The two steps to an enjoyable life are (unsurprisingly) easy to understand, but surprisingly difficult to do. Are you stuck in these traps too?
How much fun did you have today?
First up though, if I’m writing a blog on wealth and investing, why do I keep focusing on happiness and fun?
There’s two reasons for that. The first is that happiness is, after all is said and done, the point. Wealth isn’t the real goal. Wealth is only the means to an end. And that end is the power to live the life we want, and to do the things that make us happy.
If we hit all our wealth goals but make ourselves miserable in the process, what’s the point?
The second point is that happiness is also a means. Joy is an energy, and it’s an energy we can harness.
If we build joy into our life – if life becomes joy-full – then we have a spring in our step. We can’t wait for the morning to come and we bounce out of bed ready to take it all on. Our excitement for life becomes an excitement for everything we do – the spectacular and the mundane.
If we don’t give enough attention to joy, then life becomes a trudge. It’s hard to get excited about days that are full of work and obligations. It gets harder to drag ourselves out of bed and do all the things we ‘should’ be doing…
And so fun is an essential ingredient of a successful life.
And what do I mean by ‘fun’? I don’t necessarily mean theme parks and slippery dips – though maybe that’s your bag. By ‘fun’ I mean anything that we do purely to make ourselves happy. It could be meditating by a river if that’s what turns you on.
(And I don’t mean jogging, which is how busy people multi-task fun and obligation into the same activity.)
But there’s a simple and often forgotten truth: to live a happy life, you need to be doing things that make you happy. You need to go out of your way and do those special things that give you a special tickle in that special place.
So what makes you happy?
This might sound like a simple question, but I think you’d be surprised at how many of us find it difficult to answer. This is the first gate of fun.
Imagine I had a magical teleporter box that could take you to anyplace and let you do anything for the next couple of hours… What would you do?
What if I had a box for every day of the week… could you come up with a list of seven things you’d love to be doing?
Most people I meet can’t. They search their minds and come up with a couple of vague ideas – catch up with friends for coffee etc…
But the successful people I know can reel of a dozen ideas in the blink of an eye. They know what makes them happy. They know and they do it regularly.
And why do many folk find it hard to put their finger on what makes them happy? Well the truth of it is that it’s actually quite hard to know what makes you happy.
We have to navigate deep into our true selves. We need to get away from the templates of fun that the world has given us – going shopping, watching movies, walks on the beach. Do you really enjoy those things? Enough to make your top 7?
And we need to get away from the traps of self image. Many people use leisure time to define themselves. “I’m someone who likes to play chess and solve calculus problems on the weekend.” “I’m someone who likes to climb mountains and wrestle bears.”
And at the same time, a lot of people are afraid of what people would think if they really did what they enjoyed? “What would people think if I started swing dancing?” “What would my kids say if I bought a motorbike?”
(It takes a bit of work to challenge these things, which I think is why more ‘normal’ expressions of leisure have such gravity.)
But if you can get past these things, and get down to what you, the unique being that you are, what you really enjoy, then you will have the key to a happy life.
(Seriously, make a list. Come up with seven activities of pure, personal fun. You might be surprised at what you learn about yourself.)
Once we know what we enjoy, we only have to do it.
This is the second gate of fun.
But tragically, many of us just don’t give ourselves permission to have fun. We think we have all this ‘important’ stuff to do. We feel guilty when we have fun.
(And then resent the people who are having fun, and judge them for abandoning their posts – leaving us alone to shoulder these great burdens of responsibility.)
Now I’m not saying quit your job and abandon your kids. Responsibilities give life a sense of meaning, and that’s great.
But I hear too many people say that they’re too ‘busy’ to have fun. What I hear them saying is they’re too busy doing stuff they hate to enjoy their life.
You’ve either got a problem with your priorities, your time management, or both.
If you’re not making time for the things that make you happy, how do you expect to actually be happy?
We are the lucky ones. We live in a country and an age where we are actually have the freedom to enjoy life and to have fun.
But we still have to be proactive about it. If you want to talk responsibilities, take responsibility for the quality of your own life first.