specific goal you’re working on – is feeling kind of blah?

            How can you invite more fun in?

            Get creative! Brainstorm a bit, and let the ideas flow. Don’t judge them – you can always say no later. I urge you to say “yes” now, just to see what appears.

            Then go out, tap into your Fun, and shine.

            Big hugs,

            Sonia

P.S. Want more mindset hacks like this one – and some guidance and accountability while you’re at it? Reply to this email to set up your first coaching session. We’ll break through barriers, shine a light on the areas of life that are crying out for attention, and take giant steps toward your most exciting goals. And you can bet, we’ll have fun doing it 😉

 


 

 

 

[1] https://stayathomeeducator.com/play-impacts-early-brain-development/ Accessed 5/1/2019

[2] https://www.noted.co.nz/health/health/one-day-she-woke-up-and-decided-she-didn-t-have-a-life/

[3] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/animal-emotions/201405/the-importance-play-having-fun-must-be-taken-seriously

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