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Still Feel Like Something Is Missing?
It could be fun, and it's up to you to create it
Read Time: 6 minutes
Last week I tried to explain why I believe it’s better to prioritize fun over wealth, success, and even impact. I’m going try to work out some thoughts and theories around the concept of “fun” here. Please feel free to push back if anything isn’t making sense or resonating so I can refine my thinking on this topic.
For now, I thought it would be helpful to dive into what fun is (and isn’t), and how to invite more of it into your life.
I look for what needs to be done. After all, that's how the universe designs itself. - Buckminster Fuller
My regular readers and friends have heard about many of my formative experiences including:
losing my mom when I (and she) was young
growing up in Winnipeg, a place with truly brutal winters and a deeply disenfranchised First Nations community (the largest urban Indigenous population in North America)
having a communist father who has devoted the last 2.5 decades to anti-poverty advocacy, while he too was trapped in the cycle of poverty
All of the above had led me to bounce around to different jobs, in search of the elusive thing that will make my life meaningful.
I have looked for what “needs to be done” (per the brilliant Buckminster Fuller quote) and the list is LONG:
meaningful reparations for descendants of enslaved Africans and Indigenous peoples
greater respect and higher pay for teachers and care workers
elevating the needs of “nature” (our climate, animals, trees, etc) to be on par with those of humans
improved economic mobility for all populations that are systemically oppressed
open dialogue between polarized communities
an immediate rescue of every single child and adult that has been trafficked for labour or sex
building community so that people are less isolated and lonely
improving corporate work cultures to reduce burnout
I could go on, but I think you get my point.
I have tried working on these problems too. From all the traditional angles. I’ve donated money. I’ve written articles. I’ve fundraised. I’ve mentored. I’ve volunteered. I’ve organized. I’ve worked at the ground level in food banks and mental health centers, and from the 10,000 foot view ed-tech companies.
It’s all helped, sure, but if I’m honest, I am starting to see that I could help a million kids, or save a billion trees, and something would still feel like it’s missing.
I also do everything that I’m supposed to do to make me happy. I exercise. I eat a healthy, vegetarian diet. I prioritize time with friends. I travel. I make time for art. I only work with people who inspire me. I spend lots of time in nature. I (kinda) meditate. I journal. I give back. I practice mindfulness. I make time for my many hobbies. I have a great life.
I’m telling you, if you’re looking for a poster child for happiness advice, it’s me 🙋♀️!
Something is still missing. Not just for me, but I can see that something isn’t clicking in the way we all are living on this planet.
If I ask myself how the universe—not humans, but the universe—would design a solution to these needs, I don’t think it would propose new policies. I think it would propose play.
I know all of the above needs are very serious, it seems ridiculous to propose play right?
Believe me, I know that the needs of the world are urgent and fun sounds like a distraction. I am sure people will tell me that there is no time for fun when children are currently being trafficked and the world is heating up.
I hope I can convince you over the next few weeks that it is imperative we have more fun if we stand any chance at eventually addressing these and other issues.
First, I think it’s important for me to dispel the common misconceptions about fun that many people have.
something reserved for the weekends or the wealthy
a feeling or experience that is achieved after accomplishing a goal
an expensive vacation or hobby or Broadway musical
pressure to find your “passion” or “purpose”
a hack to become more successful
the same as being happy, making jokes, or “looking on the bright side”
a way of denying the many awful things happening in the world
just for children or retirees or artists or clowns
one size fits all
authentic fun if it creates suffering
meant to avoid or replace other human emotions like sadness, disappointment, or fear, all of which are healthy
We have conflated “fun” with spending money, happiness, and not working. But it’s not hard to imagine someone who goes an expensive vacation, filled with all the bells and whistles, and doesn’t have any fun. If you aren’t the type of person who can easily find fun at work, it doesn’t magically present itself when you go on vacation.
We have also internalized that fun is something that follows. You can have fun after school. You can have fun after you are done studying for that exam. By all means, have fun after your children go off to college. Right now, you must focus on getting a degree, earning money, saving money, earning more, saving more, more, more, more.
Furthermore, we have fallen into the trap of seeing fun as a fixed personality trait: either someone is fun, or they aren’t. I think if we properly examine what fun really is, we can begin to see these myths for what they are, and fun for what it really is: our true nature.
a mindset that can be cultivated
free and available to everyone
our natural, authentic state
critical to our learning and development
effective at ending conflict and divisions
possible even in extremely difficult circumstances
worth pursuing even if it leads to nothing else
respectful of all living things, including yourself
sometimes a very serious endeavour
a destination in itself (not a path to take you to happiness)
about embracing an experience for what it is
seeing the inherent value in everything and everyone
personal and unique to every human
“Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” - Rumi
It’s easy to identify the people in our lives, the teachers and coworkers and friends, who embody fun. If you’re anything like me, the list is likely quite short.
It’s harder to figure out how they were having fun, especially when others seemingly weren’t.
I’ve been studying the people on the far end of the fun spectrum, as well as those at the other end, which for now, I will call “not fun.”
I’m not the most fun person out there, but I’d say I have more fun than average, so I’m also trying to pay attention to what, when, where, and how that is.
A few observations I have so far:
Fun is intertwined with self-confidence. It’s harder to have fun if you feel insecure
Fun can be a choice (think: the traffic cop who dances on the job), as much as not having fun is a choice (think: your colleague who opts to stay late at work out of fear, instead of spending time with their family)
People who embody fun are really good at finding delight in seeing things that others don’t (think: the English teacher who gets excited by peculiar use of syntax)
People on the far end of the fun spectrum are really good at being open and embracing any given experience for what it is (think: your friend who doesn’t mind getting wet when it suddenly rains)
Many people who are having fun actually don’t look like they are. Fun can be serious (think: my super fun boyfriend who never smiles in a picture and loves to work)
Above all, I have observed that you can’t have fun if you think it comes from outside you.
If you’re not engaged in creating your own fun, everywhere you go, it doesn’t matter how much you’re paid, how great your boss is, or how many ping pong tables and nap rooms are thrown at you, you are going to feel like something is missing.
Certainly, fun comes easier to some than others, but that’s not evidence that it can’t be developed in everyone.
Just like we can cultivate a growth mindset over a fixed one, I believe we can cultivate a fun mindset.
I’m going to dive deeper into what this mindset is and how we can begin to cultivate it next week! Thanks for reading 💗